Monday, 9 February 2009

WALL-E

Lowdown: A humane robot delivers a message to robotic humans.
Review:
Pixar movies are always something I hold high anticipation for, and WALL-E must win top honors in the anticipation department after reading some very rave reviews. On the other hand, not all that is Pixar is gold; I know I'm at a minority, but I can't say I liked Finding Nemo much. So which way will WALL-E go?
Well, as expected, Pixar's WALL-E is yet another computer animation film. This time around it tells the story of a garbage collecting robot called WALL-E, living some 700 years into our future and dutifully cleaning up the mess after humans. Only that humans no longer live on earth; having contaminated it beyond livability, we learn that humans now reside in huge spaceships. On his own, WALL-E has only a cockroach for a friend; yet even though he is dumb (as in, he can't speak) he is obviously more human than human in character, and it's also obvious that he suffers from extreme loneliness.
One day a spaceship brings him a visitor: a very flashy flying robot, EVE, who is armed with a laser and is not afraid to use it. Quickly enough, though, the two robots become friends (and lovers) with WALL-E assuming the male role and EVE the female one (or is it just their names that make me associate the sexual roles?). As the plot thickens, WALL-E follows EVE to space where he meets what currently passes for humans. Have no fear, though: by the time WALL-E shows them humans what it is to be a human, all of this world's problems (as well as the solar system entire) will be solved.
Overall, WALL-E is a very green film: it's a warning about what would happen to our planet if we continue treating it the way we do. It does it by going to extremes, showing us what the earth would be like if our current emission and consumption trends continue. It shows us what humans will be like if our current behavioral trends continue: In WALL-E, humans spend all day lying on mattresses, staring at fixed screens in front of them, avoiding all direct social contact, and consuming Supersize Me serves of foods and beverages. The people of the future are all obese but also suffer from small bones for reasons not made entirely clear by the film; it can't be evolution because there won't be selection for smaller bones, so I have to assume it is the lack of gravity and its effect on hormones' generation. Then again, the spaceships do seem to have gravity, so who knows! The point is that WALL-E serves as a warning about the future of humanity by going to extremes and by showing us a glimpse of proper humanity through a couple of Adam and EVE robots.
So far so good, but the main question for this review to answer is whether WALL-E the film is any good. Well, is it? My answer there would be a resounding NO-E. I have found WALL-E the film to be a major disappointment. I have found WALL-E the film to be a rather boring film that clings too tightly to cliches. Those, in turn, make it a rather predictable film that render WALL-E an even more boring film.
Take the first part of WALL-E as an example. We have ourselves a poor robot that can't talk and has no company, so in order to develop its character we go through an ordeal of character developing events. Events that we've seen before in the great encyclopedia of "how to make a character appear so cute you want to give it a kiss without the use of dialog". I realize WALL-E might be aiming at kids' levels there, but why should kids be indoctrinated with these cliches through something that is sold to us as a quality film?
The next problem with WALL-E is that for a film with scientific pretences, the way a film talking about global warming and the environment has to be, there are way too many things that don't make sense and other things that are very un-scientific and only make sense because they, too, belong to the great encyclopedia of redundant and stupid science fiction film cliches. Examples? Why the hell should EVE, an explorer robot, be armed with a powerful laser and programming that make her use it quicker than Billy the Kid? Why does EVE require a separate robotic arm to program her by typing commands when she could easily interface her spaceship? What's the deal with our robots playing with Saturn's rings? [Spoiler alert till the end of the paragraph:] How come the boneless humans suddenly cope well with earth's gravity? How can those humans build a society based on the one plant that WALL-E has found, and why couldn't they just genetically engineer suitable plants at their whim given all the technology they have with them? And why does their orbit take them beyond Saturn when they could efficiently stay closer to earth? And why does the film need to resort to "space jumps" when the human ship goes back to earth, instead of a more realistic and Theory of Relativity compliant space cruise? And last, but not least, cockroaches are not as robust as cliches make them out to be; without people's artificial heating they won't make it through a New York winter, for a start.
I know I'm being somewhat petty with my complains, but these are all things I have noticed when WALL-E bored me to near sleep. That, and the fact I have a problem with unnecessary twists on science that distract even further and contaminate people's minds. I mean, the message of global warming comes from science, so if you want to discuss it you should stick with science all the way or you risk becoming just another boneless argument that has to rely on extreme "shove it in your face" tactics to deliver its not so fine message.
Best scene: As usual with Pixar movies, they are accompanied by a short animation film of superior qualities. This time around it's called Presto and it's about a magician and his hungry rabbit. It's ten times better than WALL-E in the entertainment department!
Technical assessment: Like all Pixar DVDs, this Blu-ray features exemplary picture. The sound is also of excellent fidelity sporting a DTS HD soundtrack, but surround envelopment leaves a lot of room for added aggressiveness.
Overall: In Hebrew I would say that WALL-E is Hantarish. For those who don't speak Hebrew I will say it's a disappointing 2.5 stars out of 5 while adding that the score includes consideration for the Blu-ray presentation's technical prowess and for the lovely Presto.

8 comments:

Midgard Dragon said...

"NO-E"

Just proves again that everyone with something negative to say about WALL-E is an idiot. Stupid puns like that are the reason the rest of the world doesn't take criticize of this film seriously. Was WALL-E good? Ask the MULTIPLE critics awards that gave it the Best Film of the Year award. WALL-E is Pixar's best, and will remain so. Come out of denial or deal with it, either way's fine with me, but at least realize what a complete fool (and tool) you sound like by using the word "NO-E".

Moshe Reuveni said...

Well, thanks for helping me realize the truth. I will be handing my resignation letter to my manager on account of being an idiot in a matter of minutes.
Your criticism about me being an idiot has been invaluable, and your argument by authority ("everyone else says so, therefore it must be true") is obviously beyond repraoch.
I just wonder if Pixar think themselves idiots for coming up with the -E suffix in the first place; that would be the inevitable conclusion from your argument.

To others that actually have the capacity to think I will say this:
In no way am I suggesting that my opinion is the right one; it is only mine, and it's an opinion and therefore far from being objective.
Second, I have a problem with cultures where the minority opinion is silenced. Are you, Midgard Dragon, a Nazi by any chance?

Moshe Reuveni said...

P.S. I forgot to mention in my review-
Is it just me, or is the resemblance between WALL-E and Short Circuit's Number Five a mere coincidence? It's not just the looks, it's also the character.

Mike said...

I'm not sure....I don't want to burn WALL*E with fire the way that I do Number 5. I think you got kinda burnt on this one.....I realize getting to the cinema is nigh-impossible for you, but this is one of those movies that really needs to be experienced on the big screen.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I agree that films should be watched where they are designed to be watched, but then again I have watched WALL-E where I watch the vast majority of its peers. And I've watched its Blu-ray version.
All I can say is that the main impressions I still carry with me from the rather forgettable experience of watching it is its preachy attitude and boring nature. Granted, a lot of that is to do with the weight of expectations.

Dr. Worm said...

Sorry to be so late to the party with this comment. And I'm doubly sorry if my rave review caused this film's joys to be lost.

But I'm also perplexed. Here's what I've got as your 3 beefs with WALL-E:

1. It's scientifically inaccurate. Fair point. The film takes some liberties. It's also a cartoon. But I can understand that if-you-have-a-scientific-premise-stick-to-science complaint. I won't quibble here.

2. It reverts to cliches. (WALL-E has big eyes, a cute voice, kind mannerisms, curiosity -- all things to make us like him.) I can understand this, too -- but it seems like one of the optical illusions wherein you can see the vase or the faces but not both at once. If you're looking at the filmmakers' shorthand, you don't see the characters (and vice versa). The role of any filmmaker, of course, is to hide the shorthand as much as possible, and for me, WALL-E did enough here so that I was focusing on the characters and not their creators. I'm not sure why it did for me and not for you, when we're normally on the same page -- maybe expectations, maybe mood, maybe taste.

3. It's boring. I'm guessing this is related to the cliche complaint. If you see the characters as an animator's construct, you're less likely to be invested in their adventures.

So, as badly as I want to, I can't convince you that you're wrong for not enjoying WALL-E. The best I can do is express my deep regret that you didn't extract the same pleasure from the film that I did. I'm not offended; I just wish you shared my joy.

That said, I do wonder: Why do you think you weren't distracted by the creators' puppet strings (so to speak) in Presto (which I agree was very enjoyable)? Why were the cliches less bothersome to you there?

Moshe Reuveni said...

I'll start by stating that a lot of time has passed since I've watched WALL-E, and in that time I forgot my exact picking with the film. I would say you caught my drift, but not as accurately as I would like:
1. Unscientific: My problem is not with twisting science; I like fantasy, for a start. My problem is with having scientific pretences and then doing the opposite, especially when it's completely unnecessary and especially when your target audience (kids) will get the wrong end of the picture as a result.
Note I take such matters to heart. The misrepresentation of science knocks a film's rating quite severely in my book, mostly because I'm annoyed with the ease with which the general public accepts science related misconceptions while I think that science, when implemented well, is the best cure for society's illnesses.
2. Cliches: I didn't mean for the looks and such. I meant the plot progresses, the way EVE fires first then asks questions.
3. Boredom: WALL-E felt too patronizing in my book. Coupled with its rather slow development, lack of dialog and predictability, I found myself bored.

As for Presto: Presto was fantasy; it had no pretences for accuracy and it didn't try to preach me. It was short, too, which meant it hadn't bored me.

Most importantly:
1. I love your reviews.
2. Yes, we usually think alike, but if we don't - so what? Makes life more interesting; no nukes will be fired if we happen to disagree on a film, just some interesting comments exchanged (and you'll have to accept my apology for this comment's lack of depth; again, by now I forgot WALL-E's details).

Moshe Reuveni said...

To further emphasize my point re science (at the risk of repeating myself):
-Viewers coming out of WALL-E will be absorbing some misconceptions regarding the theory of evolution.
-Viewers of Presto will suffer none.
-In a society where the majority of people either renounce evolution altogether or prefer to look at it from very biased points of view, despite all evidence pointing to evolution being as real as this morning's sunrise, I view such infringements as inexcusable.

Overall, I think the film WALL-E borrows most of its ideas from (Silent Running, http://r-views.blogspot.com/2009/05/silent-running.html) does a better job. Perhaps because it's not out there to make a killing at the box office.