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Friday, 8 December 2017

Retro Review: The Polar Express (2004)

The Polar Express
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Eddie Deezen, Michael Jeter
Genre: 3D Computer-Animated Christmas Musical Fantasy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $300 million

Plot: A young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. During his adventure, he learns about friendship, bravery and the spirit of Christmas

'This Journey Just Came To A Crashing Halt' 

An animated CGI film that attempts to evoke the spirit of Christmas, besides the visuals, The Polar Express is based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg & penned by Robert Zemeckis, who is best known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the Back To the Future trilogy of movies, and yet which has relatively little else to show for it, and with that, it is far from being lauded as a Christmas classic for generations to come. It tries to be a Holiday version of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and yet it comes off as being dull and offers very little that is good. 

A young boy has serious reservations about the existence of Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, as he awaits for him, a magical train appears outside his house & the conductor takes him on a journey, in the hope of making the boy believe and that Santa is the real thing. 

The computer effects are a mixture of great to freakish in parts. The pseudo-realistic looking adult models look off, in a way, but the children's faces look plastic-y when they ought to be more polished. & the musical numbers range from just about bearable to cringing. But with animated movies, it doesn't matter how flashy or impressive looking the visuals are, the story has to grab your attention and the characters need to resonate and are entertaining. Yet The Polar Express doesn't have that and there were times where I drifted off and not paid any attention because the story got duller and became dreary. As the film went on, the more it made less sense to me and it appears as if Robert Zemeckis never made any attempts in making it clear, whatsoever. It is with that that I became bored and felt even more disinterested and that I didn't care what was happening and what the characters were saying. As a result, as much as I tried to get into it, it was difficult for me to fully enjoy this movie. 

This film is plagued with issues, notwithstanding the other characters such as the homeless guy and the conductor: The Polar Express doesn't touch upon their existence, why they exist and in what ways do they actually have an impact on the story. 

The Polar Express lacks soul and it feels disjointed, with a narrative that is just isn't very engrossing and inviting to the audience. As much as many have pointed out how the visuals don't look all that appealing, they were the least of my concerns. I was more interested in how the story would fare, and yet sadly with this film, it is not very well done and plus, it dragged on so much. It was beyond dull. One of the elves sounded as if he was on helium and he sounded a tad like Joe Pesci. The nerd with the glasses was just annoying, with his annoying voice. Tom Hanks voices multiple characters, although they all sound the same as each other and that Zemeckis could have and should have cast more actors or even other voice actors to lend their vocal talents. 

This is a film where it looks extravagant, over-the-top and relies on CGI effects to prop up the movie, yet everything else with regards to characterisation, narrative, motivations of the characters and the core theme of this movie, whatever that is, is completely and sorely lacking. & not made abundantly clear. 

When the film ended, I ended up scratching my head. The Polar Express attempts to pose some, and some questions - yet never truly provides those answers. 

Final Verdict:

It gains half a mark for the visuals, but otherwise, The Polar Express is a movie that should have been so much better. Zemeckis should have made more of an effort to make it more engrossing. The film has heart in some places, but sadly the story never made the desired impact on me, nor did it make me feel a thing for The Polar Express

It's a great pity. I mean, I kind of understand what Zemeckis and co were trying to aim for here. But the execution just wasn't thoroughly as enticing and it left me in a state of disappointment. 

I tried to like it, I really did, but the film just didn't go far enough or try hard enough.

The Polar Express was ripe for being a truly excellent Christmas movie, especially an amazing animated Christmas film. But with regards to the story, the warmth it tried to evoke and the Christmas spirit it embraced yet wanted to evoke, it all fell short. 

And as a Robert Zemeckis offering, compared to his other efforts, this is just not up there with his absolute best. 


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