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Headscratchers: The Polar Express
  • Why is it so hard for the Hero Boy to believe in Santa when he knows he's on a magic train?
    • Because he thinks he might be dreaming. He says as much when discussing the matter with The Spook.
    • Also, if the parents don't believe in Santa Claus, then who the hell do they think is leaving all the presents under the tree? Are they just brainwashed into thinking they left the presents by Santa (which brings on a whole new level of Fridge Horror)?
      • A common, if not inevitable, problem with Santa-oriented movies. Just pass it off as a Necessary Weasel.
      • Maybe Santa hands out idiot balls for Christmas?
      • Possible explanation on the WMG page - a true visit from Santa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
      • The other presents could be from the parents playing Santa. Maybe the bell is the only REAL gift from Santa, and each of the parents think the other gave it to the kid so he'd keep believing for longer.
  • Why was the poor kid sent to the back of the train, and not given any chocolate? While it does serve well as something for a kind hearted child to rebel against by taking him chocolate and befriending him, it doesn't make any barking sense for the train taking good children in need of moral lessons to Santa to segregate based on wealth.
    • Just one more piece of evidence that all of the other children are illusionary constructs to help the main kid in his learning experience, along with Mandark showing up in the middle of the stack of presents and shutting up and apologizing with next to no actual Character Development, and the girl knowing or realizing things the conductor should have known all along and revealed for safety's sake instead of leaving it up to one of the kids to figure out.
      • I don't think so. Remember that all the kids, not just Hero Boy, had a lesson to learn; I doubt his subconscious would worry about filling in imaginary learning experiences for kids that don't exist.
    • The whole existence of The Poor Kid seems totally wrongheaded and bizarre. Why even bring up the idea of kids whose parents are too poor to give them an extravagant Christmas in a kids' movie? And on top of that, the message seems to be "Santa visits the poor kids too, and they get big presents like everyone else!" Broken Aesop, anyone?
      • I think it was all part of the Conductor's plan from the beginning. Consider: He's implied (or outright shown) several times to know a lot more about what's going on than he lets on; for instance, although he only punches two letters into each ticket at the beginning, he clearly knows what lesson each kid needs to learn, since he fills them in later. I think that segregating Billy from the rest of the kids was intended to impel Hero Girl to help him out even though she didn't need to. (A mark of a good leader is taking care of others, after all.) Either the Conductor would have brought Billy up front with the rest of the kids eventually, or he can see the future and he knew it wouldn't be necessary. I don't have a problem with it at all. As for giving Billy a present, I think the intended moral wasn't so much that extravagant Christmas presents will eventually fall out of the sky if you wait long enough; rather, it was that a defeatist attitude is unnecessary because you never know what will happen tomorrow.
      • To add to this, remember when the kids are in the gift bag, what the elves say? "We knew you were in there the whole time." I don't think anything that happens either at the North Pole or on the train is unplanned.
    • If you're asking about the movie: he went to the back of the train on his own.
      • The poor kid's ticket-message was all about developing faith and trust. He'd probably been picked on for having cheap clothes or possessions at school, and was too suspicious of it happening again to join the other kids up front.
    • As mentioned above the kid went to the rear train car on his own. Also, the only thing the boy really missed out on was the show that went with the hot chocolate. Had the Hero Girl, for lack of an actual name, not secured a second cup for the kid, the conductor probably would have delivered some on his own, though it would have taken a bit longer.
  • Why did the conductor lose his temper at every little setback? If they've been running the Express for years and transporting a bunch of excited children to see Santa, surely they've had issues of emergency brakes being pulled, tracks being covered, and tickets being lost.
  • I've seen this thing way too many times, as it's the default Christmas Eve Movie at my brother's house. One thing I still can't figure out is, what's the deal with the Evil? Ghost Hobo Dude? Why is he there, either In-Universe or dramatically? I think I know the answer, but even with that, I don't get the rationale behind this character.
    • I think he might be the Spirit of Doubt, in a sort of (in-universe) strawman way.
    • He's The Spook. And whether he really is "an angel" or not, for all intents and purposes that's the role he fulfills. He sort of indirectly helps out when necessary—usually by getting Hero Kid to face what's going on inside his head, but sometimes by revealing something covertly or even by saving someone's life. Perhaps he is indeed, as implied, a ghost, and is bound, by either his own remorse or some curse, to the train, to aid the people who ride on it. Hey, perhaps he committed suicide! You know what they say about those people, don't you? In the afterlife, they become civil servants.
    • As for his background story, in a deleted scene on the DVD, the engineers reveal that the hobo was riding the roof of the train one night and was killed when the train reached Flattop Tunnel. He's been on the train ever since.
      • When the protagonist drops the girl's ticket the Hobo Ghost is seen napping in a hammock on the underside on the train. If he's dead, I wanna know what he was doing there. Also, if the above is true, then it adds a bit of Irony to his comment about there only being an inch of clearance between the roof of the train and the roof of the tunnel.
      • If he'd gotten killed by dozing on top of the train, can you blame him for choosing to nap as far from the top of it as possible?
  • Why the hell did they do an overcrank in the middle of a song, thus slowing down the song?
  • All the boys seem to have a lesson to learn, but what about the girl? The main kid learned faith, the poor boy learned trust, the know-it-all learned humility (off-camera I guess), but the girl was already a leader from the start. Or did I just miss the scene where she gains her leadership qualities?
    • You did. Next time you watch it, pay attention to when Hero Boy says "Are you sure?" At first she stops what she's doing and cries, doubting herself, but later she believes in herself and leads them to the sound of the bell.
      • Ok, I watched it again, and fair enough she did hesitate. And, technically the know-it-all must have learned his lesson by being chastised by Santa. Still, the girl acts perfectly confident and independent until asked if she's sure. It still kind of bugs me, but not as much. Thanks.
      • Part of being the leader is having faith in your own decisions. Having confidence only when people are following you without question isn't great leadership.
  • How did they not know that the know-it-all kid was following them? Wouldn't they have seen him on the train or when falling on to the pile of presents?
    • This Troper thought that he made his own way to the presents. After all, with all the things that went on, it is highly impossible that he was following them. When he saw them leave he assumed they were going to check out their presents, so he probably decided to get there before them.
    • But wouldn't ONE of the elves notice a kid wandering alone?
    • All the elves were gathering in the town square. Besides, Know-It-All Kid isn't so dumb that he'd let himself get caught.
  • The number of cars on the train never seems to stay a rigid figure. In one scene, there seems to be about five cars, another there are dozens, a third might show ten, and when they walk through them there seems to be but three.
  • How does a pin falling in the ice cause the entire lake to fracture, when a multi-tonne steam locomotive does not?
    • It's sharper?
    • That's chaos theory.
      • I always thought it was because the train is magic and can make itself weightless, but even if the pin was from the train, once it falls off it's not magic anymore and can break through the ice.
    • Rule of Drama.
  • Steven is caught doing a last minute naughty act of putting gum in his sister's hair. What kid chews gum, let alone puts it in his sister's hair, at five minutes till midnight, when they should all be asleep?!
    • Yeah, "should" be. Maybe they just pretended to sleep like the hero?
    • I doubt a kid that young would be able to stay up that late. But even if he could, the most ludicrous thing about this is that he'd even think about something like that when he could have had other things on his mind. Whatever happened to the visions of freaking sugarplums dancing in his head?!
    • Maybe he had done it earlier and they were just finishing up looking at what kids had done?
    • Perhaps, but one of the elves announces "We got a troublemaker now!" and there's a loud blaring alarm as if it was a situation that had just come up.
    • Maybe he's in a different time zone?
      • Maybe. The Naughty-or-Nice console looks to be a time/space visualizer of some kind; perhaps he did it a day or two earlier, but it only came up when he was being taken to task for it. Santa only knows if you've been naughty if you get caught.
      • You take three hours off midnight, that's only 9 o'clock. That's not unreasonable, and some kids are night owls. Lots of time zones in the world.
      • He's in Maplewood, NJ. The train sets out from Grand Rapids, MI and seems to be on GR time for the rest of the film. That's all Eastern Standard Time.
  • What was the conductor going to do with the girl because she didn't have a ticket? It seems pretty obvious he wasn't going to throw her off like the know it all said, but what was he going to do? And why'd he take her to the engine for it?
    • She was working her passage by helping the engineer.
      • Why'd he take her to the end and walk over the roof of the train instead of just walking through the train to the engine?
      • The Gameboy Advanced version of the Video Game has a cut-scene where the conductor states, "and you, miss. You better get back to shovelling coal," which basically confirms what the troper above said. As for taking her over the roof, the door in the old toy car was double locked, implying that there may be a padlock on the inside, making it impossible to travel into the toy car from the passenger cars.
  • When the Hero Boy explains at the end that he was the only one who still believed in Santa, it doesn't make sense because everyone else saw him for themselves!
    • The only other person on the train that Hero Boy was likely to see again was Billy, who lived in the same town at a known address. Hero Boy doesn't know the name, address, home town, home state, or possibly even home country of any of the other kids on the train. So most of his friends hadn't seen Santa.
    • Ditto. This Troper always assumed that he was referring to his regular-everyday friends, since it didn't seem all that likely he'd ever meet up with the other kids on the train ever again.
    • The others didn't have a bell to remind them, so probably concluded it'd all been a dream when they got older.
  • Christmas Eve is the most important date in the North Pole calendar. So why was there such poor maintenance on the equipment they used? The engineers on the train have to replace a burned out light bulb and a defective cotter pin while the train was moving, both of which nearly caused a disastrous accident. And the bell on the reindeer harness was improperly attached. All of that should have been checked and corrected well before 12/24.
  • Why were the elves Jewish?
  • Why doesn't any of the kids feel the cold despite it being the middle of winter and them being only in their pajamas?


Planet 51Headscratchers/FilmPonyo on the Cliff by the Sea

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