Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guiltless Review: WALL-E

A is for Axiom, your home sweet home. B is for Buy N Large, your very best friend.

Somehow I've managed to neglect writing about Pixar movies until now. Not that Pixar needs any introduction from me at this point. The studio has consistently pumped out instant classic after instant classic since Toy Story hit theaters 13 years ago. Thus, it was absolutely no surprise to me that I thoroughly enjoyed Pixar's WALL-E. It exemplifies all the high standards of storytelling, humor, and heart that the studio has made a habit of.

What did surprise me was just how hard WALL-E plays with its audience. While remaining a completely satisfying family comedy, this film paints about as damning a picture of humanity's future as I've seen in a mainstream science fiction movie. In all seriousness, earth's future landscape in WALL-E makes the celebrated wasteland of Blade Runner seem like a Hallmark card in comparison.

There is just so much to say about WALL-E that I'm not sure where to start. This is one situation where having the guiltless format makes it much easier to organize the downright sloppy level of affection I have for this movie.

One more thing, there are clearly labelled spoilers near the end of this review. Please, please, please, do not read these sections if you have not seen WALL-E, you really owe it to yourself to see the movie first.

WALL-E is a little waste disposal robot on a mission to clean up the planetary junkyard that earth has become in the future. His lonely quest brings him into contact with human artifacts from a bigone era, and with them a quirky appreciation of his creators.

Meanwhile, the whole of humanity awaits the restoration of their planet within the fully automated comfort of massive starliners, including the Axiom.

WALL-E dutifully carries out his mission for hundreds of years, even after he's apparently been abandoned and forgotten. One fateful day he is visited by EVE, a much sleeker and more advanced robot with an unknown mission.

I don't really want to say more about the plot, its much more fun to watch it for yourselves. Suffice it to say the movie considers the nature of humanity, technology, and love among other light topics.

Awe: 10
May as well start here; the endless virtual mountains of trash were an indelible image of wastefulness and decay. Considering that cgi has a tendency to take me out of an onscreen moment and kill my suspension of disbelief, it is impressive that computer generated images like these were as powerful as they were. I think the secret is in the amount of detail Pixar animators put into these trash heaps. There didn't seem to be any shortcuts taken with the vast density of everyday objects that comprised them. These are images I'm sure I will be pausing on many times on the DVD just to fully appreciate.

Immersion: 9
The juxtaposition of the tiny protagonist amid the endless wasteland creates a vivid sense of loneliness. This film has almost no dialogue, and not a whole lot of action for the first 30 or so minutes, but it still had absolutely no problem drawing me into its world. One thing that struck me was how casual the movie was in showing us its environment. There are no people left on earth to be shocked and disgusted by the condition of the planet. The very casual attitude our robot protagonist has to his surroundings gave me chills, it completely sold this world to me.

Laughs: 7
WALL-E is not a laugh-out-loud comedy but the laughs that are there are big ones. They come from the personality quirks of the robots, and the scathing satirical look at what the human race has come to in the far flung future. The film Wall-E evoked most for me was Mike Judge's Idiocracy, which also had a comically bleak view of where humanity is headed.

Resonance: 11

After seeing WALL-E, I could not shake the experience for days. Can't say much more about how this movie affected me without some spoilers, so here comes a warning.


I am far from a luddite. I embrace the comforts and convenience that advancing technology brings us. However, even I was deeply moved by just how believable our descent into becoming comically ignorant, incompetent, lazy blobs was depicted here. In this universe, human civilization is not wiped out by machines, nor even by our intolerance of each other. Instead we just kind of devolve into ruin, simply because it's the path of least resistance. As a student of human behavior I find that possibility disturbingly easy to imagine.

Time for lunch . . . in a cup!

Like all the best satire, WALL-E takes our human frailties and exploits them for all they are worth. Those who take this movie as merely a cautionary tale about caring for the environment are missing the bigger picture. More essentially, WALL-E is a jolt of imagination and hopefulness to remind us of what we are capable of as a species, for better or for worse. Not directly a condemnation of technology, but a stark warning of what we may become if we allow ourselves to be too dependent on it.


Twists: 6
Did I mention this is supposed to be a family film? Its a family film in the best tradition of intelligent entertainment, enjoyable on many different levels. The ending is hopeful, oddly so in some ways, but it does not diminish the film's impact for me in any case.


Final Word:
In case I haven't gushed enough yet, I think WALL-E is an absolutely brilliant film. As some of you may know my wife and I have started a family in the past month, and we don't really spend a whole of money on DVDs any more. WALL-E, however, is one movie I cannot wait to buy and digest more fully. I very much hope to enjoy it with my son one day.


Lauren said...

Cupcakes in a cup for baby's first birthday? :)

Chris said...

done and done

Roe said...

This may be your best review yet! You captured everything the film evoked in me; thank you for giving it the words that I couldn't.

How's little Charlie? I am working on a full line of knitted Chuck Taylors to keep his tootsies warm this winter. :)

Chris said...

Woot All-Star knitted booties!

Charlie's doing great! Thanks for asking. He's going through a phase where he cannot go to sleep unless Lauren mock feeds him. That is he suckles for a bit, but doesn't drink and then he passes out.

Oh, and thanks for the kind words about the review, I have a feeling I'm going to be seeing a lot more movies on DVD feeding Charlie at night in the near future.

Stacey said...

so that means more reviews...right? :)