Friday, July 11, 2008

Review: WALL-E (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Williard
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Written By: Andrew Stanton, Jim Capobianco
Released: 2008
Grade: B+

WALL-E is one of the best reviewed films in years, possibly decades even. Not only to critics and pretty much everyone for that matter unanimously like it, but there is a general viewpoint that has almost become a fact that it is completely amazing and better than every film in years. Going in to a film like this that is an animated Pixar film, the hype almost takes over. The expectations are put so high in a movie that anything short of perfection and excellence in every way through the visuals, characters, story, emotions, critique, and intelligence ends up being much more of a disappointment than it should be. Not to say I was disappointed by WALL-E, on the contrary, I thought it was a great film that had many different aspects that worked wonderfully together. I am sure it was because the expectations were so high going in to it, that I cannot say I feel as strongly about this film as some do. It reminds me of the case of Pixar’s last summer hit, Ratatouille. It was very widely praised and many held it as the best movie of the year. I saw it after the hype died down, which I am sure helped. I enjoyed it, but still thought that Finding Nemo was the far better Pixar film. I am sure if I heard nothing about WALL-E and just went in to it, I might be as amazed as others or at least would have had the chance to be taken by surprise. Even though I wasn’t completely wowed by it, WALL-E is without a doubt one of Pixar’s greatest accomplishments not just through the popularity of the film, but by its’ dedication, an unexpectedly easy character to care about, and exerts a message we all need to hear.

The film takes place in the near future when Earth is nothing more than a giant garbage dump. WALL-E (Burtt), standing for Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth class, a robot who compacts the trash, attempts to clean up the massive mess that humans have left behind. The earth is widely deserted as all of the humans are in space since the planet has been reported to have unsustainable conditions for life. The only living thing WALL-E is able to interact with is a bug, who has managed to make it through the bad conditions. There are numerous storms and WALL-E has built a home for himself and to feel some sort of comfort, having a place of his own. Everyday he collects anything he finds in the trash that looks useful or that interests him at all. He has formed quite a collection over time including a VCR tape that he plays constantly, “Hello, Dolly”. He becomes so attached to this because it shows humans, which he has never seen before, activities like dancing that look invigorating to him, and most importantly emotions of love that he desperately longs for.

Each day he goes along with his routine of trash compaction until he meets another like himself. A spaceship comes along and drops off a robot named Eve (Knight), an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator. She is much more sleek, classy, and futuristic than the rugged, rusty, and worn down WALL-E. Yet WALL-E, simply by the site of her, falls for her instantly. He brings her back to his home and shares many of his fascinations including his favorite movie. It seems that WALL-E has finally found love in another robot, but when he gives her a plant, she seems to malfunction and is lifeless. WALL-E tries bringing her back to life, through sun, hoping that she is solar powered and even waits with her in the rain. Soon enough, the spaceship comes back and snatches Eve. Not knowing what else to do, WALL-E comes along with her. He finds it harder and harder to remain undetected as he is a foreign substance. When he gets there Eve just feels he need to go. Without Eve though that is the last thing he wants to do.

The message of the film comes out through the humans more than anything. They are all in this spaceship that hides them from everything else. It is an endless vacation that ends up making them unaware of any world encompassing reality. They literally don’t have to move. There are robots to do every single thing for them. They don’t even have to walk and just float in reclined, flying furniture. There are portraits of the captain’s aligned, starting out slim or in shape and getting bigger and bigger. Everyone on the ship is extremely obese from pure laziness and the lifestyle they have gotten used to. They sit here having robots do everything for them while other robots are cleaning up the mess that they made. There is a major lack of responsibility here on the humans part, which is pretty realistic. It is easier to have someone pay for the consequences of what we caused while doing nothing, while others are working hard. We fill this world with trash and worry little about the environment without caring about what the long term effect may be and only care about the short term. Sure, it might not directly effect us in our lifetime, but what about our children or those who come after us? Are we really selfish enough to leave them with all of the problems that we have caused?

Along with asking these questions, it confronts our obsession with technology from a medium of technology, the film itself, as well as the futuristic robots who do everything. There is even a classic case of robot take over. Especially in the humans being in such a weak state, the robot’s really have the power even if they are programmed to just follow orders. Being so weak and not even doing simple tasks, humans have lost their intelligence. Aside from not even knowing how to walk, the captain himself, the one who is supposed to be in charge of this ship, doesn’t even remember simple meanings. He has to use the computer to look up and define things that if living on earth everyone would know their meaning. Heck, he didn’t even know what the word, earth, itself meant. Realizing what this abandonment of your home has done to the entire living species, ends up being the most powerful thing to the captain. WALL-E is a cry against laziness. Not only will it make us selfish and kill the earth, as well as making us obese and extremely unhealthy, but it will ultimately fry our brains and essentially take any dignity or strength away from us.

Of course, the vast majority of the film is silent, particularly the part solely with the robots on earth. You cannot look in to WALL-E’s mechanical eyes without feeling for him or knowing just what he is feeling. There is a very isolated feeling and even though he is a robot, he struggles with keeping sanity. Sure this is all he has known, but the human artifacts that have been left behind are really what keeps him going. They fascinate him and through them he learns of, craves for, and eventually obtains love. We understand WALL-E and Eve even through their nearly silent moments. Their beeps become a part of them and we are clued in on this otherwise foreign language and are able to understand them and even admire the creativity that is intact in these scenes.

One of the biggest and only critiques really for this film is that it is a kids’ movie and there shouldn’t be these critiques geared at this audience. The critiques in the film aren’t just for adults. The point is that even the little kids in the movie are raised to have the same selfish, laziness. By saying that a movie with a general audience rating shouldn’t have any thought, meaning, or message in it, even if it directly reflects upon the people in our society and the world the kids watching it are being raised in is ridiculous. This is a film where kids can pick up on this, whereas with other films that don’t have this content, they may be bored or uninterested. WALL-E uses this but is still very loveable and fun to watch. Sure, adults will have a deeper understanding of what WALL-E has to say, but kids can see this to some extent as well. All films have some sort of a meaning to them, so why not use one that is so close for to home? The film takes place in the near future for a reason, the laziness, ignorance, and trash filled world really isn’t as far off as we would like to hope. If you haven’t seen WALL-E yet, I highly recommend you see it. It is a great film that does so many things right, I just don’t think it’s the best thing I ever saw, not even this year alone. If it is all possible, try to lower your expectations and try not to be expecting to see a masterpiece. If you can do this the surprises and unexpectedness will take a hold of you with compassion and intelligence. WALL-E is an important film that uses a lot of creativity, heart, and is desperately trying to speak to its’ audience and succeeds doing so.

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