Musings of a fandom geek

Sometimes, you’ve just got to say “The laws of time and space? Who gives a smeg?”

Review – “Computer, define ‘dancing’.”

Posted by Michael Warren on August 9, 2008

The most eagerly-awaited (by me) movie of the summer has arrived.

No. It’s not The Dark Knight.

It’s WALL-E. Yes, I know you ‘Muricans got to see it weeks ago, but over here in the backwoods of the United Kingdom of… yadda-yadda-yadda…, it wasn’t released until mid-July. And yours truly was at one of the first showings. So, I review it. As is my right.

Spoilers within.

Having survived the gamut of teen-popcorn flick trailers (although Space Chimps looks worthy of a more detailed investigation), we begin with the now-familiar short – Presto, featuring a traditional magician, and his not-so-traditional rabbit-in-a-hat. Hilarious and heartwarming, it’s the perfect lead-in to our main story.

Now, I came fairly late to the Pixar party – Finding Nemo was the first one I saw, and then only on DVD, after much praising of it from friends. The Incredibles was next, and those are the only two I’ve seen so far (I wasn’t interested in Cars).

But this film is a level even beyond those – it’s a staggering achievement of animation and story. A film where most of the characters have no real dialogue – at least 45 minutes must take place before a human voice (outside of Hello, Dolly!) appears. Where live action and animation are blended together seamlessly. A film which is funny, heartbreaking and thought-provoking all at once. But, of course, I hear you cry – this is a Pixar film. And yes, you’re right. But this is not just a Pixar film. This is the best Pixar film ever made.

The animation is well-designed and smooth. Whilst there are one or two more indulgent sequences (EVE’s flyby upon arriving on Earth, and the ‘dancing’ sequence), the care shown in every frame is abundantly clear. The blasted remains of the forlorn Earth are strewn with towers of compacted rubbish, all clearly built by WALL-E, and designed in such a functional way.

WALL-E’s home is filled with interesting items – most importantly, a worn-down VHS player is hooked to an iPod (one of many Apple references throughout the story – WALL-E’s ‘recharge complete’ notification is the old Mac start-up sound) showing Hello, Dolly! This introduces WALL-E to the concepts of love and companionship – ideas which come in handy when an advanced robot, EVE, shows up on Earth. The titular character has such a heartwarming personality, you will fall in love with him within the first few minutes of his appearance. Intrigued by the everyday objects he encounters during his trash compacting days, WALL-E has developed a large collection of knick-knacks. One hilarious moment involves the placing of a spork within his collection – does it go with spoons, or forks? He gently places it in between. And yet, there is a sadness about WALL-E, this solitary figure performing a monotonous task, surrounded by the remains of his brothers and sisters, cannabalising their parts to keep himself going and complete his life’s purpose.

The (fairly unconventional) love story between WALL-E and EVE is wonderful, conveying emotion through gesture, thoughts without words. You could never imaging telling such a story in such a way, with barely a few words being exchanged between the two characters, and yet the animation makes it believable and adorable.

As is typical of a Pixar film, the story works on levels that suit both child and adult. The pro-environment commentary, combined with a warning concerning our current sedentary lifestyle (he says, sitting at his desk), is ingrained in almost every frame – such as the magnificent fly-by of an Apollo landing site, now complete with Buy ‘n’ Large billboard – yet is subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the story and the characters.

Once WALL-E reaches the Axiom, we begin to see how a single individual can change an entire civilisation. The interactions this little robot has with the denizens of the colony-cum-cruise ship open their eyes to the world around them, and the false reality they have been enslaved to. And the ultimate rebellion against the robot controllers of the ship shows that despite the complacency that appears to have set in, humanity can still rise up and prove itself – it’s a very positive message to close out with.

Showing how much this character had endeared itself to me, the ending of the movie, which makes us believe that everything that made WALL-E the being he was has been erased, is devastating. Of course, this being a family film, things turn out for the good, and we’re then treated to a magnificently animated credit sequence which shows the rebirth of the planet, with humans and robots working together. Sadly, there is no post-credits sequence this time around (as I discovered, being the only person in the cinema to stick around to see) – although we do get the Buy ‘n’ Large jingle at the close.

It’s a wonderful piece of cinema, certainly worthy of the praise it has received. It’s definitely my favourite film of the year so far – OK, it’s the only film I’ve seen this year, but I doubt there is much that could top WALL-E.

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2 Responses to “Review – “Computer, define ‘dancing’.””

  1. But this is not just a Pixar film. This is the best Pixar film ever made.

    To be fair, though, if you’ve only seen two of their films, that’s a pretty bold claim to make 😉

    As it is, I think WALL-E comes close to edging out The Incredibles and Toy Story 2, although I’d need to see it a few more times to really judge. Point is, though… you really need to get hold of Ratatouille and the Toy Stories 😉

  2. Level_Head said

    “it’s a staggering achievement of animation and story.”

    I completely agree. And I shared your devastation at the sacrifice, and failed attempt at recovery, of Wall·E.

    I happened across your writings here from your “Computer, define dancing” title; that piece of music has been strangely captivating for me. But I’m just the sort of romantic techno-geek that this was aimed at, I think. (And created by, for that matter.)

    Curiously, while nearly everyone writes about the opening as dystopia (you didn’t!) — I don’t think that it was for Wall·E himself. From his perspective, it seems to have been satisfying work; his little nods to himself at times, and his judging whether to call it a day by looking at the Sun’s position in the sky, would give a human a certain feeling of control over their lives.

    He wasn’t helpless. But lonely indeed.

    I came late to the movie, much as you did. The piece in the website link above is to a recent writeup I did on “Wall·E”. It’s about a somewhat daring aspect of what you described as the “fairly unconventional” love story. It’s “Romance Across the Intellect Divide“; perhaps it will strike a chord with you.

    Best wishes.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

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