Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Review: WALL·E

We went Friday night to Lincoln Square Cinemas. I hardly knew the group we were with. That's fine, I was there to see the movie, and would likely have gone by myself had it come to that. I've been looking forward to to WALL·E for over a year now. It's a combination of so many things I love; sci-fi, space travel, Pixar animation, and did I mention ROBOTS!? This is all pretty childish, I know, but maybe I maintain some childish sensibilities.

The reviews were positive, with interspersed nay-saying. So given my history with Pixar (I've loved everything they've put out) and the general box-office success they've had, I had high expectations. They were pleasantly met.

WALL·E follows a diminutive unlikely hero (with a familiar form factor). Our little robot is the last remaining worker left to clean up the planet after it became so cluttered and polluted that nothing could live here. Man, heavy, right? Pixar manages to present the grim setting with a light touch. We watch our little guy scurry about his business, the only thing to move in the midst of towering cities of garbage.

His centuries long solitude (not complete solitude, he does have the companionship of a resilient cockroach) is interrupted when one day amidst his routine of collecting, compacting, and dealing with the detritus, a ship lands and leaves an explorer, EVE.

WALL·E, quite smitten, tries to impress the newcomer with little success.

Suffice it to say that the rest of the story takes them through space, to the new home of mankind, to countless other robots, and back home again.

There was some speculation that WALL·E might not pull the audience through, with virtually no dialogue for huge portions of the film. Will the hero-bot keep our attention? Or the attention of children, for that matter? I'm glad to say unequivocally that yes, he can and does. As great as Andrew Stanton's script is, it's not the dialogue that carries this film along. It doesn't need to, though I found myself laughing at some lines well after I left the theater. The stunning animation does the job, and I don't mean the scenery, though the backdrop is amazing. I mean the performance of WALL·E and the other robots.

Alvy Ray Smith, Pixar co-founder, visited the Microsoft campus a few weeks ago, and mentioned that the job of the animator isn't all that different from that of an actor. They're both called upon to convince you that one thing is really another thing entirely. The actor convinces you that his person is the person of somebody else, while the animator convinces you that this 2-d computer rendering is, in fact, a living thing. The animators here manage flawlessly, and the bips and whirs and movement of WALL·E are more endearing than R2-D2 could ever hope to be.

Peppered throughout are references to pieces of consumer culture. Aside from Buy 'n' Large as a clear parody of Wal-Mart, we notice the remnants of Microsoft, Apple, and Hostess amidst the rubble (among others). The general issue of global pollution is apparent, but there are even jabs at the Bush administration.

The only detraction I have isn't the minimal dialogue, but the repetition. The robots have a limited vocabulary, and rely heavily on the few words they do use. It gets to be a bit much by the end. But from such a huge undertaking as this film, considering how many things can go wrong, that's a pretty minor detail.

I've heard opinions all over the board, but the vast majority of the bell-curve is in the "very positive" spectrum. People love WALL·E, and I'm betting you and your kids will to.


D Smith said...

A robot in love with another robot instead of having chip inserted into it so it can love a human; A much better plot line than the tired routine.

Also, he bears a striking resemblance to E.T.

Kellie said...

Aw man, and it hasn't been released in London yet.

Optimistic. said...

I've been excited for this movie since the preview during Ratatouille, and I'm pleased that I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. It's tough to live up to a full year's worth of hype.

Nancy said...

what you mean you chose Wall E over Kit Kittridge an American Gilr? Now that's the one I want to take the family to see this weekend, but I've yet to convince my husband. Glad you liked it though I have to say I don't harbor the same feelings for robots or sci fi as you. Now maybe an animated Anne of Green Gables...