Tom Hanks gets motion captured and CGI’d and does a load of voices on this magical Christmas train adventure, based on the Children’s book. We follow an unamed child as he hops on the Polar Express all the way to the north pole. He makes friends and meets Tom Hanks along the way.
The Polar Express is trying too hard. There’s Christmas magic then there’s ramming a yule log down people’s throats until they choke. Reindeers, glitter, snowmen, sparkles, elves; this feels like Zemeckis’ demented Christmas dream world.
There are plenty of redeeming features though. I really liked the concept, and at times I wanted to be on the Polar Express; it just looked so good. Tom Hanks is the best Christmas themed train conductor ever!
There’s also a slightly sinister tone coursing through the film which I liked. The kids get in danger and it’s only their bravery and assertiveness that saves them. Even Christmas-land is a dangerous place. Zemeckis is keen to make the point that a step into the unknown is just as scary as it is exciting.
However, even without the crazy bombastic glitz and glamour the motion capture did not do it for me. It’s weird seeing Tom Hanks digitized for no real reason, and the kids looked really creepy. I know they sunk a lot of money into this film ($165m!!) but it would likely have been better spent on a live action film.
I love the story and I applaud the origninal take on tired old themes, but ultimately I just couldn’t quite get on board with The Polar Express.