movie film review | chris tookey

Polar Express

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  Polar Express Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
5.95 /10
Hero Boy/Father/Conductor/Hobo/ Scrooge/Santa: Tom Hanks, Smoker/Steamer: Michael Jeter
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Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis and William Broyles Jr., based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg

Released: 2004
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 100

Based on a book by Chris van Allsberg that is well known in the US, this is about a small boy who has ceased to believe in Santa Claus. He is surprised to discover on Christmas Eve that a steam train is pulling up outside his suburban home. The conductor sternly invites him to come on board the Polar Express, and he’s whisked away on the greatest adventure of his life, along with other children suffering their very own crises of faith, confidence and what-have-you.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A hugely expensive film aimed at children below the age of 10. There’s a lot I like about it. It looks just like a storybook brought magically to life, with astonishing sets and a cast of thousands, including some amazingly sinister-looking elves.

Small children who aren’t freaked out by the movie’s weird, creepy atmosphere will find the action sequences exciting, especially if they are lucky enough to experience it in its full glory on a big, Imax screen in 3D. And technically it is a marvel, making use of the same “performance capture” technology that created Gollum in The Lord of The Rings, but applying it here to several characters at once.

Unfortunately, the film has obvious defects. The plot is thin and stretched – it’s based on a 29-page picture book, and feels like it. The decision to cast Tom Hanks in almost every major role flattens out the characterisation – he’s not the most vocally versatile of actors. And the child characters look eerily dead behind the eyes – they never have the range or depth of emotion, still less the pathos, of Gollum.

The result is an interesting, visually innovative film that should lead on to much greater achievements using the same techniques. But can it take on The Incredibles at the box office? I doubt it.

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