Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall-E is a wonder to behold - and to love

As corny as this certainly sounds, if you've seen Pixar's "Wall-E" (and if you haven't, why the heck not?), can you think of any movie in any genre for the last 20 years or so that had more to say about the power of love?

Well, robot love, of course, but the story of Wall-E and Eve still just grabs you faster and keeps you fully attached longer than almost any love story that I can think of (some might mention "The Notebook," but for simple entertainment value and much more, "Wall-E" just blows that away.)

And at least as important as the robo-love is the love and adoration that director Andrew Stanton clearly has for great sci-fi, which he shows in almost every frame of "Wall-E." If even a sliver of the kids who managed to sit through the quieter stretches of "Wall-E" and later grows up to seek out the classics that inspired it - most clearly "Blade Runner" and "2001: A Space Odyssey," but also "Star Wars" - then mission accomplished.

Stanton's respect for "Blade Runner," in particular, is clear from the moment we see our hero roll on to the screen and into a trashscape that I guarantee - no matter how many times you've seen the Earth destroyed in apocalyptic fashion on the big screen - will look like nothing you've ever seen in movies before (and how many times nowadays can you really say that?)

And, even better, it's in this deliriously inventive opening third or so that Stanton makes the more subtle of his points about the numbing nature of our work-a-day routine. Even with the cute jokes about the amazingly fresh Twinkie and the spork, were there any adults out there who didn't just cringe a little when Wall-E comes home and immediately pops in a video tape, then struggles to put on his rollers the next morning before he's had that first jolt of coffee? (Or, in his case of course, sun.)

But as amazingly entertaining as this dialogue-free opening stretch is, it just gets more and more charming when Eve arrives on the scene to scan for signs of life in the barren wasteland. Just about equal credit for this rather ridiculous love story working so well goes to writer/director Stanton and robot voice specialist Ben Burtt.

Kudos to Stanton for making Eve at least as likable as Wall-E (yes, I realize she's tempermental, more than a little crazy and even more insecure, but I guess that's just my type.) But Burtt - who not only voiced Wall-E but also conceived all the robot sounds (Elissa Knight provides the voice of Eve) - manages to eke more emotion out of the two simple words "Ev-a" and "Wall-E" than comes from the entire script of most of the much-lesser fare that clutters our multiplexes. (And, luckily I was seated near the front with no-one next to me, so nobody was too disturbed when I couldn't help mimicking them out loud more than few times; no, I don't think I'll ever completely grow up.)

The enchanting story of Eve and Wall-E is more than enough to sustain the flick as it gets more conventional and less subtle aboard the Axiom where the Earthlings live out their days in extreme comfort. This is where the flick lost me for a few moments before Eve and Wall-E made their simply blissful pas-de-deux through space and brought the movie back to life.

I know I've talked an awful about only the first third or so of the movie, but as with the entire "Lord of the Rings" - which I still think was at its best in the opening sequence in the Shire - that was definitely the best part. But there's more than enough to love about "Wall-E" to keep it going through and beyond the magical moment when Wall-E emerges from the trash compactor ("Star Wars" again, but it still works tremendously well) and make it easily among Pixar's best flicks to date.

Not as good as "Ratatouille" in my mind, but that's just because I put that movie on a pedestal all by itself. The bottom line: Just go see "Wall-E" and get ready to fall hard for the little robot with a huge heart.


Chris said...

damn... it will be a long wait until September 25 when the movie will start showing here in Switzerland. I wonder why we always have to wait so long for Disney/Pixar movies, while other studios manage to bring their movies over the pond in much shorter time. Well, no use complaining, but I'm really looking forward to another hit from those Pixar boys and girls!

jeremy said...

Call me cold hearted--but I didn't care for the story. Not that I didn't like it, because when there's spectacle that big, you can't help but be in awe. I guess I just didn't like Wall-E and liked Eve even less.
So its par for course (with Ratatouille being the exception that proves the rule) for Pixar for me.
Good news is, Miyazaki's new one's Japanese trailer is up:

Also, Guy Maddin has delivered again with his "docu-fantasia" entitled "My Winnipeg." He proves once again why he is one of the most important filmmakers working today. Check it out--even if you have to wait for DVD.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm a little surprised that with Disney behind it "Wall-E" isn't opening just about everywhere in the world at once, Chris, but I can virtually guarantee it will be worth the wait

And I'd never go so far as to call you cold-hearted, Jeremy, but I am certainly surprised you didn't like this one .. and thanks a ton for the Miyazaki head's up .. I'm gonna watch it as soon as I get to work (where I have a faster connection), and will probably go ahead and post it here tomorrow

Ian said...

Well, I liked it (the animation was amazing) but I have to say I'm somewhat surprised by the positive deluge of enthusiastic reviews. I'd say it was "good, but not excellent".

The opening Pixar short about the magician and his rabbit WAS excellent, although it begged the question as to whether we are going to start getting all the DVD extra's when we go to a theatre now? Even the end-credits had a whole section devoted to "DVD Production" :-O) But I couldn't fault it any way: great characterisation, belly laughs, animation and not a second wasted.

Alas, I felt quite a lot of seconds were wasted in the main feature.

The first third of the film was definitely the best, if a little too slow for most of the (much too young) children at the preview screening I attended. I didn't feel the film (marketed as another "Nemo") is really aimed at kids and feel that most will get rather bored and confused by it.

For me the film really lost its way in the middle act. A very basic rule of writing is you don't build up your two main characters and then suddenly leave them for a great stretch of time. And I found the movie soon palled in terms of basic story after that, probably because I felt like I was being hit over the head with a sledgehammer marked "political message". Sometimes less is more and a subtler approach to the whole "obesity is bad" grandstanding would have improved the film. I also didn't understand why the spokesman for Buy n Large was a real human when all the others were CGI. It didn't make stylistic sense.

But, as you say, it's definitely worth seeing and an improvement on the disappointing (if technically stunning) "Cars". Also worth staying for the credits - loved the way the style of them went from early caveman drawings through the periods of the great artists to the present day.

Reel Fanatic said...

Even though I didn't feel the middle was the letdown that you did, Ian, I can definitely agree that it was the weakest link .. That definitely does seem to be the major stumbling block with Pixar flicks, but it certainly wasn't as glaring as problem here as it was with "Cars"

Cullen said...

My almost three-year-old boy sat on my lap through most of the movie. It was the first time we'd taken him to a "big movie" as he called it. He was held rapt by the entire spectacle -- eyes wide. Perhaps I was living vicariously a bit, but other than the bit of anti-consumerist message, I thought the movie was fantastic. A great simple story that held a young child's attention for an hour-and-a-half. I think that says something.

Mercurie said...

Good to hear it was good. I'll get to see it over the long weekend.

Reel Fanatic said...

Some of the kids sitting behind me clearly weren't as ready for this one, Cullen, but I was so spellbound that I was able to tune them out ... Glad to hear your youngun got to see such a magical movie for his first big-screen spectacle

A said...

Would like to see stories I really liked in recent times are Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

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