A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


July 19, 2010


I had a frustrating day at work today an needed something simple and uplifting tonight. And although I don’t want to run through all our Pixar movies too quickly what I was most in the mood for was this great little gem of storytelling. It’s a touching, pretty and yes, relevant movie. You may recall from my review of The Navigator my fondness for serious hard sci-fi for children. This movie definitely pushes those buttons for me.

In many ways this is the bravest and most experimental movie that Pixar has made to date. Mostly because it has almost no dialog whatsoever for the first forty minutes of the film. Just a pre-recorded announcement by Buy N’ Large president Fred Willard to explain why there are no humans left on Earth. The Earth we encounter at the start of this movie is a burnt out husk. It’s all violent dust storms and mountains of rusted garbage. The only signs of any sort of life are a little lone robot and his cockroach companion. The comical little cuboid robot WALL-E (a mobile garbage compactor) has apparently been labouring for seven hundred years to clean the planet. In that time he’s picked up a few… eccentricities.

The movie follows him as he performs his daily duties – packing the garbage left behind by the human race into little cubes and stacking it endlessly into almighty towers of junk. At the same time he picks through the piles for curios that capture his fancy. A lighter. A spork. A Rubik’s cube. These he brings back to his home and sorts and treasures.

Then one day an advanced and shiny ship comes down from the sky and leaves behind a mysterious ovoid robot called EVE. The movie starts at this point to become a strange kind of romance as the lonely and isolated WALL-E woos EVE by showing her his treasures and his private little world. And just when she seems to be succumbing to his bumbling charm he shows her a plant he found one day and she explodes with excitement, grabs the plant and shuts down.

I don’t really want to occupy my entire review with a scene by scene summary of the movie. It seems silly for me to go on with explaining the plot. I would hope that anybody who hasn’t seen this movie already and trusts my sensibilities will take my word for it that this is my favorite Pixar film, and possibly among my top ten favorite films of all time, and they should really go see it for themselves. Let’s just say that from there the movie leaves Earth and takes us deep into space to find some of the Human survivors in their life away from home – which is a never ending luxury cruise. There’s action, humor and pathos – and even when we do find humans that talk English they are secondary characters and the heart of the film remains the comical, bumbling, soulful little WALL-E.

There are also a lot of subversive sci-fi themes throughout the film as well. Not just the whole “Humanity had to abandon the Earth because they had polluted it so badly.” There’s also a message about the dangers of consumerism. All the Humans in the film are sedentary portly beings who cannot move from their mobile hover chairs, waited on hand and foot by the only corporation left in the galaxy – Buy N’ Large. (A not too subtle poke at Wal-Mart.) It really appeals to me to have these serious issues addressed in a family movie like this. I love when children are encouraged to think about things.

I could probably yammer on for a while about the amazing animation in this movie too. Pixar by this point have mastered the ability to work with huge, complex and intricate sets. The garbage strewn Earth would have taken the computers of even a decade ago far too long to render to be practical. It absolutely dwarfs the already impressive scale of the door-room scene at the end of Monsters, Inc or the daunting baggage sorting climax of Toy Story 2. And that’s just in the first few opening shots. There are also some impressive crowd scenes at the end of the movie that are mighty showcases for what can now be accomplished.

But the technology doesn’t make the movie. And the clever sci-fi speculation doesn’t make the movie. What makes the movie, more than anything else, is the simply brilliant performance of WALL-E himself. The animators apparently studied the masters of silent film for hints on how to convey emotion, so there’s a little Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in WALL-E. He’s got such a pure, simple heart. The way he befriends just about every person and robot he encounters throughout the whole movie is so touching. (Maybe a little Jim Henson there too.)

Kudos as well to Ben Burtt – sound designer extraordinaire and the “voice” of WALL-E. It’s worth your time if you have the multi-disk set of this movie to check out Ben’s special feature documentaries on foley work and giving a voice to the whole world. Every beep, click and hum in the whole movie comes from Ben’s staggering library of strange noises, and every one is carefully placed to help give depth and character to the film. And somehow he managed to do sound for an entire movie without using his patented “Wilhelm.”

This movie touches me so deeply. It makes me laugh out loud. It makes me choke back silent tears. It even gives me a little hope for the future of humankind. How many movies out there deliver quite so much? Precious few.


July 19, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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