June 26, 2008


REVIEW: of WALL*E ( Josh Hurst, 06/26/08, Christianity Today)

When Toy Story opened in 1995, it was heavily marketed as the first-ever full-length computer-animated film--essentially, as a novelty. Anyone who saw the film, of course, knew that it was anything but a flash-in-the-pan or a gimmick, as Pixar's technical innovation was overshadowed only by the movie's exemplary storytelling. And ever since then, with each new film they've produced, Pixar has delivered on the promise of that first movie time and time again, both in terms of technology and storytelling excellence--strangely, though, as the technology has gotten better and better, it is talked about less and less. Perhaps it's because Pixar's success spawned such a wide slew of sub-par imitators; perhaps it's because their standards of animation are so consistently high, it's simply pointless to even try coming up with new superlatives.

It's more than a little ironic, then, that the studio's greatest achievement to date is a movie that is, on one level, about technology--and that the picture it paints is not a pretty one. WALL*E, from director Andrew Stanton of Finding Nemo, is arguably the purest work of hard science fiction to appear on the big screen in ten or fifteen years, and the world that it creates is bleaker and more dystopian than in any American animated film you care to name.

In WALL*E's world, Earth is no longer inhabited by humans; they fled the planet over 700 years ago, having rendered their home world unlivable. Now, mankind floats through space in a giant space station/spa/shopping mall called the Axiom--a race of fat, stupid, lazy and lethargic slobs, too bloated to even stand on their own two feet as they cruise around in hovering lounge chairs. Their planet is in ruins--literally--but they don't care; they're too busy shopping … from the mega-retailer Buy N Large, which seems to have a monopoly on everything. George Orwell would have had nightmares had he seen such a vivid rendering of unchecked consumerism.

But that's just the backdrop.

WALL-E: Robots in Love: Pixar's newest blasts off to the future by boldly going where every sci-fi movie’s gone before. And that’s a good thing. (Robert Wilonsky, June 24th, 2008, Village Voice)
Many will attempt to describe WALL-E with a one-liner. It’s R2-D2 in love. 2001: A Space Odyssey starring The Little Tramp. An Inconvenient Truth meets Idiocracy on its way to Toy Story. But none of these do justice to a film that’s both breathtakingly majestic and heartbreakingly intimate—and, for a good long while, absolutely bereft of dialogue save the squeals, beeps, and chirps of a sweet, lonely robot who, aside from his cockroach pet, is the closest thing to the last living being on earth.

Cobbled from so many familiar spare parts—from Star Wars to Buster Keaton to Tron to the Marx Brothers—WALL-E feels, here and there, formulaic: Lonely boy and sexy girl meet cute, fall in love, save the planet. It’s a lifetime of celluloid memories cut and pasted into a spiffy computer program that buffs off the rough edges and leaves us with the shiny, sumptuous brand-new. Writer-director Andrew Stanton, among the founding fathers of the Pixar Empire, even admits as much. In the press materials, he name-checks all of the above, plus Alien and Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Such reverence for movie history in general and sci-fi in particular is vital to the story, because it’s what ultimately gives WALL-E its wow factor and its weight—this reinvigoration of the past on the way to the future of filmmaking.

Silent Running, without Bruce Dern.
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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 26, 2008 11:10 AM

If in the future the planet has been trashed, that must mean the Communists took over, right? Because they're the only ones despoiling the environment these days--no one with the ability to think & chew gum at the same time can possibly be honestly unaware that our environment is far, far cleaner than it was 5, 10, 20, 30, etc. years ago. Yet the future world is apparently portrayed as a "capitalism run amok" nightmare. Why exactly should I sit through 90 minutes of "pretty" CGI for such nonsense?

Posted by: b at June 26, 2008 12:46 PM

"Buy N Large"

What a great line. It might be worth the price of the show just to see if there are any more like that.

Posted by: erp at June 26, 2008 1:41 PM

All Pixar films have been very good or great, so I don't expect the PC aspects of this one to get too much in the way.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 26, 2008 2:50 PM

a race of fat, stupid, lazy and lethargic slobs, too bloated to even stand on their own two feet as they cruise around in hovering lounge chairs. Their planet is in ruins--literally--but they don't care; they're too busy shopping … from the mega-retailer Buy N Large, which seems to have a monopoly on everything.


Not everything is capitalist/Communist or left/right.

While the planet may not be in "ruins," the "winner take all" aspect of business (top 3 of everything with 95% market share) combined with the increasing "flabbiness" of thinking (not to mention American's whale-like physiques), indicates that this movie may have a few things right.

We learn more from our critics than our best friends, so a little reflection won't hurt.

Posted by: Bruno at June 26, 2008 7:43 PM

Bruno: I have no problem with dystopian scifi, and certainly not with any anti-monopolistic message. The human-hating theme that we're all zombies who do whatever corporations tell us is so tiresome that it can be ignored. What got me up was reading reviews of the movie that suggested that this planet-in-ruins image was a preview of where we're headed in perhaps even a century or so. And that's just so insane that it shouldn't be allowed to go unchallenged. I'm perfectly willing to concede that the movie itself makes absolutely no such claim, and that the culprit is loony movie reviewers. At any rate, I go to so few movies that no one is counting on my dollar for this one, and the studio can count on raking in the massive box office from people content to sit in a dark air conditioned room and silently listen while Disney tells them that they're morons who've been brainwashed by big corporations.

Posted by: b at June 27, 2008 11:39 AM
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