THIS IS THE POLAR EXPRESS!!!!! When the conductor yelled that, it was an intense scene. It’ll remind you of a time when someone may have said that you’re homemade oven baked french fries tasted like McDonald’s so you’d say “What…THIS IS THE HOME COOKED DINNER I MADE!” I dunno, I just got that vibe and it was a pretty epic quote. I can’t say that the film is very epic though. It’s a nice Christmas story, but that’s about all that I can say for it right now. It definitely needed some work in different areas and doesn’t fully live up to its hype, but it feels good to see a quality Christmas film.
I didn’t actually realize this while watching the film, but the main character’s name was actually never said? That’s pretty surreal if you ask me. Well…it’s not like he was a likable character anyway so I can get around that. One day, the kid goes outside so he can catch Santa Clause in the act of giving away presents, but a train pulls into his backyard. The conductor tells him to climb aboard and the main character reluctantly obliges this request. Once aboard, he meets the other kids, but the main character can’t stay out of trouble. He drops a girl’s train ticket out the window so now he must try to find it as the train gets closer and closer to the North Pole. Time to meet Santa!
As you can already guess, I did not like the main character. He was constantly double thinking the other kids and was always way too hesitant. Who would leave their warm house on Christmas Eve in the dead of night to go aboard a mysterious train? I would have still had some respect for the kid if he had gone in right away, but he waited until after the train was leaving to jump on. These moments of hesitation just make him look bad. The main character also loses the girl’s ticket in rather clumsy fashion. How hard can it be to hold on to a ticket?
The film likes to be very mysterious so you can decide on whether things really happened or if they were a dream. In one scene, the main character sees the conductor take the girl to the top of the train where they braved the elements and walked all the way over to the front area where she took charge of the controls. The main character tried to follow them, but it was a long journey and he got to go Skiing. I’m pretty sure that he just fell in the snow and fainted before waking up and quickly walking over to the front. Still, I wonder if he had started making the journey at all and maybe this was all just an elaborate dream…nahhhh. I still would never say that this was a dream, supernatural elements are fun after all.
The main girl was all right so she helped to cover for the main character. She believed in having a good time and going with the flow. Unlike the main character, who forgot about the kid who jumped aboard and then did not want to take the risk of giving him any hot cocoa, the girl was always ready to help. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the shy kid who came aboard. Jumping on the train was already dicey, but then deciding to hide by himself in the final car….I don’t know about that. Seemed like a strange move and there weren’t even any token bullies that were around to keep him away. There was the smart kid who loved to talk and talk and talk, but the guy was never mean spirited. If anything, it was impressive to see him keep up with the main characters. Almost a little too impressive, but I’ll let it slide.
There aren’t a whole lot of Christmas songs to be found here, but a few did pop up before the film ended and those tunes were good. The soundtrack was good enough considering that I didn’t have huge hopes for it and the quick Hot Chocolate dance wasn’t bad either. It was neat to see how you can throw a Hot Chocolate in such a way so that it would not spill. Now that’s what I call true Skillz!
The animation still isn’t my thing. It sort of reminds me of those “Animate yourself” ads that played a while back before the hand drawn versions replaced them. It doesn’t feel very high budget even though it probably did cost a bit for the transition. I think American animation can be good, but I prefer more of a traditional approach like Justice League or something or that nature. It allows for more streamlined action scenes. For example, jumping on the train and getting across the mountains would be more intense visually using the classic animation strategies. The scenes were still cool though and the animation isn’t bad like some other styles, but this “theater” feel that I get from the film isn’t really a positive this time.
I felt like the film moved on at a fairly quick pace. I never found myself bored, but you definitely need to go into the film remembering that there is barely a plot. Most of the film is just the train ride to the goal and the slight setback of going through a factory first. Nothing really happens by the end so you can go away with an empty feeling, but maybe you’ll walk away with a grin instead. I feel like the film would have been significantly better with older main characters. Yes, not just better, but significantly better. I actually thought up a plot that would have made this film almost unrecognizable in terms of quality.
The main characters could have been business folk who never had time to spend with their kids on Christmas because they would work overtime or they would be catching up on zzzzz’s. So, one day a train rolls into the backyard on Christmas Eve saying that they will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and a large check of money if the trip was a waste. The business guys and gals would jump at the chance for this and during the ride: bonds would be formed, (Friendzone bonds because the main characters will all already have an attachment or just not be interested in that sort of thing) challenges would be overcome, and lessons would be learned. The dialogue would be much better and the characters would have a chance to be charismatic.
Tom Hanks ended up being the best character here and more adults in the film could have given him some competition if given the chance. Characters are very important and you can always count on that aspect of the film being able to tip the scales when given a chance. We need a Polar Express remake with adults and as long as the writing is on point, you can bet that it will be an improvement.
Overall, The Polar Express is a good film. I don’t really buy into the enormous amounts of hype that the film got back in the day, but it’s a fairly nice adventure. I just wish that the characters could have been more likable as that was the film’s main weakpoint. I wouldn’t have minded an action scene or two as well while I’m on the subject. You can’t go wrong with a quick fight right? I doubt this film is getting a sequel at this point, but if it does…I want Santa Clause to have to debate on whether he should work on Christmas anymore or not. I also want to see the parents ask where the kids went during the night, they must have noticed that something was up after all! (I do like how they dismissed the bell though, it was an epic troll moment. Of course, I could go on and on about the bell. Just when I thought the main character couldn’t get worse…he put the bell in his broken pocket. I just don’t see how you would do such a thing, you would notice that it wasn’t in your pocket immediately right? Noooooooooooo)