Saturday, 13 December 2014

Review: The Polar Express

World of Blackout Film Review

The Polar Express (3D) Poster

The Polar Express (3D)
Cert: U / 101 mins / Dir. Reobert Zemeckis
WoB Rating: 3/7

Not that I'm a CGI snob by any means, but the animation isn't ageing at all well in The Polar Express. The models and texturing themselves look great, and the body movements are motion-capture perfect, but the faces... dear lord, the faces. Any character other than the nameless "Hero Boy"*1 bears a glassy-eyed rictus-infused visage, moving with an eerily palsied sluggishness as different expressions are called for but rarely achieved (although The Hero Boy isn't much better, but looks like he's had the most time spent on him). At one point I honestly thought the train might have a little girl standing in the caboose, ready to tell the protagonists "You're all going to die down here…"

Of course the visuals don't make a film on their own, but I think that had Zemeckis chosen traditional 2D animation (or even live action), I'd have found the whole thing far more empathic. But then there's also The Film's Message, and in all honesty it's not too difficult for a halfway decent Christmas movie to get my eyes misty. But The Polar Express is the cinematic equivalent of the Coca Cola Santa Claus, and I've felt more sincerity emanating from David Cameron. A scene near the start of the film sees The Hero Boy looking into a department store's Christmas window display with puzzlement and disappointment as the mechanical Santa on show has a massive clockwork-key protruding from his back. I can't work out if this sequence has 100% self-awareness, or none whatsoever.

And these points burden the film enough without the atrocious 3D conversion I sat through. Sharp one minute, muddy the next and with ghosting all over the shop. Bonus points go to Tom Hanks who performs six voices which all sound distinctly different, yet all sound like Tom Hanks. That is a talent, I'll admit.

But y'know what? It's a popular film, so clearly I'm just being a terrible Scrooge about the whole thing. I'm going to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol now, and we shall never speak of this again…

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Well, that trailer only captures a fraction of the sheer, unnerving terror…

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Nowhere near enough.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
In 2004? Maybe. In 2014? Well, if it's setting out to scare me shitless then yes.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
You may well get the chance to see this at the cinema around this time of year (I did), but if you watched the film before, I'd recommend catching it at home first.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I. Just. Might.

Will I watch it again?
I. Doubt. It.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
That kid on the train. The one with the glasses and the big mouth. What's he for? He basically just acts like an arsehole for the duration of the film until Santa tells him "back in your box, you little bastard", at which point he switches to being an only-slightly-less-annoying little arsehole. And The Girl One. She seems like a basically good kid when we first meet her, and remains that way until the end of the film. Isn't the train ride meant to be an upwardly-transformative journey for the kids who are chosen? Isn't that the point? If it's not, then what is..?

*1 No, really. According to IMDB and Wiki, the characters don't have actual names. Which is probably just as well as they don't seem to have actual personalities, either. Yeah, me-ow. Whatever.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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