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der wall-e movie thingo - EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!

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July 14th, 2008


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09:28 am - der wall-e movie thingo
Saturday night was Drive-In Night, which meant a jaunt over to the Mendon Twin for WALL-E (I'm using the hyphen because I don't want to use the ampersand code for the extended character) and Journey to the Center of the Earth (though probably not in 3D). I say "probably" because we didn't actually get to go. Carolyn and I arrived well before the movie start time, but found ourselves in a long line of cars idling in front of the "toll booth" box office. By the time we were two or three cars away from buying our tickets, the show sold out. We were all routed around in one U-turn chain and sent home. Yes, the moral of the story is to arrive early early early (so early, in fact, that you have plenty of time to tailgate beforehand and enjoy dinner and maybe toss a frisbee around or something) but in this case, it was still enjoyable just to take a drive out for the evening.

We then went to a multicineplex off 495 and caught WALL-E anyway, and I was so happy to see it (I do confess that I was glad we saw it on a large cinema screen with full surround sound and all, as I don't think the drive-in experience would've done the film justice.)

I loved the opening sequence. The film accomplished so much with "silence" though honestly in this case, silence just means "lack of major dialogue". The silence gave such a lonely, empty, atmospheric feel to WALL-E's desolate home and watching him go about his daily work, just as he'd done for years and years and years on end, was astonishing and compelling. In this regard it's really a challenging film to mainstream audiences. You must observe the action and interaction between the robotic characters without the benefit of being spoon-fed expository dialogue and/or wisecracks at every plot point. Gasp! Having to make contextual connections and actually watch the screen! You mean we have to think? I feel bad for those who could not follow the story without their familiar crutch, and thus deemed it "boring". Watching WALL-E's silent film pratfalls and navigating whatever environment he was in could've hardly been boring.

I mean, let's face it, this film could have easily been given dialogue: WALL-E and EVE could have easily been voiced by Big Hollywood Stars and the supporting robots all given wacky voices and silly, stereotyped characterizations (the painter robot with an Outrageous Fronsh Accent! The gay hairdresser robot! The tiny but sassy cleaning robot voiced by Wanda Sykes!) ... but saner heads prevailed, and the film is so much the richer for it.

Compare this to the preview which we saw for "Beverly Hills Chihuahua", a live-action talking animal movie which, on the poster, helpfully tells you that it's pronounced "chee-wa-wa". (Disney did the same thing for Ratatouille, but in this day and age I'd think more Americans would know what a chihuahua was than a French dish with crazy dipthongs and stuff.) During the trailer we saw George Lopez voice the chihuahua and Drew Barrymore voice a fancy handbag dog and, as you can probably guess, a lot of the humor comes from watching a dog say stuff like "Oh no she dint!"

Now I'm not saying that if given the WALL-E treatment, Beverly Hills Chihuahua could become a beautiful atmospheric film and pull the heartstrings and give us more reasons to love robots dogs. It's not the same. And if it did happen, reality would FREAK ME THE HELL OUT.

And then this brings us to those trying to find Shocking And Horrible complaints from a mostly-conservative perspective, who could not see the forest for their Righteous Indignation. I did not see the story as a condemnation of "Us" as a consumerist culture (and if you begin your critique with "I don't like how the film portrays us" then you've already revealed some kind of deep-seated shame, as the "Us" in this live over 700 years in the future.) Now yes, the people on board Axiom had grown fat and complacent and wired into everything, and yes, perhaps that's carrying a Cautionary Message about what might happen to us if we continue down the path to corporate theocracy (ooh I like that phrase) but honestly, the Axiom inhabitants were products of their surroundings. All their whims were catered to, everything they needed was provided by the benevolent Buy-N-Large gods, and zero-G helped make 'em chubby.

But once those folks saw what they were missing (oh, say, like walking, or even just looking out a window) they took to it with open minds instead of just going "oh, blah blah blah, whatever, let's be negative lazy stereotypes instead and go back to our floating Barcaloungers and video screens." That they were willing to even consider a change speaks volumes about their character, and the closing credits montage of the kids learning how to do stuff on their own moved me the most, for some hippy-dippy reason.

If all someone could see from that film were "lol fat lazy Americans lol" then I wonder what they thought of the ensuing change. Didn't they see that as positive? Or were they already frothing at the mouth by that point, coming up with ways to work their children into their critiques or making some lame-ass Al Gore crack about the environmental message of waste?

These are the types of people who will absolutely adore Beverly Hills Chihuahua because it won't have a single "message" bone in its body unless there's some froo-frah about "little dogs can be big heroes too". You know. The kind of moral that makes me retch.

So to sum up here, the movie was absolutely beautiful, its story flaws were overshadowed by its atmosphere and characterizations, and I can't find anything to gnash my teeth over because I actually like thinking for myself.

But mad props to the FoxNews commentator who used the phrase "Malthusian influences" in his condemnation of the film, when approximately 95% of his target audience probably don't know who Malthus was. Way to go, Mr. Big Three-Dollar Word Smartypants!

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:gwynethfar
Date:July 14th, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC)
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I thought that the silence of the world he was living in made it especially poignant when he came home and watched "Hello, Dolly." It also made me wonder what the movie would have been like if he came home from his lonely wasteland job and popped in "Terminator."
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From:rosalux
Date:July 14th, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
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That's funny, because I actually was disappointed with how optimistic it was. Like, we saw the little chart about how they HAD NO BONES and then they all toddled out into the wasteland and went, OK, let's grow some stuff!

There were some moments when it dipped it's toe into a darker place (I totally thought the captain was going to look at the pictures of garbageland earth and say to the little plant "Wow, maybe we should stay in space and not mess it up any worse!").

But I suppose a shot of optimism now & then is good for me.
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From:sandrylene
Date:July 16th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
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Yeah... I mostly enjoyed the end, and on the whole thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but the ending's sudden, unjustified hope kind of dug at me a bit. "We have no experience, discipline, or tools - let's go!" paired with "now we'll build the world's flora and fauna over again from the ground up, though we have no biodiversity whatsoever, but then suddenly we'll be fishing in the next scene" was just, "wait, what?!" I mean, sure, some suspension of disbelief is totally necessary, but that was pretty staggering.
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From:lexinatrix
Date:July 14th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
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At our little sci-fi/fantasy/nerd festival convention, Kenneth Hite (a guest of honor) gave us his theory that WALL-E was a parable, and that WALL-E is The Devil.

Humans live in perfect bliss (on their generation ship) where they want for nothing, are close to God and bathed in heavenly light. WALL-E shows Eve a tree and pretty soon humans are forced to work their asses off just to survive.
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From:jrw
Date:July 14th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
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In what way are they close to God? They're pretty far removed from any spiritual sensibility whatsoever. So the force-fit of the parable breaks down at that point, as clever as it superficially seems.
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From:lexinatrix
Date:July 14th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Ken meant to reference the scene where they show the generation ship, floating in space, in a fluffy nebula, surrounded by pretty light, likening it to a heavenly host-style representation.

I suppose one needs both a sense of imagination and humor to understand where he was coming from. I can see why some would struggle with this.
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From:derspatchel
Date:July 15th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
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Well, you could also get into the whole free will argument if you wanted to -- EVE here had to follow her directive; she had no choice in taking the plant back.

Or you could go for the Noah's Ark olive branch parallel, which I liked a lot.
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From:cursethedark
Date:July 14th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
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Caught it last week. I thought it was amazing. (To say nothing of the short at the beginning...and since I've mentioned it, I might as well say something, so: it was also great.)

Unfortunately, I also saw the preview for Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It made me want to stab the entire universe in the face.

IN THE FACE. Seriously, had I not been in a theater with other people at the time, there would have been very loud and inventive profanity.
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From:alphacygni
Date:July 15th, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
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I thought WALL-E was gorgeous (also saw it this weekend) and amazingly well done and lots of fun. But I was also left with a pretty profound sense of despair afterwards. The way that they crafted the digs at current attempts at alternative energy (the barren landscape, dotted with wind generators, surrounded by trash) left me feeling as if I'd just been told: Nothing is going to work. It's all going to fail. You have no chance to survive make yo... You get the picture.

And contrasted with that bleak thought, the simple optimism of the ending (look, starting an agricultural society with no skills or supplies works swell!) left me with whiplash.
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From:rosalux
Date:July 16th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if it's just a temperament thing, or if it's an experience-formed thing. It actually reminds me of how I felt about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Everyone I knew thought it had a happy ending and i thought it was just tragic because it seemed obvious to me that the characters hadn't learned anything and were just going to make the exact same mistakes again.
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From:derspatchel
Date:July 16th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
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I do admit my cynical thought was "Yay! We're home! Now let's mess it all up again!" but it quickly quieted down when they started doing nifty things with the credits sequence.
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From:fancycwabs
Date:July 15th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
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I saw it at an advance screening, which had the benefit of no previews for Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Then I took Mrs. Cwabs to see it later and had to endure it, and an entire audience of children going "Chi WAH WAH" for ten minutes while the remaining previews ran.

Also. No comment on "Presto?" While WALL•E falls behind Brad Bird's offerings in the Pixar Cannon, "Presto" may be my very favorite Pixar short ever.

Hey copy editors! Quotes around shorts?

Edited at 2008-07-15 03:20 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:redtheblue
Date:July 16th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
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The saddest thing about "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is the demand for chihuahuas will bubble and so chihuahua thefts will increase, making for a lot of heartbroken kiddies and missing pets. At least no one is going to steal cute, sentient robots. So is there anything about BHC that doesn't indicate an oncoming tragedy for the nation?
From:ext_83464
Date:July 17th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
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Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

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