02 August 2008


I've been squirming with excitement about this movie ever since I saw the first preview. And the reviews, and word on the street, were hot. "Transcendent," people said. "The best Pixar movie ever." So having now seen it twice (I kind of fell asleep the first time), I still find this somewhat strange. I mean, it's great. But transcendent?

I think the reason people exalt the movie the way that they do is because of its curious blend of apocalyptic vision and hope. Earth has been virtually destroyed by pollution, which is bound to make liberals happy because they feel like it's sending a nice warning signal (with an obesity rider thrown in - you'll destroy the planet and get FAT! eating junk food! and being glued to your laptop!), but they get to have it both ways, because 700 years later, everything works out ok again so long as people defeat the evil robot (with the help of good robots) and "re-colonize" Earth. Let me just pause here to note that if you wanna go with a political reading of the film, then the fact that they use the term "re-colonize" is extremely uncomfortable. But that's nitpicking. 

Moving on, the movie is extremely, ungodly clever with the way it references other films. It's full of allusions to other movies - most noticeably, probably, in the 2001 reference, or the Lilo and Stitch-like bra scene, but the one that really blew me away, which probably no one will notice, is that there's a little robot who goes around frantically wiping up the trail Wall-E leaves in his wake, and every time he does, the background music is a modernized version of the music that the mysterious broomdog in Alice in Wonderland makes when he's eliminating the path in the forest when Alice is lost. I can't believe I noticed that. But I was extremely impressed.

More bizarre, to me, was the film's obsession with Hello, Dolly! Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Hello, Dolly. But seriously, what was it doing in this movie? I mean, yeah, it's got romance, and the glitter of the cosmopolitan, and it was a nice touch to also throw in a Louis Armstrong song to reinforce the allusion, but seriously, what was it doing there? For as much airtime as it got, I expected some kind of substantive, extended parallel, or something, but I really can't work it out. Please, please tell me if you have any thoughts on this, because it's tormenting me. 

Although I will say that one of the things I liked about the movie was that it had a kind of randomness to it. The objects Wall-E collected, for instance, were so... strange. Some of them were obvious, sure, but some of it was just, I dunno, random. It was kind of neat.

Someday, I will write a paper on lovable robots, and this movie will feature strongly in it. 

I guess what makes this movie strange to me is that it deploys all the tropes and does all these things that beg for interpretation and scream depth and meaning, but then when you try to decode it, you get... nothing. What's with the hospital scene? Crazy robots? Seriously, what's that about? Or the random couple that hooks up, and the moment when they decide to save the children, kinda? And oh my god, what about the penultimate rebooting scene, which seriously made me cry my eyes out? In fact, let's step back a minute and talk about how emotionally traumatizing some of that movie was? When EVE goes into sleep mode and Wall-E is piteously bleating her name, my god, my heart was torn asunder. It was seriously upsetting.

It's a good movie. It's a fun movie. I am highly impressed that someone went out on a limb and made a children's film with almost no dialogue. It's worth watching. But chill out with this greatest movie ever talk, eh?

No comments: