Polar Express: a Christmas classic


Warner Brothers Image

Cover for the Polar Express film.

As mentioned in my previous writing on How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Polar Express is a movie I watch annually in the holiday season. Growing up we often watched Christmas movies with my grandparents, and one of my grandfather’s favorites was the Polar Express which then made it one of my favorites. I think of this movie and think back to my childhood, and all the fond memories I have.

One of the first things I always notice is how good the animation is. The movie, for those unaware, is based off of a children’s book of the same name. The movie does an excellent job of bringing the original illustrations from artist and author Chris Van Allsburg to life. When comparing the images from the 1985 book and the 2004 movie, it is most fascinating how detailed the animation team got. The street outside the house and the inside of the car look very similar, only difference being the 3D animation of the film. And although animation has advanced since this movie first released, I still think the transitions and movement are vibrant and entertaining to look at.

The original book is made for kids, so the story was made for the simplistic needs of the audience it catered to. But the movie does an extraordinary job taking the concept of the book and making it more intense and dramatic for older audiences to view as well. A little of everything for everyone.

The whole story has a nostalgic feel as it is told from the perspective of the main character after he has grown up. The narration is minimal, only being at the beginning and the end. But the narration is purposeful to set up the story telling aspect it hosts. The ending regarding the bell and how adults can’t hear it always manages to make me sad but also lifts up spirits somehow. That speaks to the good writing of the script team when they sat down to write this.

The characters are provided much more growth and complexity than the book as a result of the writing as well. It’s hard to talk about the characters as most of the main characters don’t have names associated with them, but the character of Billy shows major character growth. Billy starts as a very shy boy who seems to have a troubled childhood and hosts a similar negative outlook on Christmas like our main boy does. As the Polar Express gets closer to the North Pole and the main three characters get into some shenanigans, Billy becomes more open to the idea of friends and the joys of Christmas.

With animated movies like this one, there is more emphasis on voice acting than facial. Tom Hanks, a well known actor, voices multiple characters in this movie and each one is unique and different. It takes a moment to realize they’re all voiced by the same person. My favorite Hanks character is the conductor. The conductor serves as a character that further drives the plot. Not to mention the character is almost goofy with his straight forward attitude and his need to be on time.

But of course one of the main reasons I love this film is all the original music. From songs with lyrics like Hot Chocolate, to simply some instrumental music during very intense events in the film. All of it is well written and fits the format of the film seamlessly. None of the music feels out of place ever.

With this film holding a special place in my heart I have to give it a 5/5. I just love everything about it. From the detail to the music to the story. Highly recommend anyone who has yet to see it take a moment to watch it.

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