Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Wall-E

Review By Don Hill 
 
I am not going to discuss Wall-E like a Pixar fan-boy who thinks that this studio can do no wrong and always makes perfect movies, nor will I discuss Wall-E as a fan of animated movies in general.  I am here to discuss Wall-E as someone who is NOT a fan of animated movies, and who is a Pixar (and definitely of the other animation studios) skeptic.  I can list the animated movies that I have enjoyed since I was a teenager on one hand.  The only recent Pixar films that I thought were enjoyable were The Incredibles and Ratatouille (and, in the case of the latter, only barely).  This just is not my style of movie.   

I do have to admit that the trailer actually made me want to see this movie.  This is the first time that has ever happened.  The prospect of an almost silent animated film helped, as the song-and-dance numbers that generally fill this genre tend to grate on my nerves.  My mind made up, I went to the theater on opening weekend, which makes this the first animated movie I have seen on the big screen since Finding Nemo (which I didn’t like).

The animation is excellent, and some of the cinematography is superb.  The desolate garbage-filled earth is certainly a jab at consumer waste, which is one of the recurring themes that fill the movie.  The animation quality can make even a trash dump look beautiful and a cockroach becomes a cute and fun companion.  The robot protagonist Wall-E exudes personality and is hilarious is his newfound independence.  You sense his loneliness and yet cheer him on as he collects interesting remnants of civilization without knowing why he collects some of them.  This provides an endearing quality to the little trash compactor on treads that I really identified with.  

The movie expands into a silent love story between Wall-E and the “female” robot EVE, and this aspect of the movie is done very well.  Speaking in only blips and bleeps is not a wall (no pun intended) between Wall-E and the audience.  Even without words that we can hear and interpret, the movie gets the gist of the conversation across to the audience.  Wall-E and Eve communicate much like an old married couple in which words are unnecessary and sometimes intrusive to the act of talking.   

The rest of the movie follows the trend started in the first act and shines a light directly at people for their laziness and wasteful lives.  The humans of the future are overweight blobs stuck in mobile EZ chairs with TV screens constantly attached to their faces.  They have given away their individuality and their freedom in exchange for comfort and protection from responsibility.  I cheered inwardly at the bravery of the movie at showing what could happen with the human race on its current trend.  (The cameo of Fred Willard as the President of the company was laugh-out-loud funny.)  A direct jab at the current government administration veiled behind a movie plotline directed at children: brilliant and courageous.  The fact that the movie also showed that redemption is possible with a little love and interpersonal respect helped this movie with the less than pessimistic half of the audience (I am in the other half). 

I am still not a Pixar fan but this movie certainly helped me along in that direction.  This movie was one of the better movies of the year and was absolutely the best animated movie I have ever seen.  Congratulations Pixar. 

4 ½ / 5 stars

                     
 
 
 

Review by Shaun Yeoh

You know a film has had a profound effect on you - that after finishing a viewing of possibly the most hyped film of the year - The Dark Knight (which in its own right is brilliant), walking out of the cinema looking at the cardboard cut-outs for other current and future films, you think to yourself: “Hmmm, you know what, I could do with seeing that film again!”

I think I can safely say that I am in the minority in preferring Wall-E over the colossal juggernaut that was The Dark Knight. Having said that, I have always been a huge admirer of the genius that emanates from Pixar Animation Studios. They have never made a poor film, which after 13 years is an absolutely remarkable feat. Cars is possibly their weakest film, and although I am not the biggest fan of The Incredibles either, these films still stand head and shoulders above any other regular animators’ work. (Yes DreamWorks, I am looking your way). This is simply because Pixar is in a class of its own. They are able to manufacture animated films as works of art, rather than mere cartoons (which is how some people erroneously still refer to them). The audience for Pixar films is wide-ranging, and unlike many “cartoons”, Pixar films can be enjoyed equally by those from ages 5 to 105. And Wall-E is certainly no exception.

The first thing you will notice is Pixar’s trademark animation style – so detailed and intricate – you automatically feel immersed in Wall-E’s world from the get-go.  Director Andrew Stanton felt that the film was a tough sell, due to it’s opening half an hour or so, in which there is no actual dialogue spoken by the characters, in such a Chaplin-esque manner which was not only its most commercially risky move, but also the one that we must applaud Pixar most for. Those scenes which introduce Wall-E and his surroundings, followed by the arrival of EVE and their resulting interactions, are superb in their simplicity. In Wall-E, the delicacy with which Stanton and the people at Pixar are able to move between scenes with contrasting tones is a treat to watch. A light comic scene where Wall-E and EVE interact for the first time (“Name? Wall-E… Wall-E - EVE… EVA...? EVE… EVA?”) is interspersed with cute dramatic touches that complete a scene in such an indescribably brilliant way. Where a light comic scene may have dramatic touches in Wall-E, conversely, a dramatic scene in which Wall-E holds up an umbrella for a deactivated EVE (which is a sweet scene in itself) is contrasted deftly with a bit of physical comedy when Wall-E’s two umbrellas fall to bits in the face of Mother Nature.

Once Wall-E begins his outer-space adventure in pursuit of EVE (who is recalled as a result of her programming), the mood of the film changes. Some have argued that a small fault of Wall-E’s is that the latter half’s tendency to descend into somewhat of a simplistic chase. Firstly, in a purely aesthetic sense, the chase scenes are examples of spectacular animation at work. The visual palette employed is pleasure to the viewer’s eyes. Secondly, although the chase does allow secondary plot strands to appear (i.e. John and Mary, the introduction of the other robots on the Axiom) the focus is always on our hero Wall-E as he chases down the “girl” of his dreams, and the obstacles in his path. Because once they reunite sparks fly, literally. If you don’t have a smile on your face when Wall-E and EVE do their little dance in space, then I propose that you yourself are a robot without feelings.

At its core, Wall-E is a simple love story – but that is not to say that is all it has to offer. After all, this is a Pixar film, isn’t it? The underlying environmentalist theme is open to debate, especially regarding whether it was handled effectively. This is up to personal opinion; conservatives may pick problems with Wall-E’s “criticism” somewhat of big business and consumerism, insinuating that we will all become fat, lazy and slothful, unable to fend for ourselves – which I personally think is a narrow view, but hey, that’s the beauty of a film like this, with themes open to debate through layered depth, but also a simplistic core that allows all demographics (if they give the film a chance in the first place) enjoyment.

While not absolutely perfect, Wall-E still deserves a 5-star rating. Simply put, Wall-E is an entrancing piece of art that has all the elements of a modern masterpiece – a perfect film for young and old. Well done Pixar, your streak continues!     

5/5 stars

 
 
 
 

Review by Tony DiVincenzo

I went into Wall-E expecting a quality movie; I left convinced that Pixar can do no wrong.  The reputation of absolute excellence for Disney/Pixar Studios, well-deserved to be sure, has been growing steadily over the last few years through their repeated smashing successes.  However, while their previous pictures are great in their own right, I believe Wall-E to be their greatest achievement.  Of all the hard sells one can imagine, to try and make a movie that, in today’s world of over-the-top special effects and non-stop action, can keep hold of an audience and grip them without so much as a word… well, that’s something special.  Wall-E definitely aimed at young children in their marketing campaign but, rest assured, it would take a truly remarkable child to appreciate everything Wall-E ended up accomplishing.

It’s a testament to the quality of Wall-E that the breathtaking animation isn’t the highlight of the movie.  Everything flows together; the landscapes are realistic, the characters are lifelike in their movements and expressions, and together they create a magnificent picture.  In order to put Pixar’s success in the animation department into perspective, try comparing Wall-E to something like, for example, Vanguard’s Space Chimps.  Whereas Vanguard’s animation comes off goofy and fake, Wall-E feels more real and has little of the “cartoon feel” that is typical in animated movies.  As Wall-E floats through space and marvels at what he sees, the audience can’t help but marvel right alongside him.  Truth be told, to garner full appreciation for this movie, there must be a willing suspension of disbelief that is somewhat difficult to produce, but given the difficulty in conveying a story about robots in space hundreds of years in the future, Pixar does an admirable job.

But even as great as the animation is, it doesn’t come to mind first when praising Wall-E’s merits.  The true achievement of this movie comes in the emotions that are achieved without any dialogue whatsoever.  Wall-E’s first thirty minutes are shown without words, yet that hardly matters.  Simply through Wall-E’s beeps and boops, the audience is made to feel the full effect that human dialogue would have, as well as the added bonus that comes from having emotions conveyed by actions instead of spoken.

The interactions between Wall-E and EVE, the “female” robot that comes to Earth to perform a biological survey, are touching, and the love story between them flows smoothly and clearly as Andrew Stanton evokes more emotion from two robots than many films do through human characters.  When all was said and done, the attachment I felt to characters that were mechanical surprised me a great deal; a truly difficult concept to pull off, but a great achievement.  The social commentary of this movie, including its anti-consumerism and negative take on the human condition, was certainly somewhat dark and negative, and not completely to my taste for such a movie, but thankfully, it never descended into hopelessness.

Despite all the positives that I see with an adult perspective, I’m not suggesting that Wall-E isn’t a movie for kids, as the physical humor and chuckles placed throughout the movie and action scenes later are more than enough to entertain them.  I do believe, however, that what children and adults should take away from the movie are two completely different things and that, in the end, is another characteristic that makes this a great movie and one that should be universally enjoyed.  Kids will love Wall-E for what it is on the surface: an entertaining cartoon about a cute robot’s adventures through space with his friends.  Adults will see what’s beneath: an emotional, touching romance with genuine laughs and an intriguing sci-fi slant, told spectacularly in a way that only Pixar could tell it.

I’ve always hated how the best animated films invariably get snubbed for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture nominations, being relegated to a “Best Animated Film” sub-category, as though the work isn’t good enough to compete with the rest of the field.  Wall-E is good enough to break that trend and if the stigma of the “cartoon” label doesn’t mean as much as quality film does, it certainly deserves strong consideration at this point.  Whether it will or not remains to be seen, but regardless, I believe Wall-E is a masterpiece in the art of storytelling; one meant to be enjoyed by both children and adults alike.

Recommendation: It’s easily worth watching in theaters but if you’re bringing kids, make sure they have the attention span to sit through the first half hour without words.

4 ½ /5 stars

 
 
 
 

Review by Steven Froese 

I've always enjoyed animation. I think it is easier to get “lost” in a good animated film than it is in a live-action one. For example, in the opening scene of Wall-E, where we see the ruins of earth 700 hundred years from now, looked hauntingly real, and I was immediately transported to another time and place.

I loved the imagination that went into the first act of the film. The writers and director were able to tell part of the story only with visuals. They didn't need to have words or endless pop-culture references to keep the viewer interested. Somehow I felt that if the robots would have been talking instead of their mechanical noises and clicks, we wouldn't have gotten as emotionally involved in Wall-E's story as we did.

Going back to the visuals, they were amazing. I know it must sound redundant by now, but Pixar's animation is the best out there. Earth was hauntingly realistic, as I said before. The Axiom was hectic, and so much was going on but everything looked really good. Outer Space and the Galaxies were just beautiful.

The love story between Wall-E and EVE would probably be the hardest part to suspend your belief, but the way that Andrew Stanton tells the story and creates the chemistry between the two robots makes it much more believable than many live-action “human” love stories.

I really don’t like it when films try too hard to bring their point across. That's when they become preachy and try to shove it down our throats, which is a big turn-off for me.  Wall-E’s “message”, which was a not-too-subtle caution against the way humans treat our world (and themselves), was obvious, but not egregious, and in the end, seemed like more like an afterthought to the robots’ love story, which was another great thing about Wall-E.

Though nearly perfect, my one problem with the movie was the ultra-happy way it ended… but I won’t spoil that for you.   Otherwise, I loved Wall-E, and rate it up there right behind the best animated movies such as Shrek (the first one) and The Lion King.

4 ½/5 stars

 
 
 
 

Review by Paul Edwards

Wall-E is quite possibly the best animation movie this side of Toy Story. There, I said it. I found a soft spot in my heart for what is, in essence, a love story between two robots.

The first thing I thought of as Wall-E and EVE’s relationship began to establish itself on screen was Titanic. Just like Titanic there were big events and wondrous spectacle, but what really mattered was Wall-E’s feelings for EVE. Even when Wall-E made its departure (away from the cuteness, and back to reality that was the core of the movie), that stayed the same. I really liked how they were total opposites of each other: EVE was all business, somewhat dismissive and possessing a hair-trigger, whereas Wall-E was shy and timid. Their relationship defined this movie, since it was the vehicle for the themes this movie was trying to tell.

Visually, this is the best work Pixar has ever done. From the mountains of garbage the made up the landscape of the now-deserted Earth, to the reflection of light off Wall-E’s “eyes”, everything is near life-like. Which makes perfect sense, since Wall-E and EVE are more human then the humans present in the film. Andrew Stanton, who directed and wrote the story, portrays his inner being on this film. We know full well where he is coming from. The movie’s turn is almost like the The Day After Tomorrow. It takes a decidedly obvious political turn that almost takes away from the whole beginning of the movie, but it is up to the viewer to decide whether this turn is too drastic.
 
Unfortunately, the humans involved are more like caricatures then Wall-E and EVE. That is probably by design, so we could get the message, but I would have liked a bit more information on the humans and some of their background, and how the human race degenerated into a group of gelatinous, overweight, lethargic blobs, living their lives floating around on hovering easy chairs and plugged into whatever entertainment network exists in this future society.
 

Fred Willard makes a great appearance here as the CEO of the all-powerful corporation that has taken over the world.  His little comedic moments bring some lightness to this otherwise serious and damp flick. You’ll love how he pops in and out at important times helping you out with the plot if the body language isn’t enough. Speaking of which, I must take my hat off to Pixar for even trying something like this.  It’s one thing to do a  cartoon about a rat who wants to be a chef, but it is another to do an animated kids’ flick where the first thirty minutes includes no spoken dialogue whatsoever.

So, with all that in mind, I’ll give this a strong recommendation, for the young, the old, the married, and the lonely. This love story will show you a new perspective about the future.

4 1/2 / 5 stars
 

Comments (1):

  • stuart Bland @ 07/28/2008 ( 6:22:08 PM )
    Nice to see the wheel is finally turning Donte!! By this time next year you're anticipation for UP! may just get close to that of Watchmen....

    Well maybe not, but glad to see you're open to movies outside your comfort zone. Now if only I can get my hands on it.....
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