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*** Official THE POLAR EXPRESS Review Thread (1 Viewer)

Patrick Sun

Senior HTF Member
Jun 30, 1999
I saw a sneak peek afternoon of "The Polar Express" today.

I was very interested to see it due to the combination of using motion-capture and textured CGI for rendering the entire film, as it offers the director an enormous amount of freedom in utilizing the actor's acting for each role in the film, and placing it into the film from any camera angle possible.

Well, I came away from this "exercise" mildly bored from the film. There are a lot of "Cool, look what we can do with this technology!" scenes that really don't add to the meat of the story for the film, but just feel like padding out a story that didn't need to be 90 minutes long, or even 60 minutes long.

What sort of bothered me about this new motion-capture/CGI technique is that the eyes for the characters just don't look or move "right", they just have that doll-like sparkle to them, not a more realistic feel to them, and it distracted me to no end.

The other thing I wasn't crazy about was Tom Hanks' voices for multiple characters because his voice is too distinctive at parts, and it destroys the illusion of different characters, different voices.

I'd suggest ratcheting down your expectations if you plan on seeing this "experiment" of a film.

I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of C+.

Alex Spindler

Senior HTF Member
Jan 23, 2000

I actually came away at the end mindful that in essence they were all the same character, just as the boy's grown-up voice was also Tom Hanks. He eventually embodied the Christmas spirit in all its forms.

I was impressed with the film to many extents, although it's obviously padded to some degree. But he more action-oriented sequences were thrilling and well done, and I liked a good deal of the work they did technologically.

From a storytelling standpoint, I suppose I'd rather have something with a bit more depth. I don't think it would have been right to pattern it after Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but I did miss that kind of mischievous spirit. It overall came off a bit too sweet for my tastes, although it does brush on some good texture with the kid from the other side of the tracks and the helpful ghost.

I gave it a solid B, or three out of four for me.

Robert Crawford

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 1998
Real Name
This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "The Polar Express". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



Senior HTF Member
Jul 4, 1997
I've had a while to think about it, and the more I think about this film, the more creeped out by it I am.

The film itself is a simple story (sometimes too simple) that is an eye catcher as far as scenery, etc. The story moves along at a rather slow pace (IMHO). The storyline is rather dark for smaller children, and certain characters (thinking the Hobo) seemed ill-fitting into the story, and didn't really do much to advance the plot.

I struggled with two big things in this film:

First, the film didn't present anything specifically that made it easier for me to understand why it was animated instead of live action. The film seemed as though it would have been just as easy to use live action, and may have played better that way.

Second, the movements and look of characters was jarring. I understand there will be those who crow about how fantastic the whole thing looked. But to me, it came off as very morbid. The characters themselves, while human looking, didn't have quite the proper physics and seemed to either "float" around or to "shuffle" like a zombie from a playstation game. This difference in movement was noticable (IMHO) and really offputting. More then that, the characters eyes all seemed stiff, dull and fixed, which creeped me out to the point I really didn't want to think about the film longer after having left.. it just seemed as though you were watching walking corpses.

I -somewhat- get what they were trying to do. But with a story that isn't that interesting, and creepy animation plus action that is a lot darker and brooding then say, "Incredibles" I have a lot less of the "good vibes" for this film then I had expected.

Simply put, I wouldn't recommend it. Maybe on video. Maybe if you see it in IMAX3d. But this is an effects piece that doesn't sell the effects very well, with a weak story line and with some disconcerting elements that make it hard to sing it's praises.

:star: /:star: :star: :star: :star:


Stunt Coordinator
May 6, 2003
Lincoln, CA
Real Name
Ed Hochstatter
I wanted to like this movie more, I really did. I loved the book, both the story and the art. I was very curious to see how that translated onto the big screen. I wondered how they would expand the story beyond the scope of the book to make it feature length.

Having seen the result, I think this might have been better served had they stuck to the book, added nothing, and made it into an animated short, or even a half hour TV special. Like How the Grinch Stole Christmas a couple of years ago, sometimes less is more. I love the old Chuck Jones TV special, hated the Jim Carrey movie.

While the Polar Express is nowhere near the debacle that the Grinch flick was, it still wasn't what it could have been. The thrill ride stuff was a distraction. The animation, which works so wonderfully on the train itself and the backgrounds, was kind of creepy when applied to
the humans and, especially, the elves. It's nothing I can put my finger on, perhaps it's getting too close, I dunno. I had no problem with Yoda, or Gollum, but the characters here just didn't work as well for me.

Part of it had to do with casting Hanks in four roles. Not sure what the intention was here, but you ended up with four characters who look different, yet all sound related. Not that they sound exactly alike, but they all sorta sound like Hanks, enough that I could tell he did the voices, although going in the only character I knew he did was the

Another example is the "Hot Chocolate" musical number on the train. It's weird, I could buy this when it was the enchanted castle denizens in Beauty and the Beast a decade ago. Now, basically the same routine but with animated humans, I didn't buy it at all...and again, I can't
say exactly why.

Finally, there was one particular moment, which pulled me completely out of the movie and colored the entire experience for me. I'll put it behind a spoiler font just in case, but it really is a minor spoiler:

Four Words: "The Steven Tyler Elf" Rockin' at the top of the World, are you %$#&ing kidding me?

Completely unnecessary, completely out of tone with the surreal magic they were attempting, and sometimes succeeding, in creating. All for what? So they could get Aerosmith fans to buy the soundtrack?

Speaking of the soundtrack Zemeckis' fave composer Alan Silvesteri (not sure of spelling) did the score, and it sounds very nice. One minor quibble, it kept reminding me of the theme from the Phantom of the Opera musical...very similar

If I were a movie critic, I would say 2.5 out of four stars. It was telling, I think, that at the end of the matinee I attended this weekend, when the movie ended, nobody clapped. Not sure if folks even do that any more...also not sure what the word of mouth will be on the Polar Express...time will tell


Senior HTF Member
Oct 22, 2001
Hmm, am I the only one who liked it? Granted, I'm a Robert Zemeckis fan, and that's the only reason I went (that and Tom Hanks is good in anything), but I really enjoyed it. And yes, there was a very loud applause at the end, when I saw it (matinee as well). Actually twice. Should be a great DVD. Oh and Tom Hanks playing four characters I bet is 100% intentional. The angel-guy on top of the train even looks like him. So they purposefully made them look and sound like Hanks. To add to the surreal quality of it.

Chris Atkins

Senior HTF Member
May 9, 2002

:star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2 out of :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

Absolutely charming movie about growing up and the spirit of Christmas. Some stunning visuals as well. The movie builds and builds and builds and gets better as it goes on. I had my doubts after the first 20 minutes but it kept drawing me in.

Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Oct 26, 1998
Chris Van Allsburg’s beloved children book, The Polar Express, beautifully comes to life onscreen from the hands of Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks. Using the groundbreaking motion-capture technology, the film is a faithful adaptation of the book with the addition of some elaborately enhanced sequences and characters.

Here, the looks of the human characters are a departure from the usual sparkling wide-eyed creatures predominant in Disney animated films. It works as it captures the melancholy in the characters both in the book and the movie. The decision to animate it instead of live-action is a good one especially if it is to be enjoyed by generations to come as some live action holiday films tend to date themselves. There is a musical sequence that rings exuberance and some mishaps that thrills.

But most of all, it is about the story. It is an adventure that takes the viewer not to its final destination of a mystical place but instead, it is the friendship, experience and other life lessons that are advanced while on this magical journey. To many these are what the spirit of the holidays are all about.

The Polar Express is exciting, whimsical, imaginative and visually captivating. Many already adore the book and now a film has been made that is destined to become a perennial holiday classic.



Senior HTF Member
Jan 27, 2003
I just saw the Polar Express for the 2nd time. This time I saw it in the IMAX 3D.

It was pretty great. The 3D did seem to help get you more involved with the action sequences, but it didn't add any more enjoyment to the film than the "flat" version did (i.e. because the movie was good to begin with).

I did notice something though. Since I had already seen it before, I payed more attention to the acting and trying to figure out why the figures looked so "stiff" and "corpses-like"...

The figures didn't BLINK! How could they have missed that? The whole opening scene (on the train) is horrible. The little girl just sits there with her eyes wide open for the longest time and her eye lids don't move one bit. I think that's what made the figures look so creepy.

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