the-polar-express
Image via Warner Bros.

The unintentionally creepy start to a failed cinematic revolution hops aboard the streaming Top 10

Whatever you do, don't make direct eye contact.

Performance capture is part and parcel of the filmmaking experience these days, but it’s almost always utilized in tandem with practical sets, green screens, and assorted Volume-esque soundstages. That might be because of Robert Zemeckis, who tried and failed to kick-start a cinematic revolution with The Polar Express, only for interest and enthusiasm in the experiment to peter out.

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The perennial festive favorite did manage to earn $314 million at the box office following several re-releases, but given that it cost an estimated $170 million to produce, the profit margins weren’t exactly robust. Not only that, but nobody could escape from the uncanny valley, which gave every single character an unintentionally dead-eyed and sinister sheen that was more unsettling than heartwarming.

the-polar-express
via Warner Bros.

Even though he followed it up with Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, and Steven Spielberg even got in on the act through the admittedly underrated The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, the short-lived subgenre eventually fizzled out when James Cameron’s groundbreaking Avatar arrived to effectively make it a redundant form of filmmaking.

However, as a Christmas-themed family film, The Polar Express has been guaranteed the long-lasting life and annual resurgences its contemporaries could only dream of, and it just so happens to be that time of year. As per FlixPatrol, the Tom Hanks-starrer has pulled into the station and disembarked as one of the 10 most-watched features on HBO Max, and we’d feel confident in saying it won’t be departing the charts until somewhere around December 26.


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Scott Campbell
News, reviews, interviews. To paraphrase Keanu Reeves; Words. Lots of words.