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Monday, August 20, 2012

Pixargust: WALL•E (2008)

After directing Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton felt Pixar had created believable simulations of underwater physics and was willing to direct a film largely set in space. He also thought it would be a neat idea if the film was mostly visual. As in having little to no dialogue at all and having the animation, music, and expressions on the characters tell the story. An even bigger challenge was to do this not with people, but robots. The end result was the wildly acclaimed film as well as film number nine from the acclaimed and innovate animation studio, WALL•E.  I'm not kidding. Usually the critics love Pixar movies, but this one? They were all over it! TIME magazine even ranked it #1 in their article Best Films of the Decade! I was expecting it to at least be nominated for Best Picture in the Academy Awards because of all the acclaim it received. Sadly, it didn't. But it got Best Animated Film. That's something, right? I mean jeez, Academy! If there's an animated film that deserves that kind of nomination, it's this! Hold on, I'm getting off topic here. So again I must ask, is this really one of the best animated films of all time? Let's get down to earth in today's film, WALL•E.

In the far off year of 2805, Earth is a very different place. It's a lot more brown and covered in garbage due years of mass consumerism from the mega-conglomerate Buy n' Large. BnL evacuated all of Earth's population due to the continuing piles of trash while a special model of robot called the Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth Class, or WALL•E (Ben Burt) for short, clean up all the garbage left behind so that Earth will be cleaner when they return. They eventually stop functioning and Earth is left for dead. One is still left, though, as he manages to break out of his original programming to form a personality of his own. He collects objects he sees as treasures rather than trash, befriends a cockroach, and his favorite film so far is Hello, Dolly! One day while he's out working, he finds a small plant growing and decides to keep it in a boot. Later, a ship lands on Earth and releases a small, white, sleeker robot named EVE (Elissa Knight) and WALL•E becomes infatuated with her. After days of trying to get her attention, WALL•E gets his chance to talk to her and they seem to hit it off well. WALL•E decides to show EVE his collection of trinkets, including the plant he found earlier. When he does show her the plant, her programming puts the plant in her compartment and she shuts off, worrying our little hero. WALL•E never leaves her side until the ship arrives. Thinking she's being kidnapped, he rushes to the ship to try and save her. After days of space travel, the ship lands in a bigger ship's deck called the Axiom, where the people there are a little too reliant of technology to take care of them, resulting in massive weight gain. The captain of the Axiom (Jeff Garlin) finds out about the plant on board and is needed to put in a compartment so that the people can return home. When they open EVE, the plant is missing. She is considered defective and ordered to be repaired while WALL•E follows. Turns out this is part of the Autopilot orders his robotic assistant GO-4 to steal the plant as part of its no return directive, secretly issued to autopilots after BnL incorrectly concluded in 2110 that the planet could not be saved and humanity should remain in space. GO-4 puts the plant in an escape pod headed back to Earth, but WALL•E rescues it. EVE thanks him with a spark kiss and they dance in space. The captain finds some soil left over from WALL•E's handshake and has it analyzed, revealing it's from Earth. He learns more and more about Earth and is eager to return home. He sees EVE's footage and realizes that they need to go back to restore the planet. Auto mutinies and tries to dispose of the plant. WALL•E saves the plant but is severely injured by Auto. EVE remembers that all of WALL•E's parts to fix him are back on Earth, so she needs to get the plant to the ship to save WALL•E. The captain defeats Auto, the Axiom heads for Earth, and EVE fixes WALL•E but he loses all his original memories. He is revived thanks to a spark "kiss" and WALL•E remembers everything again. He and EVE continue their love while the people restore Earth back to the way it was over the credits.

Let's start with what everybody remembers the most from the film: WALL•E himself and his arch with EVE. Why? Because it's interesting that both these characters can portray so much character and emotion solely through the animation and a few robotic sound effects. WALL•E also happens to share a little of his charm to the other robots in the film, as they too figure out there's more to existence than their original directives. The chemistry between the two is charming to watch. WALL•E is sort of timid and has a bulkier design and EVE is more serious and more streamlined. I guess it's true: opposites do attract. They have their bumps throughout the movie, but they overcome their original directives to find love and deeply care about each other. Again, done with little to no dialogue. It's one of the best movie romances ever made. I especially love it when WALL•E gathers the courage to talk with EVE and the dancing in space scene.

The social commentary provided in this movie is rather interesting. It's really more of a "what-if?" scenario if anything. Like I said earlier, Earth is covered with so much garbage that the humans have to leave. Meanwhile on the Axiom, they become overly-reliant on technology and BnL products that they suffer morbid obesity and bone loss from the gravity in space and not really having to lift a finger. It's not really attacking corporations per se, unlike 2012's The Lorax. They sort of portray the C.E.O. of BnL (played by the real-life Fred Willard by the way!) as sort of a naive man, not evil. He does realize the mistakes he made, takes responsibility for his actions, and tries his best to fix everything. There's also the matter of restoring Earth. Since they left Earth has become uninhabitable, but plants are starting to grow back. Nature just has odd ways of restoring itself. As a part of the movie, I never found it overly distracting. It may be a bit on the nose at times, but the movie remembers to keep it's focus on WALL•E and EVE.

The first 40 minutes of WALL•E is just so perfect. The animation is brilliant, it has an engaging story, the score by Thomas Newton is wonderful, and it's all told solely on the animation. It's entirely visual and takes advantage of the fact that it's a movie very, very well. However, it's when we land on the Axiom and hear the people speak is when it starts to lose a bit of it's novelty. It's not a bad script by any means. It's damn brilliant and the dialogue does sound natural. My problem is that if you're going to have your movie silent in the first half of the movie (which was really charming) and then there's people talking left and right, it sort of takes away from the magic. If you really want to be really innovative, go all out. It would be nice to have an animated film, or any film in general, be completely silent and have the story told strictly from the surroundings, music, and the gestures, expressions, and movements of the actors. Take full advantage of the visual medium. As is, it's not at all a bad movie, In fact, the extreme opposite. I just wish that it went all out in the silent direction. That's my only qualm.

WALL•E is definitely Pixar's most unique film. It's a sci-fi romance that never disappoints. Even though I wish it was completely silent like it's trying to be, it's still an entertaining, charming, and intelligent film. Like Nemo before it, WALL•E is another prime example of Stanton's talents as a director and screen-writer. It's definitely a cut above the rest. It's in my top 5 Pixar films for a very good reason. So back to the Academy Awards. I'm still scratching my head as to why this never got that Best Picture nomination it really does deserve. And if it didn't then, then when will Pixar ever get the honor of having the first animated film since Beauty and the Beast to be nominated for Best Picture? I got that answer the very next year. Join me next time to see which film it is.


Filmgurulad said...

Good job with the comprehensive review, yes WALL-E is my favorite sci-fi animated movie, but it's also one of the few that were successful that others like TITAN A.E and Treasure Planet have failed to become.

Devin Hassay said...

Wall-E is by far one of my favorite movies of all time, and definitely my favorite out of the Disney/Pixar library! It definitely deserved Best Picture! ^_^