My First Film Review – King of the Railway

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Peep, Peep Tidings! ^^/

 

I’ve been writing these blogs for the past two months and I must say that I’m rather enjoying it. In that time though, I noticed, I’ve neglected to mention about a certain fictional character who I treasure dearly- Thomas the Tank Engine.

 

Some of you may be aware that some Autistic people hold a special bond with certain things, and a lot of Autistic people I know treasure Thomas. I’m no different in this regard

 

When I was much younger I didn’t like anything and I didn’t like anyone, I just wanted seclusion and to be alone. I was severely Autistic back then. Then one day Thomas came into my life. My earliest memory I think was playing with a Thomas the Tank Engine play mat. Whenever I sought solitude, I  played with my Thomas trains and watched the Thomas videos. Thomas was all I could think about. Then gradually, although it took a lot of time; I started to interact with my family and other people through the medium of Thomas the Tank Engine and trains.

 

One day I will explain in thorough detail about my relationship with Thomas. The only reason I’m not is because, knowing me, I’ll go on a long tangent and not stick with the original purpose of this blog. XD!

 

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I must be honest when I say that I had very low expectations for this film. I didn’t raise my expectations even after learning that the writer is Andrew Brenner. Andrew Brenner wrote some of the classic stories for the Thomas the Tank Engine comics. Some of them were adapted for TV. They were very good, especially Henry’s Forest from season 3.

 

Image (This snapshot is from Season Three; Episode Nine; Henry’s Forest)

 

For those who are not aware Thomas the Tank Engine was adapted from The Railway Series books, written by Rev W. Awdry. It had a good number of characters in the books but it was decided that Thomas would be the headliner, thus he became the main character of the TV series.

 

The train characters were showed in the form of live railway models, with the eyes on the face moving via digital control. I grew up loving this type of animation as I loved Thomas as a toy model.

 

A few years ago Thomas changed from a model into CGI animation. Admittedly I was very sceptical and shocked when I first learnt this. I thought this was going to ruin Thomas and my childhood. But I’m honest when I say that converting Thomas from model into CGI animation was actually a positive move. It has many advantages.

 

To name a few; the sceneries look more realistic, there are more opportunities to experiment with camera angles, you can see facial expressions on the characters and perhaps the best advantage of all, animating the people and animals. Before human and animals were lifeless models that couldn’t move unless you used camera tricks. Apart from anything else the modern times are very different compared to the 1980s and CGI animation is a big hit nowadays. I whole heartedly approve of this but of course I will always prefer model Thomas any day because I grew up in the model era. =)

 
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(These snapshots are from Season One, Episode One, Thomas and Gordon.)

 

 

 

 

 

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(These snapshots are from Season Fourteen; Episode One; Thomas’ Tall Friend)

 

 

 

 

The writing and stories that weren’t written by Rev. Awdry or his son Christopher Awdry does concern me. As a writer I can sympathise with the daunting task of writing a story, especially when they would try to capture the charm of Thomas like Rev. Awdry was able to. I don’t think anyone could write a Thomas story as good as the original author, apart from Christopher of course. Naturally it is difficult to write Thomas as good as the original Author so HiT Entertainment rely on their own strengths and style of writing as they conjure up their own style of stories and plotlines.

 

The consistency of past plots and Railway Series logic doesn’t appear to be necessary these days. In the original Railway books the Fat Controller said to Gordon (that timeline was around the 60’s) that steam engines were very rare. In real life steam locomotives were dying out in favour of diesel locomotives. Since HiT entertainment owned Thomas at least 10-15 steam locomotives have been introduced as new characters to the show. This tells me that consistency and logic does not need to apply when writing the new style of Thomas stories.

 

I feel that I need to say, before I go further, that the last season I have seen is series 14. So whatever happens after series 14 may or may not contradict my thoughts. =)

 

Ahem-

 

I notice a big difference in characters lie with Edward and Toby. In the new Thomas era Edward is not as wise and Toby lacks a lot of self-confidence. When I see these new traits in Edward and Toby I just always think that they’re out of character.

 

In the episode, Charlie and Eddie, from Season 14, Edward took offense when Charlie said that he was too old to have fun. To me this was out of character because Edward (the classic Edward character) doesn’t entertain this sort of quip. Back in season 2 he said to Trevor ‘People say I’m old-fashioned but I don’t care, the Fat Controller says that I’m a really useful engine’. So the episode of Charlie and Eddie I immediately associated with Edward being out of character. I’m not necessarily criticising Edward’s new development but I do prefer the classic Edward since I grew up with his classic persona.^^

 

I propose that the writers gave Edward and Toby more specific personality traits so that the young viewers can identify their traits more clearly. Edward and Toby are quite similar in nature of being old and wise. Toby is not very strong since he’s a tram engine so this could have been identified as a trait of being self-conscious.

 

I’m not cross with the new developments in Edward and Toby because I can see why these new developments have been made. However, I do think that the classic Edward and classic Toby would fit in nicely with the new Thomas era. Just because when I was little I was able to deduce the differences between Edward and Toby.^^’

 

Now, onto the film…

 

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To my amazement it was a lot better than I anticipated. I always find though that it’s better to watch shows with low/neutral expectations. That way you won’t end up with a bad taste in your mouth by the end of it. When I watched this film, I felt really happy. It is definitely my favourite Thomas episode/movie since the end of Britt Allcroft’s era.

I don’t have any reason except that it felt like classic Thomas. I loved the part when Gordon asks about Henry needing new coal and Toby told him that that was fixed years ago! XD I really loved that reference. It was like the show was acknowledging what happened in the classic Thomas stories. It’s not often that occurs and I put that down immediately to the writer, Andrew Brenner.

 

I liked how the plot involved the history of Sodor. The history of Sodor and Godred was part of Rev Awdry’s vision but it was never elaborated on in the Railway Series. It was however, mentioned in detail in the Railway Series’ information book. Once again this is acknowledging Rev Awdry’s original work. Ulfstead was even mentioned. =D In the information book there was a person called Sir Richard Robert Norramby who was also an Earl. I anticipate that the writer based the character, Sir Robert Norramby, on him.

 

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(These snapshots are Sir Robert Norramby; from the Thomas movie; King of the Railway)

 

 

 

The story as a whole had the right balance. It was not repetitive but it was not too complicated to understand. It was very humorous too! Ulfstead Castle/Station was a marvellous design. Seeing trains go in and out of a castle was quite fascinating. When I build my train room I’m looking to create a station similar to Ulfstead Castle!

 

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(These snapshots are the arial point of view of Ulfstead

Castle/Station.)

 

 

 

I don’t normally connect with the human characters of the Thomas show but I really liked Sir Robert Norramby! (Norramby is another reference to Sodor, since Norramby is a town in Sodor). He’s like a mad scientist. The first part of the movie really made me laugh. The Fat Controller prepared a big celebration for him and when he arrived he didn’t stop and left straight away! I thought that was just hilarious. He appreciated the party being for him but he kept to his own personal arrangements and went straight to Ulfstead to meet with Millie. XD!

 

Then came the introduction of Stephen- the Stephenson’s Rocket! I felt that this was a very risky move. It’s not often that a real train appears in Thomas. The only real trains appeared and mentioned in the previous Thomas seasons were the City of Truro, Stepney and the Flying Scotsman. They all also originally appeared in The Railway Series books. But, introducing Stephen in this film sold me greatly. His character was just about right. Wise, enthusiastic but perhaps not as capable as he once was back in his heyday.

 

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(These snapshots are a comparision of the character Stephen and the real life locomotive; Stephenson’s Rocket)

 

 

 

We have more new additions to the series, high speed steamliners; Connor and Caitlin. Interesting characters though I’m not really sure how I feel about the names, they feel a bit too modern for Thomas.

 

When Thomas told Stephen about the surprise, I expected Sir Robert to get cross with him and Thomas vowed to ‘put things right’. But this didn’t happen. Thomas told Stephen about the job in order to cheer him up. In a way this seems like a mature thing to do since most of us will abide by this rule. Sir Robert also didn’t get cross, at all. And Thomas did vow to make things right but he did that by finding Stephen. He didn’t get told off by human characters like the Fat Controller but by the other engines like Gordon. =D

 

My Conclusion…

 

This was a very good film which blew away my previous expectations. It also came to my attention at the end of this blog that Andrew Brenner was going to become the Head Writer for Thomas the Tank Engine from Season 17 onwards. I’m most certainly looking forward to that!

 

Andrew did an excellent job here! Mark Mollaghan was decent as narrator too! I recognised immediately that he was not Michael Angelis. Did Michael decide to stop his role as main narrator? If he has then I wish him very good luck. ^^/

 

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From now on I’m going to review films/games/programmes, give you my thoughts and rate them. I’m going to rate them in my own way.

 

If I don’t like what I saw I give a thumb’s down, like so;

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If I thought something was enjoyable enough to watch, I give it a thumb’s up;

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If I absolutely loved it, I will give it two thumbs up!

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With that being said I’m going to give the King of the Railway two thumbs up! =D

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That is it for now about Thomas and the film. Even though I call this a review I see this more as me sharing my thoughts about the film itself. I was nervous about writing this but I actually ended up enjoying writing this and I hope you enjoy reading it. =D

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Choo, choo for now. ^^/

Ryan

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