Sunday, May 23, 2010
"Time for lunch... in a cup!"
Release Date: 27 June 2008
Director: Andrew Stanton
History: Pixar's ninth film, "Wall-E" came to theaters summer of 2008. The last of the ideas from the famed lunch back in 1994 that a number of Pixar gurus had to come up with idea for films after "Toy Story," it was originally taken up and conceived by Andrew Stanton and Pete Doctor. Doctor left it in favor of directing "Monster's Inc." and left Stanton to hash it out by himself. Stanton left it alone for a while to work on "Finding Nemo," but then came back to it in 2002 after work on "Nemo" finished.
It went through a number of re-writes and story ideas before finally ending up with what became the finished film. The biggest idea was for EVE to be sent by aliens called Gels. The Gels were off-shoots of human and basically all that was left of humanity after 700 years in space. Slowly Stanton changed their appearance to be more human like till he arrived at the large, baby-like human beings that are in the final film. "Wall-E" also ended up being one of the most ambitious Pixar films to date with 125,000 story boards and complex space scenes. It featured sound effects including the voice of it;s title character from legendary sound artist Ben Burtt, who may be best known for being the "voice" of R2-D2 in "Star Wars" as well as creating the humm sound of the light sabers and the heavy breathing of Darth Vader.
It went on to win a number of awards, most notably the Academy Award for Best Animated Film as well as making Time Magazines' list for "Best Movies of the Decade." While not the highest grossing Pixar film, it made more then the previous year's Pixar film 'Ratatouille" and ended up with over $200 million at the Box Office in the US. Considering it was sandwiched between high grossing film "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones 4" and "The Dark Knight" and with it's very heavy social commentary, it did very well.
My Reaction: Ok, so there is no getting past it, "Wall-E" is very politically charged and certainly the biggest social commentary for a Pixar film. Rather then sweep it under the rug, it's best to get into it a little bit (which is really all I'm doing as you could easily write whole papers, and many have, on the themes and topics of this film).
I don't think there is much mistake, 'Wall-E" is many things to many people and maybe the first Pixar film that is so widely "you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground." "Wall-E" is to capitalism what George Orwell's novel "1984" was to socialism/ communism. While "1984" illustrated the possible negative side effects of a socialist government, "Wall-E" shows us what capitalism can do left unchecked. The biggest and most profound example of this is how the fictional mega corporation Buy N Large essentially ends up becoming not just the government for the United States, but the whole world.
Under the leadership of Buy N Large, without anyone to stand in their way and in fact with most of, if not all the World population buying in to the Buy N Large way of life, the Earth becomes so polluted that humanity can't live on Earth anymore and our beautiful planet becomes nothing more then a giant landfill. In every way, this large part of the film challenges the audiences' way of life and raises the question about a number or somewhat sensitive, yet important topics in how we live our lives as a society. The first image I thought of after watching this this most recent time is the current British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite complaints about how the Obama Administration is or is not dealing with the crisis, the film left me wondering how different it would be if BP or another like-minded company WAS the government. It scares me to think about such a fate and how close we seem to be getting to one like the film depicts. I've heard many in conservative side of the debate express fears of a government out of control, but for me personally, I think they forget that there is always another side to every coin, and a mega corporation out of control can be just as bad and frightening. "Wall-E" does a good job of exploring this side of the debate. Either form of "government" can be bad if left unchecked.
Beyond the comments on capitalism and environmental issues lies questions about man's relationship to technology. While the film makes were not trying to show it to be bad, they were raising questions about how much we rely on it in our day-to-day lives. In Wall-E's world, human beings can't seem to do anything for themselves and need robots for everything. The film raises many question about this relationship and what it does to our humanity. There have also been Christian and mythological themes associated with the film.
Slightly less heavy themes or nods found would the Pixar teams love of musicals and classic tv shows and movies, with the most obvious being "Hello Dolly! I think my mind gets worked every time I see this film and it really is fascinating to me how much it seems to get discussion going amongst people with different World-views. I think out side of all of that, I find I get bored at times with "Wall-E." While I wasn't against the heavy themes or the pantomime found in much of the film, it just didn't do it for me like Pixar normally does. In fact I'd dare say Pixar the last few years has really been dragging. But it seems so silly in many ways as their version of "dragging" is most other studio's mega success. But I really loved the main characters of Wall-E and EVE and hope they get used for possible short subject cartoons later. I also thought it odd the live action scenes found in the film. Some may have liked them or seen they as "visionary," I didn't though.
My Wife's Reaction: She thought the cockroach was possibly the world first and only "cute" cockroach on the planet and found it fitting that it took Pixar to pull that off.
My Final Grade: (B-) Yes, I very much enjoy the philosophical debates the film brings up and the characters of Wall-E and EVE are some of the best Pixar has given us, but for whatever reason, it just didn't do it for me the way "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story 2" or "Cars" did. But still a fine film.
All images copyright Disney/ Pixar. All rights reserved.