Polar Express: selected reviews

There are a lot of remarkable things about The Polar Express. Most strikingly, it’s a visually stunning film, creating a world that is full of childlike wonder with a tinge of off-kilter creepiness.

The movie is full of sequences that resonate in your mind long after you see the film.

The Mercury News:

Chris Van Allsburg said, that both the director of “The Polar Express,” Robert Zemeckis, and its star, Tom Hanks, had tremendous respect for the book. Van Allsburg is particularly pleased that the film opens and ends with the same words as the book.

Wired News:

Hollywood is locked in a digital arms race – every few weeks, it seems, a studio releases a film featuring a new breakthrough in computer-generated imagery.

Polar Express’ visuals are extraordinary. But does it work? Does this style of animation serve this story? Unfortunately, no. Polar Express, in quieter moments, looks like its source material, the wonderful Chris Van Allsburg children’s book. The landscapes and design gave me goose bumps at times. But the characters are, unintentionally, more creepy than sweet.

The most visually striking scene follows a golden train ticket as it floats down a mountain, is propelled through a pack of wolves and then lifted into an eagle’s nest.

Minnesota Daily:

Many films start out as award-winning books. But they aren’t usually picture books.”

Chris Van Allsburg’s popular children’s Christmas story, “The Polar Express,” is one movie that takes on the challenge of adapting a picture book with style. The transfer is realized through state-of-the-art computer animation.

Director Robert Zemeckis has the advantage of a good story but meets the challenge of converting 15 pages of pictures and a few hundred words into a full-length film without straying too far from the book’s holiday theme of “believe.”

Zemeckis’ task was to create a feature-length film without losing the story’s charm. Any additions to the film, regardless of their possible cinematic advantages, risk alienating readers of this beloved book. Zemeckis solves this problem with ease.

Visalia Times-Delta:

There are a lot of remarkable things about “The Polar Express.” Most strikingly, it’s a visually stunning film, creating a world that is full of childlike wonder with a tinge of off-kilter creepiness.

The movie is full of sequences that resonate in your mind long after you see the film.

But it’s Tom Hank’s voice work as the little boy that’s so remarkable. It simply doesn’t sound like a grown man imitating a child. There’s not a hint of Hanks’ now-recognizable voice to be found in the performance.

Channel NewsAsia:

All the film’s performances, including Hanks’, are created by filming the actors as they wear high-tech body suits and strategically-placed reflective beads that allow their movements, including facial expressions, to be precisely tracked.

The movements are then digitized and captured in real time and transferred to animated backdrops and scenes, creating a unique storybook effect.

Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Van Allsburg says he was prepared to fight to have the mood of the story consistent with what was put on screen.

But he says he didn’t have to.

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