WALL·E (2008)

Sorry folks, this post was supposed to go up yesterday but either I closed the browser before the page was finished posting or Tumblr gave me the thumbs down. Either way here is the belated entry and it sounds like a good pairing with Dave’s post for today.

This Friday sees the release of Walt Disney Pictures adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s 11 volume Barsoom series, John Carter. The works and its hero are one of the earliest staples in science fiction literature and has probably influenced every sci-fi film you can imagine, from Star Wars to Blade Runner to Avatar. A film adaptation has been in the works since the earliest days of the industry. Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett tried it in 1931. Ray Harryhausen in the 50s. Tom Cruise and John McTiernan in the 90s. And Robert Rodriguez just ten years ago. Now the tale will finally be revealed on the largest scale by the hands of Pixar orginator and the director of one of the finest films ever made. I have hopes for the adaptation solely because of the work that is WALL·E.

To me there is not a finer, more sophisticated studio out there today than Pixar. To me, Pixar represents the finest examples of what the magic of the movies is all about. Each offering is original, thought-provoking, witty, playful and perfectly executes groundbreaking, state of the art special effects. They dare to play with audience emotions like no other major Hollywood studio allows. They may be the only studio to craft its products with admiration and care for its audience since the golden days of the Hollywood studio system. The experience of a Pixar film in theatres evokes the grand event that going to the movies was in the 40s and 50s, complete with a Pixar coming attraction and short film. The highlight so far in Pixar’s pitch-perfect career has to be the genius 2008 Academy Award winner WALL·E. And before we start with the Cars hate let me remind you that kids freakin love the Cars movies and everyone needs to lighten up cause Pixar can afford to make one for the kids.

Confession time. I can’t watch WALL·E without bawling my eyes out every 20 minutes. It is for this reason that I can only a.) watch WALL·E once in a blue moon and b.) never in the company of other men. There’s just such a beauty to every frame, every encounter, every second of one robot’s journey through space and the future in pursuit of mankind’s oldest treasure…love.

The film opens with the song “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello Dolly. The camera zooms us into a desolate post-apocalyptic world where we see our hero Wall-E hard at work compiling and compacting the planet’s trash. Thomas Newman’s musical score haunts us as we begin to learn more about the planet’s conditions. Mountains of trash tower over; taller than skyscrapers. The land is covered with the rusted remains of other WALL·E robots. Everything bears the corporate logo of Buy N’ Large. This is our world. Hundreds of years later. And its only occupant is an innocent robot still obeying his programmed command.

The film is a heart wrenching love story as WALL·E has his first encounter in hundred of years with a state-of-the-art drone named EVE whose directive is to find and secure evidence of Earth’s ability to still sustain life. WALL·E’s infatuation with the elegant (and dangerous) EVE takes him on a trip through space and ends up landing the two of them aboard a giant ship that holds what appears to be the remainder of mankind. Here we see a society of obese civilians in arm chairs that they never get out of, that moves them place to place, and even changes their clothes. Everything they need is displayed on a screen in front of them and everything they could want is just a click away.

Everything about the film is an awesome slap in the face to Hollywood blockbusters, corporate syndicates and its junk-eating consumer audience. The film features little dialogue. Emotions are portrayed through robot blips and sounds and the movement of the characters. For once a film depends on visuals and sound over spoken dialogue to carry a story. Its crafted in the ways of Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd. The story itself is every bit as satirical and a hell of a companion piece to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. From its depiction of George W. Bush (Fred Willard in a live-action cameo as the CEO of B N’ L) to its depiction of technology’s control over humans (an evil 2001-style Navigation system). What’s more is that Pixar is pretty much pissing in the face of the cosmopolitan soccer-moms eating popcorn, the screaming spoiled-children, the guy that threw his cigarette butt on the ground, ticket buyer in the audience. And yet most audiences are laughing along thinking they’re in on the joke and not a part of it.

A nearly silent, enviormental love story? Thank you Pixar.

-John

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