Today, thanks to our employer, I was finally able to go see Wall-E at the local supermega-plex. This was one of my two ‘must see in theater’ movies (Indy 4 was the other). I’m not going to write a review about the movie. There are plenty of those out there on the interwebs. I will say, while not a perfect film, Wall-E is a great film, with enough humor for kids and adults alike, with subtle commentaries on consumerism and environmentalism that aren’t in your face, but are, rather, outgrowths of the stories. For more on the ‘messages’ in the story, see Christianity Today’s interview with Andrew Stanton.
But first, as we all know, all Pixar movies begin with an animated short. Wall-E is no exception. Pixar’s newest short is called Presto.
Presto is a magician with, it seems, a secret. Namely that he not one, but two, magic hats. They are magically linked, allowing Presto to reach into one hat and grab whatever is near the second. Here, take a look at this preview:
Anyone familiar with the game Portal will immediately see the myriad of possibilities these hats provide. The short is basically Alec (the rabbit) screwing with Presto in ever escalating increments in an attempt to get the carrot. Now, with only a few minutes to work with, Pixar did a nice job showing how the hats could be used, and ends on a suitably big trick. I wonder if anyone at Pixar had played Portal and got the idea for Presto. If so, well done indeed.
But you all are here for Wall-E himself. I have to agree that this film deserves the accolades it has, and will, receive. It’s a tremendous story full of humor and warmth, and carried on the back of two robots. It used to be a cliche, and a sign of bad writing, to include cute robots in a TV or movie. Wall-E is a cute robot, but he carries the show, not buries it. Pixar did a great job imbuing him with enough emotion and humanity to get you to care, deeply, about him and his pursuit of the love of his life, Eve. Andrew Stanton, the screenwriter, did a bang up job, making eyes moist at the end.
John Scalzi has a called Wall-E a science fiction comedy. While I agree it has comedic moments, the emphasis isn’t on those, but more on Wall-E and his attempt to find love. That’s right, Wall-E is an animated, science fiction romantic comedy. An animated, science fiction romantic comedy about cute robots. And it succeeds beautifully. It’s not just a great science fiction film (SF fans will lose themselves in the DVDs trying to find all the homages), it’s a great film period. So much so that New York Magazine is trying to get Wall-E nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture category. Having seen only three movies this year, I can’t say whether that should be the case, but if it does happen, that will show animated films can be just as good, or better, than their live action siblings. Imagine for a second how cool it would be if a science fiction movie won the Best Picture Oscar. I’m all for that.
The coolness doesn’t end with the credits, oh no. Pixar did a very cool thing with the end credits. As they start to roll, humanity has just returned from space and is in the process of repopulating and rebuilding Earth. Pixar has the credits start out as cave paintings, then they progress, as the real world did, through all the various major art styles, and the visual credits end with an 8-bit computer graphics look. Very subtle, but Pixar tells the story of what happens to Earth after humanity’s return, during the credits. Very cool. And all the while, this incredible song by Peter Gabriel is playing:
I liked this song so much, I had to see if it was available. Luckily, Amazon’s MP3 store has it, and for only 89 cents to boot. I bought and if you want to, you can buy Down to Earth too.
The last question: Is Wall-E the best Pixar film? That’s a tough question. My first reaction is to place the top three on equal footing: The Incredibles, Toy Story 2 and Wall-E. The more I’ve thought about it, though, I realize that Wall-E has stuck with me all day. The others didn’t necessarily do that. Add in a great story, memorable characters, an awesome visual design and lots of humor and SF goodness, and I’d have to place Wall-E just about The Incredibles. If there’s any justice in the world, Wall-E should win a boatload of awards, many of them major ones. Come on Academy, show some stones and do what’s right.
And all this with the main character being a cute hunk of junk. Outstanding.
Go see it.