June 29, 2008

Movie Review: Wall*E

What is it about Pixar that they are able to take a project and knock it out of the park every single time? Sure, not all of their films are works of brilliance, but they all bring something to the table that will keep you coming back for more. Whether it is the quality animation, the characters, the stories, or some combination of it all, there is a reason to revisit these films. They transcend mere animated films and become something wholly different. So, it is with great anticipation that I approach each new film from this first rate firm, and very rarely am I disappointed (and when I am it is still not enough to make it a bad film).

It is the rare film that can elicit such childlike glee as this one did. I remember when I saw the first Wall*E trailer my jaw dropped. The first thing that hit me was the animation, it was absolutely gorgeous, the amount of detail that went into every corner of the frame was mind boggling. Beyond the animation, the title character, striking a cross between ET and Johnny Five while still feeling new and fresh, just captured my imagination, the innocence and curiosity that he possessed made me want to see more of him and his world. I am happy to report that the film does not disappoint.

In a future where humanity has consumed so much and wasted so much more, the planet has become so filled with refuse that all of humanity has hopped on luxury space liners and fled for the stars, leaving behind a fleet of Wall*E (Weight Allocation Lift Loader-Earth Class) robots to clean up in their absence. However, the project turned out to be considerably more than had been anticipated.

Our story picks up hundreds of years into the future, Wall*E is working alone. Day after day he goes through the motions of compacting trash and arranging it into skyscraper-like piles. It is a thankless, dirty job, but one he is particularly good at. Fortunately, in the future these advanced robotic creations come complete with personalities, and Wall*E is curious. He collects things that interest him from the trash, he watches a well worn VHS tape of Hello Dolly, and he has befriended a cockroach (it's true, those things will outlast everyone).

One day, a ship arrives from space, dropping off another bot, this one called EVE. The frightened, yet curious Wall*E sees her flying around and develops robotic romantic feelings for the shiny new robot. What follows is a tale of one robot's pursuit of a curious thing called love, his timely interactions with other robots and humans, all which lead to an alteration in the direction of human history.

The story is a simple one, yet it is one that works on many levels. There is the story of a curious robot, there is the desired romance, there is social commentary on our consumer culture, and the story of waking up and seeing what is going on around you. I must say that this film came out firing on all cylinders and there is so much going on that it comes with built in replay value. Whether you choose to watch on the surface, going along with Wall*E for the adventure of a lifetime, or if you want to dig into what it is saying about society, it is all there for the taking.

Wall*E is brave film making. There is very little dialog, especially in the first half, meaning that much of the story is told through physical movements, reactions, facial expressions, it is very reminiscent of the silent film era. This is definitely not your standard kiddie cartoon flick. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely a film for children or those with an inner child, but it has something for everyone and it does not pander to anyone.

This film is an extraordinary achievement. After last year's masterpiece Ratatouille I did not think they would be able to top what they did there, and I think they just may have done it. Of course, time and a few more views will ultimately determine its place within the pantheon of Pixar films, but I have a feeling that this one will rank quite highly.

After saying all of this, I have to come clean. From frame one I was captivated. I was ensnared in the profound combination of childlike curiosity and wonder with an underlying sadness. The title character is more than just a cleaning robot, but a being that longs for companionship, a thirst for knowledge, a curiosity that knows no limits. Wall*E is a character unspoiled by anything, he has hopes and dreams and it is impossible not to get caught up in them. This movie is near perfection.

The man behind this slice of brilliance? Andrew Stanton, writing and directing for the first time since 2003's Finding Nemo, and blowing that success clear out of the water. His work here steps beyond that heartwarming adventure and takes emotion to the next level. He has created a character with whom to become invested in. He brings characters with clearly defined arcs, where you cannot quite predict where they are going to end up, or what will happen in the next few minutes. What else is left?

Bottomline. Pixar strikes again. This film is destined to be remembered for a long time to come. If you have not yet seen this, make sure you do so and drag along as many family members and friends as you can. Wall*E is not to be missed.

Highly Recommended.


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