It is Christmas time and once again, I am forced to study amongst the busy shopping centers, the millions of Christmas decorations in the house and the general festivities I have to ignore for another week until I get my few weeks of well earn freedom. However, as one exam is down for now, I believe it would be best to review something that I have been meaning to for years (Since Christmas 2008), a non-Japanese Christmas movie however by far, one of two Christmas movies that I have ever been willing to buy. The movie is Polar Express, a movie that is 96 minutes long and is based off a picture book with less then 96 words in total, making it a movie adaptation of well… no real source material.
This movie generally shares the whole “Believe” and “Friendship” thing that most Christmas…. hold that…. every Christmas movie portrays whilst often giving children conflicting opinions of what elves, the North Pole and even Santa look like… Then again, with the number of shopping center Santa’s I am sure they are already confused enough so it gets them through the year, heck, this movie even makes reference to the real identities of these Shopping Mall Santa’s.
This movie is generally light-hearted and is primarily aimed at the child audience, however that being said, it is definitely a movie that whole family will enjoy, provided that you aren’t all Grinch’s, or just don’t like Tom Hank’s voice. Whilst I have now spoiled my overall opinion of the movie, if you want to read more about the movie and a few more of my opinions and I break down the elements, please read on. Do note, I have never done a movie review before, so it may sound a bit…. weird.
A young boy lies awake in his room one snowy Christmas Eve, excited and alert. Breathing silently. Hardly moving. Waiting. He’s listening for a sound he’s afraid that he might never hear – the ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh. The time is five minutes to midnight.
Suddenly, the boy is startled by a thunderous roar. Clearing the mist from his window he sees the most amazing sight – a gleaming black train rumbles to a stop right in front of his house, the steam from its powerful engine hissing through the night sky and the softly falling snowflakes.
The boy rushes outside, clad only in his pajamas and slippers, and is met by the train’s conductor who seems to be waiting just for him. “Well, are you coming?” the conductor asks.
“Why, to the North Pole, of course. This is the Polar Express!”
This story follows the main protagonist, a young boy who is not given a name, who is questioning his belief in Santa. On Christmas Eve, he is woken up to find the Polar Express outside his house, and then deciding to hop on board to go to the North Pole to see Santa. Besides that, there is nothing much that can be said without saying spoilers however for a Christmas movie it does many things right:
- It did not try to focus on Santa himself but instead focused on the children’s journey to see him, something that breaks away from the generic Christmas movie storyline.
- So we all know that Tom Hanks voiced nearly every character in the movie, and all the characters used suited his voice and tone well.
- Some things they did have were a bit over the top however, it worked well with the technology they had and it kept the attention of the viewers all the way through the movie.
- It had a nice balance of comedy, seriousness and musical numbers that worked well with the Christmas theme.
The design quality of the movie in my opinion is perfect! The movie utilizes some really good performance capture technology for 2004, and in my books, still remains the best animated movie I have ever seen. Character designs are realistic, animations are well done and it generally captures the expected colourful environment well in my opinion. I know it is short, however that is the best way I can describe the quality.
The movie has a considerable collection of music scenes, some which are sung in a stage musical style, some that are sung in the background and some that act as background music of a building. The general collection ranges from classics such as Silver Bells (I know how to do that song in Sign Language!) and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, up to unique songs such as The Polar Express and Believe (Which has won Grammy awards and been nominated for others). These are all well done and add the cheer to the movie. In terms of voice acting, there are only a few voice actors in total, primarily ones who voice the children on the train, and Tom Hanks who voices every main adult character in the storyline, and whilst you can tell that each of those characters are voiced by him, you don’t really notice it as he was able to take on the characters personalities in his voice well.
I believe that I have already made my personal opinions clear about this movie right at the start, however I would like to say that when in the market for a good Christmas DVD for the family, I would recommend this over almost every other one out there, as unlike most recent ones which seem to either do Christmas with a twist or in a few cases, just make a movie to seemingly cash in on the Christmas fever (Hey, I am not judging them, it is Christmas we are talking about), this is a movie that is a pure Christmas tale without the need to add a dramatic backstory or something like that. It also has the benefit of not having a sequel, as it is just like the Santa Clause movies, the first one was more adult in approach and featured things that would go over most kids heads, however the second and third were targetted at children and dropped what made the first movie great.
I believe I shall give you my obvious score now……
Music/Voice Acting: 9
Personal Opinion: 10
Overall Score: 9.5
Here is a trailer for the movie if you would like to see a sample of the first few minutes of it.
Now, back to normal The Otaku’s Study programming….
Quick Edit: For those in Queensland at the moment on holidays or local, Warner Bros Movie World is holding Winter Wonderland nights on certain dates over the next week or two. This includes a 4D screening of The Polar Express, among other things. For more information, go here (Note: I got this through their website, this is not a paid advertisement or asked for by MyFun).