Movie Discussion – “Polar Express”

Tom Hanks has been making some odd choices lately.
Was this one of them, or will it turn out to be a
wonderful little Christmas movie?

5 replies on “Movie Discussion – “Polar Express””

  1. Jhon says:

    I took my son
    He’s almost 5 years old. He loved the movie. It’s the first time I saw him really “get into” a movie in that he would yell “OH NO!” during the intense scenes and “YES!” when things worked out.

    My problems with the film weren’t many. CGI films like The Incredibles or Finding Nemo are great. The characters look cartoonish and it WORKS! In Polar Express, they tried to make them look TOO human — and in my opinion, made it kind of creepy.

    I remember reading that if you give something SOME human facial traits, humans can and will appricate and respond to it (and even find it “cute”). But if you pass a certain point, unless it’s CLOSE to perfect, we ‘feel’ a sense of ‘wrongness’. This is how I felt looking at the faces, and basically dead-eyes of the characters. Their smiles looked dead. Their eyes looked dead. Their expressions were — well, lifeless.

    It works with Nemo and Incredibles because the characters are CARTOONS and they dont TRY to make them look human. It didn’t work in PE.

    That said, I did enjoy it and it was time/money well spent.

    • Mr. Vapor says:

      Re: I took my son

      I remember reading that if you give something SOME human facial traits,
      humans can and will appricate and respond to it (and even find it “cute”). But
      if you pass a certain point, unless it’s CLOSE to perfect, we ‘feel’ a sense of
      ‘wrongness’. This is how I felt looking at the faces, and basically dead-eyes
      of the characters. Their smiles looked dead. Their eyes looked dead. Their
      expressions were — well, lifeless.

      It’s called the Uncanny Valley. I found out about this theory in a recent
      slashdot post about something to do with movie animations (probably the
      Polar Express). The link is an interesting read. As you get closer and closer to
      human features, people emphasize more and more, until you reach some sort
      of point, where the object is now creepy, until you reach a second point,
      where it becomes cute (or harmless) again. pretty strange. Neat graphs in the
      linked article too.

      • y42 says:

        Re: I took my son

        I remember reading that if you give something SOME human facial traits,
        humans can and will appricate and respond to it (and even find it “cute”). But
        if you pass a certain point, unless it’s CLOSE to perfect, we ‘feel’ a sense of
        ‘wrongness’. This is how I felt looking at the faces, and basically dead-eyes
        of the characters. Their smiles looked dead. Their eyes looked dead. Their
        expressions were — well, lifeless.

        It’s called the Uncanny Valley. I found out about this theory in a recent
        slashdot post about something to do with movie animations (probably the
        Polar Express). The link is an interesting read. As you get closer and closer to
        human features, people emphasize more and more, until you reach some sort
        of point, where the object is now creepy, until you reach a second point,
        where it becomes cute (or harmless) again. pretty strange. Neat graphs in the
        linked article too.

        Don’t take it personnal, but MAN am I tired of reading about this in every single internet discussion involving CGI characters.

        • dgswensen says:

          Re: I took my son
          Hey, I feel your pain. I’ve been sick to death of hearing phrases and
          sentiments along the following lines:

        • crappy CGI
        • taking perfectly good puppets and replacing them with crappy CGI
        • CGI sucks because it is CGI
        • this nearly-photorealistic CGI still looks fake for reasons I can’t or won’t
          articulate
        • stop-motion was somehow much better than CGI and still is
        • because this is CGI I will somehow relate it to Jar Jar Binks
        • CGI renders an otherwise worthwhile movie or animation dumber / more
          money-grubbing / more appealing to the lowest common denominator by its
          very presence

          for YEARS. Yet, there it is, like clockwork, every time any movie that
          features any computer graphics at all comes up, especially (God forbid) Star
          Wars. Mentioning the Uncanny Valley is the only way to really deal with this,
          as most people just dislike CGI, apparently on completely knee-jerk
          principles, and never, even once, fail to mention it. At least now there’s a
          rational reason for someone to have a problem with computer graphics, apart
          maybe from unrealistic nostalgia.

          Maybe I’m the only one who remembers those giant bounding boxes and
          unmatched colors and visible strings and so forth through previous
          generations of special effects. Don’t get me wrong, I love special effects
          history, and I have a great fondness for the difficulty and charm of
          rotoscoping and miniatures work and puppetry, but for the most part, those
          tools are on their way out. And yes, there are plenty instances where CGI has
          been used poorly, in excess, or needlessly. But there have been plenty of
          great things to come out of the computer revolution, too. I doubt Jurassic
          Park would have been half the film if they’d hired Ray Harryhausen instead of
          Phil Tippett.

          I’d be glad to never mention the Uncanny Valley again, if I never had to
          hear someone abstractly bitching about how CGI, which has some truly
          breathtaking potential, sucks “just because.” But, unfortunately, that’s not
          going to happen anytime soon.

  • Alexius says:

    Re: I took my son

    for YEARS. Yet, there it is, like clockwork, every time any movie that features any computer graphics at all comes up, especially (God forbid) Star Wars. Mentioning the Uncanny Valley is the only way to really deal with this, as most people just dislike CGI, apparently on completely knee-jerk principles, and never, even once, fail to mention it.

    See, I’m The Opposite. My Only Interest In this Movie Was The CGI.

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