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The Polar Express

The Polar Express

By Patrick Samuel • December 6th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Warner Bros

Original release: November 10th, 2004
Running Time: 96 minutes

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles Jr., Chris Van Allsburg

Cast: Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Eddie Deezen, Tom Hanks

The Polar Express

It’s a sad thing when children stop believing in the spirit of Christmas. When they no longer care if they’ve been put on the naughty list and are no longer filled with excitement which keeps other children up on Christmas Eve, hoping to hear the jingle of sleigh bells and catch a glimpse of Santa. They grow up all too fast and become burdened with the troubles of the real world and then spend the rest of their lives trying to get that magic back.

Director Robert Zemeckis believes The Polar Express is a story which puts that magic back into us, whether we’re old or young.

“It’s a story everyone can relate to. So many of us, as children or adults, have questioned our belief in something or gone through the process of having our faith tested and restored. Kids can take the story literally as a journey to find Santa Claus, while older readers understand it as a metaphor for much bigger ideas. It deals with the symbols of Christmas but at its core is a universal story about belief in things you don’t completely see or understand.”

Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s story which was first published in 1985, The Polar Express is about a little boy who wants to believe in Santa Claus but on Christmas Eve he begins to doubt his existence. Later that night a train called the Polar Express pulls up in front of his house and a mysterious conductor invites him to come on board for a journey to the North Pole. Once on board he meets a group of children who are all heading to the North Pole as well.

The Polar Express

It’s a little bit scary at first; the children are all taken from their homes by this mysterious man; the train staff are also very peculiar and there’s a hobo riding on board the train too, but we trust that the train is really going to North Pole. First it must get through the treacherous weather, steep hills, glaciers and the children have to keep their train tickets in tact. When they finally arrive, the North Pole is everything they imagined it would be. Elves are busy packing Santa’s sack as the clock counts down to midnight on Christmas Eve when the jolly one gives the first present. But who will he give it to?

Tom Hanks takes on a total of 5 roles in the film. He plays the Hero Boy, the father, the conductor, the hobo and Santa. Using motion capture, Hanks’s performance was digitally captured by computerized cameras and then transferred to the virtual characters. The system was designed to capture every movement no matter how The Polar Expresssubtle, from hand gestures to the flutter of an eyelid. It was also able to simultaneously record 3-dimensional, high-fidelity facial and body movements from multiple actors, through a system of digital cameras providing a full 360 degrees of coverage.

It’s not just the effects which make The Polar Express an enjoyable journey though. There are also songs, including The Polar Express and Hot Chocolate which are sung by Hanks along with a few classics such as White Christmas by Bing Crosby and Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Frank Sinatra. Steven Tyler from Aerosmith is featured as an elf in the film’s closing song Rockin’ On Top of the World!

The movie has a lovely story and the effects used to tell it make it a very enjoyable experience although it did feel a bit dark in some places, but then which fairly tale doesn’t have its dark moments?

I for one have never lost the spirit of Christmas, in fact, along with birthdays; it’s the biggest event of the year for me because it’s that time of year when you believe all things are possible. Peeking out the windows hoping to see snowfall, shaking the presents and guessing what’s inside and wondering who ate the cookies that were left out the night before! And why are there crumbs on my sweater?

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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