Wednesday, July 16, 2008
An Appreciation of Wall-E
Well here it is, finally, an appreciation of Wall-E.
Why an appreciation, you ask, and not a review?
I don't like the term review. Certainly, you can't review everything about a movie - and it would be a waste of time to try anyway. What's interesting in so-called reviews? For the guy who writes it, to share his thoughts, whether good, bad, or both. For whoever reads it, to learn a little bit about the movie, get a sense of what it's about, what it feels like. Decide to go see it or not.
So, no review for me. Most often than not, "important magazines" journalists write a review as an excuse for some pseudo-intellectual, look-at-the-words-I-m-using, mumble jumble that makes sense only to them.
I'm not here to show you how well I write, I'm here to tell you about a movie. An appreciation, then, might be a big word, but it is what it's about. It's bullet points and short sentences. It's an absence of coherence or construction in the text. Let's face it, when you read the latest New York Times review, you skipped all the crap and looked directly for words like "Good", "Bad" or "So-so". And most likely than not, you didn't find them. Ok, let's get to work. And if I do sound intellectual somewhere in the text below, or if one of my paragraph is actually syntax-ly correct, you'll have to excuse me. I didn't mean to, I swear!
- Wall-E, in one word, is a masterpiece.
- I've always had the greatest admiration for Pixar. It's not the quality of the animation (although of course, it's as good as it gets), or the concentrated creativity, it's first and foremost the smartness of the screenplay.
It's in the details, in the true-ring there is to the stories and behaviors. Watching a Pixar movie is like listening to a Beatles song: even though you're not a robot, a fish, or a Liverpool rock-star, you know exactly what it's about. Hell yeah, all I need is love! My god, how that little fish (Chico? Bingo?) looks lost without his daddy.
And with Wall-E, thanks to director Andrew Stanton and his team, Pixar has reached new heights in the expression of their genius.
- Wall-E, more than any other Pixar, is not a kiddie-movie: it's an artsy-movie. So be warned, the first hour is entirely silent (except for a few computer noises the robots emit). It's about the landscape, it's about what this little robot shares, the way he moves, bips, and what he does. Wall-E is a robot with a personality, alone on a deserted, trash-filled Earth. Then of course, the She-robot arrives (although how "She" can a robot really be?), and the flirting starts. For a robot, you have to assume flirting is as far as it can go. And so holding hands becomes the one and only climax Wall-E has to look forward to.
- This first hour is what annoyed the few people who didn't like the movie. I'm sorry for them. It shows a lack of sensitivity, sensibility... really, it shows a lack of sense altogether. Check those eyes and ears, fellows, they're probably deficient (and if they're not... sorry, you're gonna have to replace the motherboard).
-A lot of people have said that first hour is very much like a Chaplin. I find there's a lot of Buster Keaton, as well, but I will be bold enough to say this has touched me more than a Chaplin. As beautiful and poetic as Chaplin can be, I have never been touched on a personal level by him. His candor, his walk, the twitching of his mustache, those are all expressions of a different era, when seduction was, really, very quiet and silent. God knows this has changed (for better or for worse, please debate), and Wall-E is, in fact, so much more modern. The mood-swings of Eve, a liberated female if I have ever seen one (sorry, can't bring myself to call her woman), the pride of Wall-E showing off his belongings: in every way, Pixar has managed to make today's often violent love games poetic again.
- The second part of Wall-E is extremely different. Wall-E and Eve gain the spaceship cruiser where the few humans still alive (all of them fat and obedient), and they combine forces to bring humanity back to Earth, where it really belongs.
I wish this part was as contemplative and poetic as the first, but of course, that would be impossible. It is, however, still good on average, with some great, and some not so much. A pursuit or two annoyed me a little, but it's nothing worth mentioning for too long.
- If the first part was about art, the second one is about message. There is the ecological one, of course, and then the machine bit. I've heard here and there that Wall-E, like iRobot, is about a battle between humans and machines trying to take over. I think it is, in fact, very different. In Wall-E, "Auto", the auto-pilot, tries to accomplish not his own will, but a directive given to him 700 years earlier by another human. A fight between the ship captain and his new will to live (not just survive), and the old CEO of Earth who had given up.
- It is therefore a battle between men of different times, through a machine. It seemed to me at first, than in this movie, unlike iRobot, it is the men who evolve, and the machines who stay the same. Then I remembered that the hero, of couse, is Wall-E, a robot who changed. Then maybe the difference between humans and robots is not as clear.
Maybe the humans are those with feelings (that is, humanity): Wall-E, the captain. The robots, then, are those who do not change, who have either lost hope or know only to obey: the CEO, Auto.
During the movie, the rest of the... living-beings... make their way, from robots to humans. Then comes their redemption.
- OK, let's talk about "2001, a Space Odyssey". Come on, you know we have to! The homage to 2001 is more than obvious in Wall-E, whether it's the captain struggling to stand on its hind legs (as the monkeys did once upon a time), or "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the Strauss made famous in the Kubrick classic that blasts in this scene.
- Then the Man and Machin battle we just refered to, was also central in 2001. But most of all, Wall-E and 2001 share a common theme, and that theme is "The Childhood of Humanity". I do not pretend to understand everything about 2001, but I know it is, partly, about how Man became Man, and why today's society is still the fetus of something else, to come. Wall-E deals with the same issue, which is made obvious by the fantastic closing credits. Those fat, crippled Men, are just like kids: they need to be led and can not think for themselves. The journey that brings them home, to Earth, is how they grow up.
- I was bold before, when saying Wall-E was a modern, and more touching Chaplin. I will be daredevil now, when saying it's an other 2001. I will not deny how infinitely more artistic 2001 was, how complex, how revolutionary. But the complexity makes it also less affordable, in a way, to the greater part of movie-goers. Wall-E brings us one, if not all, of the themes of 2001, in a way we can all understand. Wall-E is 2001 for the rest of us.