After Cast Away, it was said that Robert Zemekis was going to do a project that would push the boundaries and limits of what film can do. And Tom Hanks would be involved. And it would take years to work on. The end result of all of that is The Polar Express. While I don’t think it “pushes the boundaries”, it certainly makes ample use of motion-captured performances and high-quality computer graphics and animation.
Based on the (very) short-story of the same name, the film is about a young boy who is on the cusp of “growing up” – and no longer believing in Christmas. So he is taken to the North Pole via the Polar Express (a magical train) and in the process, he learns a lot about himself and makes some new friends in the process.
It’s a kid’s film, obviously, and the lessons in the film can be applied to everyone. The film is definitely for people of all ages. I can’t say what it is exactly that makes me feel uneasy about the characters in the film. I think it has to do with their eyes… they’re just a little “off”, and it makes the whole hyper-real rendering feel, well, weird. That being said, the art-direction is quite good, the sequences very enjoyable, and the story will warm your heart. Heck, it almost made me wanna run out shouting “Merry Christmas movie house!”
The music in the film, by long-time Zemekis collaborator Alan Silvestri, is excellent. This is undoubtedly an Oscar-worthy score, and it’s filled with emotion, holiday cheer, and sweeping themes. There are even some musical numbers in the film, but don’t let that turn you off of it. And it’s pretty exciting at times, too! The computer animation is great, as well as the sound design. It all comes together with some great action-filled sequences too, which help pad out the storyline. But in a good way.
I’d say this film is a “must-see”, and an obvious contender for Best Animated Feature. If you can, check it out at a 3D IMAX. I’m sure that will be an amazing experience.