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The Polar Express

December 7, 2011

The Polar Express (2004)
Director: Robert Zemeckis

polar-express-wallpaper-300x168.jpg (300×168)

Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, a young boy beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus, is whisked away on a magical train (The Polar Express) to go and meet Santa at the North Pole.

Review: This Christmas feature of a few years back is best remembered as a significant staging post in the evolution of film animation. With its Imax 3D remit, spectacle was very much to the fore, and the film’s pièce de resistance was the astonishing life-like features of its animated characters.

As a technical endeavour, The Polar Express is undoubtedly fascinating and offers great spectacle (the thrills of the train journey have a breathtaking quality – perhaps a sly nod to the wonders of early cinema that often featured visceral railway films). I’ve always personally been a bit agnostic about the growing technological bent of animated cinema, especially that targeting children. To me, the drive to make things ever more ‘real’ is a bit of a red herring, for surely the charm of fantasy films is their differentiation from everyday life, and I’ve always believed that old-fashioned hand-drawn animation captures that sense of magic more charmingly. If filmmakers want increasing ‘realism’, why not just shoot their films as live action with a bit of CGI? Anyway, the story itself is perfectly fine, a serviceable Christmas yarn about a disbelieving child who is whisked away on a journey to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. I’m sure children of a certain age will find it captivating, though I find it a touch ‘American’ with its brashness and strong dose of sentimentality. I grew up watching “The Snowman” – Channel Four’s Raymond Briggs’ animation, and the simplicity and classicism of the storytelling there (with its stark and poignant ending) is a world away from the calculating proficiency of this film. (December 2011)

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