Monday, July 7, 2008

WALL-E: A great movie that, like its main character, looks beyond

Pixar knows how to make movies. Great plots, fun characters and astonishing visuals have been the norm since Toy Story debuted in 1995. Wall-E is no exception...and there's a little something more this time around.

Though it goes without saying, this film is beautiful. Pixar never fails on this front, and this is their greatest visual achievement to date. I was almost moved to tears watching two robots dancing The neons of a future world are stunning, and, though there was a double take at first, live action is interwoven beautifully. If nothing else, see this movie just to see it.

But there is much more. Wall-E is thoroughly enjoyable. It is simply amazing how much life, energy and emotion come from a character with less than half a dozen different lines. Wall-E's character is just as developed and full of life as any seen in an animated film. The movie's strongest attribute is its ability to create empathy for the little trash compactor that could. As we watch him dance to a recording of Hello Dolly in the film's opening act, we immediately connect with every lonely moment we've ever had - every time we've yearned for companionship.

When Wall-E finally does find a companion in the form of Eve, his first visitor in hundreds of years, he wants nothing more than to hold her hand, and everyone watching immediately empathizes with him.

The supporting cast plays second fiddle to Wall-E, which is just fine. Unlike the sometimes fractured story of Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton's previous effort with Pixar, the plot focuses almost solely on our hero (a portion of the film is devoted to its human characters, but I will discuss that later.) More than any other animated film I've seen, a character is developed with the wit and grace that is normally reserved for more dramatic story lines. At a time when so many movies are mash-ups of rehashed plots and montages
(though Wall-E's plot is a little thin), it is refreshing to see a film, much less a family film, that takes the time to really look at the emotions of its characters.

As for the humans, they represent the aspect that makes Wall-E more than unique. I will not ruin the story for those who have not yet seen the movie, but the humans, the Earth they have left and the "world" they now inhabit are used as an obvious yet strong tool for social commentary. The message may be straightforward, but this is a children's cartoon. I have racked my brain, which is much too full with useless movie knowledge, and I cannot think of an animated film that is meant to be viewed by children with this level of social conscience. Never mind the message, this is a step forward in the art of film.

My one complaint with the film is the sometimes awkward camera work. At times, it feels more like a documentary as camera placements, movements and focuses are intentionally sloppy. A good example is a shot, which can be viewed in the trailers, of a herd of grocery carts slamming Wall-E against a glass door. There is a delayed rack focus, which looks as if someone was filming with a hand held camera. But, wait a minute, I'm discussing the camera work of an animated film - yet another example of how Wall-E reaches far beyond the norm.

The robot Wall-E wishes to feel the gentle touch of a friend. Wall-E, as a film, goes beyond reaching for the hand of its audience. It goes for a full bear hug in a move that, at this risk of making some uncomfortable, must be commended.

Final Grade: A / 4.5 of 5 stars

As this is my first film review on this blog, my next post will include my grades for other films and movies so that readers may gain an accurate idea of my grading scale.

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