“Eeeeeva?” (said in a different high pitched funny voice)
I’ve recently watched the Disney / Pixar film Wall-E again…on purpose. It’s not that I love the movie. I’m not one of those people who consider it the pinnacle of the animated cinema experience, as I get the impression from some. Actually, to have such an opinion, you kind of need to be a big fan of animation itself, and that isn’t me. I don’t mind it, but it’s not a particular draw for me (unless the animation is directed by Chuck Jones and features Daffy Duck getting his beak shot off by a hunter’s rifle, than I’m there. Or if it features stereotypical Russian spies trying to destroy the American dream in the form of a loveable moose. Or if it features a kid with a blanket proclaiming the true meaning of Christmas on a stage. Or Boris Karloff reading Dr. Seuss. Or…anyway.)
Neither am I someone who just can’t stand Wall-E, considering it tedious and aimless. I sit in the broad range of opinion that lies in between those extremes.
A couple of people have commented to me recently that it’s not really a “thinking” movie, and that is true, but not in the way one usually means that remark. It’s not mindless, per se, as many truly bad movies are (see some of my favorites here and here). Rather, it’s a movie that, for the first third at least, you don’t think about because there’s nothing really to think about.
Now that’s not completely true. Actually, there was a lot to think about the first time I watched it. Like “I guess consumerism won in the end,” and “What happened to all the people?” and “I wonder if I have to watch that disgusting roach for the whole time, even though it’s cute?” and “Is this really what this whole movie is going to be like, watching this robot poke around in the trash heap?” But in spite of all that, what is really happening is the movie is drawing me into the world that Wall-E experiences – repetitive, lonely, bleak…and yet still somehow hopeful thanks to our clumsy hero’s chirpy attitude.
That probably sounds pretty negative, but it’s not meant to be, actually. In a way, it’s a pretty good cinematic achievement, and certainly a bold opening for a kid’s movie. That whole feeling of “waiting” remains for the entire first act of the story, even after Eve makes her debut. I almost feel like the film maker’s are playing a game of chicken with me – how long are they going to keep this up? How long can they do this before they will lose the audience? Which of us are going to blink first? Eventually, it’s both a relief and a bit of a disappointment once we move the action onto the Axiom with all of its busyness and it’s more typical quirky band of characters (though I did like that little cleaner robot). It becomes more “typical” and thus easier to watch, but we lose what made the opening so interesting.
Unfortunately, the human society is unpleasant enough to make the Axiom not a very fun setting. Apparently, they kept social networking but lost motion-detection video games. It’s pretty bad, this society of vastly under-muscled overweight humans floating around space wheel chairs and staring at computer screens (and I thought the roach was gross!) It led to me to even swear off Facebook for a few minutes.
It interesting to note that though Wall-E is the catalyst for much of the changes in the movie’s world, that he himself hardly changes at all. Indeed, his whole character arc is basically over when he first meets Eve. Rather, it’s Eve (a successful film action chick if ever there was one) and all the humans who actually go through a transformative process, spurred on by Wall-E’s unwitting interference. He bumbles his way around the Axiom, following Eve, along the way making things dirty, upsetting wheel chairs, letting loose a gang of non-comformist robots, and all along inspiring those around him to break loose. The “crazy” robots break out of their cages, the Captain gets up from his chair, Eve breaks out of her programming – and so this little robot whose job it is to clean things up, just in the end makes things messy, but in a good way.
So, not a favorite movie, but not a bad one by any means.
(I’m creating an adjustment to my ratings system here, adding a “+” or “-” when I give it 3 Faces, to indicate whether I tend to swing positive or negative for these “middle of the road” films for me.)