November 23, 2004 > The Polar Express
The Polar Express
by Susana Nuñez
"It doesn't matter where the train is going. What matters is deciding to get on."
Chris Van Allsburg's enchanting children's book The Polar Express comes to life just in time for the holidays. The Polar Express tells the tale of a boy who has lost his faith in Santa Claus. The film takes viewers on a train ride to the North Pole to find out whether stories of elves and magical reindeer are true. Families around the world have made the story a part of their Christmas celebrations for nearly twenty years. Now everyone can experience the delightful tale onscreen with their loved ones.
For those who are not familiar with the story, The Polar Express is about the moment in a child's life when innocence meets maturity. Anyone who ever believed in Santa Claus and left him milk and cookies remembers when they stopped believing in the jolly fellow. The nameless boy who goes through this dream-like journey learns that faith has no age and no limits. His friends on the train each learn their own personal lessons, as well. While one learns to be a little less smart-mouthed and a little more humble, another discovers the joy of having real friends. "What's interesting about these characters," states Tom Hanks, star of the film, "is that there is not a unified sensibility to what they are doing on this train, they're not just kids saying 'yay' at the same time. It's a journey of individuals. The only thing they mutually want at the same time is hot chocolate. If you're going to have a bunch of kids all experience Christmas the same way it's not going to be realistic."
Hanks impressively lends his voice to five characters in the film, some of which were designed with his likeness. The film's imagery stays true to the beauty and richness of Allsburg's illustrations thanks to state of the art computer graphics. The Polar Express is the first film ever to be shot entirely in an advanced technique appropriately named Performance Capture. Attempting to recreate the story through a live-action film was out of the question, since the vivid scenery and character circumstances would have been impossible to portray. Shooting the film in classic cartoon animation was out of thew questions as it would hinder the film's realistic quality. The end result through the magic of Performance Capture results in a fun and vibrant cinematic adventure.
With all the busy holiday planning and anticipation for Christmas this year, The Polar Express is a warm, fun-filled getaway that everyone should take the time to enjoy. Action films and dramas won't do much to get moviegoers to start spreading yuletide glee, but a loveable classic, such as this one, will surely do the trick. Adults as well as children will enjoy the film as it takes them back to their childhood when Santa Claus and his magical world in the North Pole were real. Finding time to see a cheerful holiday film shouldn't be limited to watching old Christmas specials at home.