Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Below is my review of WALL-E. Yes, I know I have been promising many reviews of films that have opened well before WALL-E, but I reserve the right to post reviews in any order I want, and there is no more important film for you to know about than this one...

WALL-E is an extraordinary masterpiece. It is one of the most perfect films I have ever seen, which is in many ways different than simply calling it a “great” film. I analyze films constantly, and make films when the time and money come along, so even in the greatest of films, I can usually spot something I would do differently, however slight. But in 2007, we have seen not just one, but two shining examples of filmmaking perfection. The first is Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor (review forthcoming), and the second is WALL-E. I would change nothing about WALL-E, from the beautiful opening shot to the miraculous, heart-rending closing image of the film’s end credits. Yes, a credits sequence can be heart-rending; this film is capable of unthinkable wonders.

The film is the latest from the brilliant minds at Pixar, for whose minds there are apparently no bounds. And now, after last year’s wonderful, sophisticated Ratatouille announced itself as the best Pixar release ever, now we have WALL-E, which is an even bigger step forward in Pixar’s sophistication ascent, and which is an even greater cinematic accomplishment. Here is a film that is about 80% silent by traditional standards and a film in which two lead characters barely speak ANY words at all apart from each other’s names, and yet this is one of the purest, most heartfelt and emotionally honest films I’ve ever seen…and one of the greatest modern love stories of our time. Yes, that’s right.

WALL-E is set over 700 years in the future, and tells the story of, well, WALL-E, or “Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class,” a futuristic trash compactor who is the sole survivor of an unseen apocalypse that rendered the earth’s surface unlivable and obliterated all organic life, with the exception of a select group who boarded a ship called the Axiom and have been living a fully automated life (in more ways than one) in outer space. WALL-E lives among the wreckage, and has spent the last several centuries fulfilling his “directive”—a word that takes on very diverse and unexpectedly powerful meanings throughout the film—which is to rid the earth’s surface of all refuse. The curious robot has, as his memory chip has processed so much of earth’s spoiled remains, formed a personality of sorts, and has compiled a vast collection of interesting trinkets during his journey. He has especially taken a liking to the film version of Hello, Dolly, which speaks to the lonely, undying romantic inside WALL-E.

WALL-E’s world changes when the Axiom sends a probe-droid named EVE (“Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator”) to search for any sign of organic life. The very sleek, very modern EVE instantly attracts the clunky WALL-E, and so begins the most unlikely but most breathtaking love story of recent years.

To describe the details of how the plot unfolds would be to spoil the sheer joy of moment-to-moment unknown. The cinema has the power to hold us in its grasp as we stare in wonder, waiting breathlessly for what will happen next. WALL-E does just that; it is one of the most creative, surprising, and stunningly complex films to be released all year. Its script is easily the most layered and tender of the year, and will most likely be one of the film’s most underappreciated assets. After all, there are very few words of dialogue in the film…but the story this film weaves is one of the benchmarks of modern screenplay writing. Explaining the film’s inner workings would be downright cruel, but individual moments are important to note: moments like WALL-E’s selfless care for EVE while she sits in a computerized hibernation; the moment where the humans on the Axiom awaken to the reality of their life in space; and the film’s most brilliant sequence, a dazzling and absolutely beautiful dance through the stars that WALL-E and EVE share.

The film also packs a powerful and unsparing vision of the future, one that holds humanity accountable for its actions. While the robots WALL-E and EVE share an emotionally honest love story, the humans lay on floating orbs drinking soda. They are the fat, lazy destroyers of the planet who now have no initiative and who have no clue as to the ramifications of their past actions, nor the inevitable path they are headed on (again, I am tip-toeing around spoilers). But in WALL-E, the emotional depth and unwavering resolve of the inorganic proves that somewhere, the same emotion and the same resolve must still exist in humanity. That underlying message makes WALL-E not only brilliant and subtle in its sub-textual storytelling, but also uncommonly poignant and intimately moving.

Many filmgoers and even many critics very often draw a clear line between “real films” and “family films/animation.” Yes, WALL-E is a G-rated animated film, but it is more mature in its message, more sophisticated in its storytelling, more accomplished in its visual style, and more complex in its underlying themes than any “adult film” I have seen all year. This is a film that will shake your soul and move you to tears if only you open your mind...and especially your heart. This is a film that will stand as a classic for years to come. This is a film you need to see. Now.


Vigilante said...

Hmmmm, let me think about it. Okay, I guess I won't see it. Not right now, anyways. It's so futuristic I think I'll have plenty of time to get in the mood for it.

Vigilante said...

The Carolina Parrothead is also Wall-Eyed!

Beach Bum said...

To say I completely agree with everything you wrote would be an understatement light-years wide. The sheer honest humanity shown by the computer generated WALL-E outweighs just about every real actor's performance I've ever seen. My daughter literally ran out of the theater to chase down one of her friends who also happened to be there so I didn't see much of the end credits. Yeah, I was mentally, and emotionally blown away. From my point of view I find it impossible to walk out of that theater without having to begin to change my own personal habits. Whether the conservative Borg-like drones that make up the greater mass of South Carolina saw what I did is sadly a something for debate.
Stranegly I have one concern, how long can Pixar continue to pump out these excellent films?
Thanks you stopping by my site and please feel free to come again.

J McKiernan said...

"Whether the conservative Borg-like drones that make up the greater mass of South Carolina saw what I did is sadly a something for debate."

Wow, that was about as telling and true a comment as I've ever heard.

I wonder how any conservative person could watch a film like WALL-E and walk out without pulling a complete 180. Of course, I often wonder how any conservative person could take one glance at the world and not think completely differently about it. It baffles me how some could care so little about others...and themselves.

J McKiernan said...

To your less depressing point ;)...about Pixar's potential longevity...

...as long as these great minds keep working...like Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed "WALL-E" and "Finding Nemo," and Brad Bird, who made "Ratatouille"...then we could have many more works of brilliance to come.

Of course, even the most brilliant minds come up short at times...I didn't much care for "The Incredibles" (also by Brad Bird), and I could barely stand "Cars." But Pixar is a fountain of wonders, one we are lucky to have and one that I believe will maintain its greatness for many years to come.

the WIZARD, fkap said...

The Wizard's Six Word Review:

Wonderfully Special even before the Effects

J., My newly adopted affectation of the 6 word movie reviews is no reflection on your extended reviewing style, which I thoroughly enjoy. I have merely decided to use this tight convention to hone my opinion into a "4 star like" synopsis.

I can't even take credit for the six word approach... I've borrowed it directly form the wonderous book compiled by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. If these people can capture their entire lives so superbly in just six words, then a simple movie review should be no challenge.

On another very small side note.... you simply couldn't possibly be more wrong about conservatives. As a flaming liberal trapped in a small town in the very buckle of the bible belt, I can assure you from first hand experiences that these people are full of love and caring, compassion and support. It is a joy to be among them. I've weathered (no pun intended) Hurricane Katrina where my business building was nearly destroyed, and the very personal tragedy of the loss of my son, and numerous other milestones, both joyful and somber, and have never seen such an outpouring of love, help and support (on both a personal and institutional level).

Conservatives will flock to WALL-E because the values it holds aren't the property of the left or the right... they are universal human values. At least that's my opinion.

J McKiernan said...

Of course, we can thankfully always count on The Wizard to force us all to get a little more perspective. You really are a unique kind of person, Wiz, one who really strives to not only look at things from every last angle, but empathize with every last angle.

That said, your experience with conservatives is much different from mine. But thank god it is!

I'll tell ya...I went to a religious school for 12 years. Most of my friends were conservative, and I'm sure they still are, even if our friendship has sort of faded into a memory. And I have fond memories of those people...some of whom I forged very deep bonds with, and many of whom I will never forget.

My sentiments come from trudging through eight years of Bushism. It has been a long way down. I was never a conservative to begin with, and the way the Bushies have reinvented conservatism has made it all the more treacherous for me. So for me, there is a specific kind of conservative I speak of when I say things like "care so little," etc. It truly does seem that way.

But here I've gone off on a political tangent... we were talking about WALL-E, right?

the WIZARD, fkap said...

Speaking of politics and WALL-E, you'll enjoy and appreciate Frank Rich's analysis of both the movie and our two seemingly out-of-touch candidates for President: Wall-E For Presidnet

the WIZARD, fkap said...

........ Oh, and wouldn't EVE make a wonderful First Lady!

Vigilante said...

I have to concede the last remnants of my sckepticism about this animiated film when I read that one of my favorite writers, Frank Rich has featured it recently in the NYT! Excerpts:

SO much for a July Fourth week spent in idyllic celebration of our country’s birthday. This year’s festivities were marked instead by a debate — childish, not constitutional — over who is and isn’t patriotic.

..... In our political culture, only one question mattered: What was Wesley Clark saying about John McCain and how loudly would every politician and bloviator in the land react?

Unable to take another minute of this din, I did what any sensible person might do and fled to the movies. More specifically, to an animated movie in the middle of a weekday afternoon. What escape could be more complete?

Among its other attributes, this particular G-rated film, “Wall-E,” is a rare economic bright spot ..... this movie may exceed its audience’s expectations. It did mine.

Indeed, sitting among rapt children mostly under 12, I felt as if I’d stepped through a looking glass. This movie seemed more realistically in touch with what troubles America this year than either the substance or the players of the political food fight beyond the multiplex’s walls.

..... While the real-life grown-ups on TV were again rebooting Vietnam, the kids at “Wall-E” were in deep contemplation of a world in peril — and of the future that is theirs to make what they will of it. Compare any 10 minutes of the movie with 10 minutes of any cable-news channel, and you’ll soon be asking: Exactly who are the adults in our country and who are the cartoon characters?

Wake me up when it's out in DVD, will you?

MadMike said...

Wall-E tells the truth and the viewer doesn't know he/she is being told the truth so it doesn't hurt quite as bad. I enjoyed this movie and I was forced to sit in the dreaded front row. Even with my neck in the permanent upright position I loved this little flick. I agree completely with your excellent review.

Emily said...

Charlotte Allen sums up a thoughtful review of Wall-E">:

All of this, however, is beside the point because the point of art, whether movies or books or paintings or television shows, is exactly not to preach anything. Art can make social points, or poke fun satirically, as "Wall-E" does, at societal weaknesses. But to the extent that art becomes mere ideological drum-beating, it fails. "Wall-E" tells a good story and, as an animated feature, does it via a cornucopia of visual images. It's simply too accomplished a work of art to be reduced to mere propaganda by either the left or the right. It's fair to criticize the message of a film -- but only if it actually tries to send that message, which "Wall-E" doesn't.