While CG has come a long way since this movie was released... it doesnt get in they way of me enjoying this surprisingly full story. Upon further rewatches, the little details like: the rudolph statue, Santas house inspired from the pullman trainworks administration building, the old penn station inspiring present control room, and the subtleties of each of the 3 main childrens stories and how they relate to their ticket punch are just great and hard to fully grasp with only one watch. Every scene from the book is faithfully recreated and can i just say i love the depiction of santa in this story. Not only is he NOT obese but he is honest about himself being a symbol of christmas. we can debate as to the nature of the Hobo/ghost character all day... but in the end, this movie is a christmas classic. I suggest taking a little one Sleigh Riding and then throw them in front of this movie while you make some hot chocolate... then bust in when the hot chocolate machine appears (15 minutes in, enough time to make the drink) and nestle in for a ride on the Rollahhh... Coastahhhh.... The polar express!
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After Forrest Gump that was released 1994, In 2004, the filmmakers are back and so is Tom Hanks. This time, it's an animated film for the Holidays; The Polar Express. I have read the classic book of the polar express before, and this film is faithful and stays accurate to the original source material; it has the elements and themes from the original book. Just like the book, the themes of this film is about the importance of believing and the magic of Christmas. It even has inspiring messages about the value of friendship, respect for leadership, and about the spirit of Christmas. As a film adaptation, Robert Zemeckis (the producer, director, and screenwriter) has provided superlative craftsmanship for this enterprise in terms of how it was framed, how the 3D conversion was used, and not to mention how perfectly timed the elements are. It contains some memorable imagery within it's screenplay. He even embraces his own reference like the flying feather from Forrest Gump, where in this one, it was a train ticket. There is also some hilarious unintentional comedy that was handled smartly. The more intense/dramatic sequences offers breathtaking excitement, and has a stirring sense of adventure alongside of embracing the melodramatic traditional sense of "Titanic," particularly the ice, the performances, and how the transportation functions (where in Titanic, we see how the humungous ship works with informational detail, where in the polar express, we see how the train works); that will make an engrossing and exciting ride for the whole family. The animation is unique; it strikes the equator between lifelike realism and cartoony animation. They have used motion-capture and uncanny valley to make the humans look like actual people with authentic precision. Alongside the eye-catching snow flakes and shining lights, The animation as a whole is breathtaking and I was immersed into their world because of how beautifully realistic it looks. Let's not forget the imposing locomotive train itself; it was an awe-inspiring design that was an American 2-8-4 Berkshire steam train with a cowcatcher, modeled after the Pere Marquette 1225. The conversion to 3D is superbly manipulated; either immersing you in for a roller coaster ride on the swift-moving train, following the flying ticket that was lost, or things coming right at your face. Unlike most Christmas movies, this one has a deep shivery tone to it; The audio, the soundtrack is dynamic and astonishing. Every single sound is impressively effective and so haunting. The hugely stirring score by Alan Silvestri intensifies the mood of the entire movie, causing dramatic effect. It's easily one of the best music scores ever spawned. Even the songs are great from the sprightly "hot chocolate", the beautiful "when Christmas comes to town", and the original song "Believe" by Josh Groban. The characters are very well-realized with character development and great chemistry that was handled very well; capturing the behaviors of real people, thanks to the actors that played their characters with expert acting. What makes the characters so memorable is that most of their names are not mentioned at all, except for one young boy named Billy, and as the movie progresses, the characters seem to grow because of what they have to offer. The voice acting is phenomenal as it strongly contributes to the entertainment value. Tom Hanks did a great job here with his wide vocal range; Tom Hanks voices the conductor, the boy's father, the hobo, even Santa Clause, and as the narrator as if the boy is an adult. Not only that the actors delivered excellent voice acting, the actors are great singers too. To conclude: I adored this film and I really wish this film would be considered to be among the great Christmas classics; "The Polar Express" is a wonderous triumph that should be a must-see for the holidays every year for every family.
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So many people like to rag on this movie (especially the supposedly-creepy CGI eyes, which is lost on me). Let the Grinches grinch. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a warm blanket and a hot mug of cocoa on a freezing winter's night. The visuals are wonderful, the music is excellent, and the story is timeless. And it's become a regular in my stable of must-watch Christmas movies.