Tom Hank's 2004 Christmas film based on the 1985 Chris Van Allsburg is a train of its own! The movie is very excellently paced, and gorgeous. The special effects are just magnificent, and really capture the atmosphere of the film.
The story focuses on a boy who doesn't believe in Christmas or Santa. Out of nowhere, a huge freight train (the Polar Express) arrives, and at first the kid is reluctant to enter the Express, but he eventually hitches on. Later on you see other kids such as the African American Girl and the shy, socially awkward 8 year old that has the voice of a professional singer, who are also both key elements to the story. There are some minor plot-holes such as the Hero Boy in the future mentioning that the girl couldn't hear Santa's Bells (hehe) anymore since you can only hear them if you believe in Santa, even though she was there when they actually SAW SANTA. I mean, that's like saying you don't believe in a murder when you were a witness. It just doesn't make sense! Although I have to say the Ghost Hobo was hilarious!
Now that the story is established, we can move on to the special effects. Now, for a 2004 movie, this film certainly surprised and impressed me. The facial movements were excellent, and were motion-captured if I remember correctly. They're on-par with LA : Noire facial expressions, which for an early 2000's movie is something to brag about. The scenery only adds on the the infinite opportunities of mind-blowing effects, such as the Polar Lights, Santa's North Pole city and the elves, and the Christmas factory. It truly is a delight to see the film progress, and it truly never fails to surprise (especially the scene with the Golden Ticket flying through the forest with the wolves, eagle, etc.)
As for the voice acting, 99% of it is by Tom Hanks. I mean, future Hero Boy, The Conductor, the Ghost Hobo, Santa, and I think even the Elves were voice acted by Tom Hanks, but you can barely tell (minus future Hero Boy). The Conductor's voice is by far the favorite, followed by the Ghost Hobo. However, Santa didn't sound anything like Tom Hanks. I never knew Hanks was such a talented voice actor, but he really pulled it off in this film. He really gives each character their own personality and differentiates from the others. Different tone, pitch, attitude, and even the jolliness and gruffness. I have to admit, this may be the best voice acting I've heard in a while.
I give this film a...