I saw Pixar’s latest, WALL-E yesterday, and am of two minds about it. I really enjoyed it, it’s a great movie. But it’s not as great as all the gushing reviews are making it out.
The first half-hour of the movie is outstanding: it’s a moody evocative story drawn with an apocalyptic palette, with a cute protagonist in the middle of it all. Without words, WALL-E draws us in and makes us feel for him. This is the part of the movie people are talking about when they say it is a great sci-fi film.
The second half of the movie takes place in space, but ironically is where the movie falls under the cartoon gravity of a kid’s movie again. The plot takes over, and simplistic characters and turns are the norm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great kid’s movie, one of Pixar’s best. WALL-E himself is a great character, a believable robot with big expressive eyes that perfectly convey his emotion to us.
But let’s get something straight: the people who are talking about a Best Picture Oscar are crazy. Forget the insider movie calculus that says it won’t happen: it’s just not that good a movie. It isn’t that it’s animated: WALL-E’s earth-bound segment proves that CGI animation can carry a rich story just fine. It’s that it’s a cartoon: by the time the movie is over, the plot has been neatly wrapped up, a few strange holes in logic have been glossed over, our heartstrings have been expertly tugged, and we can go home happy.
A Best Picture can end happily of course, but stepping back to take in WALL-E’s full structure, you can see that it’s a kid’s movie. That means trading subtlety for some physical humor, all of which is fine, but it means you have to give up your seat at the grown-up’s table. WALL-E is rated G, a sign that the material is mild enough for small children, without the depth of story that a Best Picture needs to have. Oliver! was the only G-rated Best Picture, and that was in the early days of the rating system. It’s hard to imagine it would be rated G today.
I’m not even sure that WALL-E is my favorite Pixar movie. Finding Nemo and The Incredibles I thought did a better job consistently hitting their mark, and finding richness in the stories they told. The ultimate mark of a great story is the development of characters over the course of the movie, and for that, it’s hard to beat Pixar’s first, Toy Story.
Once they got onto the Axiom, my brain turned off a little. It was like--"Oh, okay--here come the "zany" gags and robot chases and silly jokes "Cupcake in a Cup", etc."
I guess this means there is little correlation between great movies and Oscars.
Not that Idiocracy isn't a great movie -- it is -- but I've seen it already!
@Dave: Silent Running is a good movie, well ahead of its time.
The Silent Running soundtrack is one of my favorites. It was composed by Peter Schickele (aka PDQ Bach). The two songs that Joan Baez sings were written by Schickele and Diane Lampert.
Wall-E makes another nod to Silent Running by passing through the rings of Saturn on the outside of a spaceship. Also the way he picks up the plant is almost the opposite of the tree-planting scene in SR. How about the messages from the president in Wall-E and "Boys, this is Anderson," in SR.
Funny to find you by googling for Wall-E "silent running."
Add a comment: