Monday, July 14, 2008

Wall-E


I have strayed away from writing this review for several reasons, one of them being that I really wanted to ingest and digest this film, chew it over and attempt to obtain the essence of Pixar's newest stab at animated filmmaking before I committed to any solid comments on the film. I spoke to many people on the topic of this film, saw it twice in the theaters (which is, indeed, a spoiler for the rest of this article; I obviously enjoyed it enough to drop $20 on the film. Well, more like $29.50 if you include my $9.50 pseudo-meal of nachos and a bottle of Dasani water), and read many inputs on the movie, finally coming to an ultimate conclusion: remaining true to the Pixar tradition of stunning imagery paired with emotional story-telling, Wall-E scores high marks in both visual and narrative categories, while falling slightly short of cunning and realistic science fiction.

The film's initial fifty minutes are akin to a Chaplin pre-1927 flick, sans dialogue yet steeped in visual gags that involve the clumsy Wall-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth-Class) rolling curiously around a trash-riddled planet Earth, discovering treasures among the massive heaps of garbage that the human race has left behind. I fell in complete love with Wall-E in the first few minutes, identifying completely with his pack-rat mentality and penchant for antiquarian collections. The only audible sounds are a series of squeaks, whirls and whistles that he emits to himself and his undying (literally) cockroach buddy who follows him around as he performs his duties, and brief words exchanged between Wall-E and EVE, his sleek and futuristic love interest. There's a quite hilarious sight gag involving a spork, some touching moments as Wall-E sighs or dances along to a battered VHS copy of Hello, Dolly!, and all this without any excessive strings of dialogue. Much like a young child can watch City Lights or The Kid and retain a basic understanding of the story, even a three year old can follow this film through at least the first hour.

Where I give major kudos is to the music department: I thought it was genius that the filmmakers didn't write any original songs for the movie (except, of course, the horrible Peter Gabriel song "Down to Earth" that dramatically crescendo-ed along with the ending credits) but instead relied on narratively-driven repetition of two songs from the Hello, Dolly! soundtrack, Louis Armstrong's "La Vie en Rose", and a wonderfully original score from composer Thomas Newman.

At the core of this film is beautiful love story about loneliness and acceptance. But sitting right next to the romantic tale of robot love is the undeniable apocalyptic science fiction tale of an Earth gone to hell in a handbasket from excessive waste. The humans (all of them, of course, American) have chosen to abandon this problem by setting off on a 5 year space cruise aboard the enormous spacecraft Axiom in order to leave all the Wall-Es of the world and the Buy 'n Large corporation to clean up in time for their return. 700 years later, a fat, liquid-diet-centered, self-absorbed, yet surprisingly amicable, human race is still aboard the Axiom, with no date of return in sight. I recently read in the LA Times review of this film that they felt Wall-E fell short of expectations by not being "ground-breaking" enough (
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-ca-scifi13-2008jul13,0,5812148.story). While the film does not delve into the realm of well-crafted science fiction, I think it's thought out well enough to do the trick and get a pertinent message across. And with references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, you have to give their writers some meta-filmic credit for their homages to the genre. This film is, however, ground-breaking visually, there's no question about that; there were certainly several times that I caught myself forgetting I was watching animation. Whether or not it was completely original I think is a matter of speculation and trivialization, because this film contains a beautiful, innocent and touching heart that pairs well with its stunning visual sequences. Take anyone and everyone you know to see this movie, and expect to be entertained and amazed.

2 comments:

Geoff said...

I agree with you whole-heartedly regarding the quality of the film. I'm not sure what Reed Johnson's criteria are for "ground-breaking" in the G-rated family market, but it's difficult to see how WALL-E doesn't meet them. Excellent review, I think it persuaded me to see it again.

ddmarie said...

i've seen it twice now too, and will probably see it again if i in fact have another $10 to see it. and i completely agree with your review. the story was so strong and touching, i think it overshadowed the sci-fi and "green" message. waAAall-ee!