Friday, July 18, 2008

Wall-E (Stanton, 2008)

Anyone who knows me will know that I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Wall-E for a long time. For months I've been telling everyone how amazing the film will be - the teaser trailer had me in tears, and with each and every snippet released to promote the film my expectations grew higher and higher. This was it: the film that could possibly become my new all-time favourite, a film so cute it'd make me teeth rot and I wouldn't care. Of course, people kept telling me - it'll disappoint! Don't expect too much!

Absolute rubbish. My sky-high expectations were met, beaten to the ground, piled higher and trampled on. This film, to me, is utter, utter perfection. However, I will admit that I'm finding it very difficult to think about the film in a critical way - the fact that the characters are so damn cute, the message is one that I feel so strongly about and that there's one Kubrick reference that's so genius it floored me, the film's flaws fall on rather blind eyes.

So, I will try to pick them out. Once the actual plot of the film gets going, it all does seems a little thin and a little rushed. Once characters appear who, y'know, talk, their dialogue is a little bit wonky. And...

...yeah, that's all I've got. In a film as stunningly beautiful as this, I'm finding it very hard to find fault.

Wall-E himself is an utter triumph of design and character. That an animated machine conveys more emotion than so many of his human counterparts is simply stunning. Each and every twitch of his eyes or whir of his cogs is made to make us feel everything he does. And it's not a simple case of: "look, cute robot, aaaw!" - he's a fully-developed character. He's kind-hearted, intelligent, practical, lonely, hopeful, caring...utterly, utterly lovable.

Thankfully, Wall-E is not the only one so wonderfully brought to life. Eve, the robot he falls for, has completed my trinity of feminist icons - Dana Scully and Eowyn of Rohan being the other two. It's not just because she packs a wicked gun - Eve works hard. Nothing will stand in the way of her directive - and what an important one it is! - but that doesn't mean she's not a dreamer. Left alone on Earth to scan for life, she relishes the freedom. It takes meeting Wall-E, the most heart-breakingly lonely character in cinema, for her to realise her own loneliness, that sometimes there are things more important than directives.

That I so completely and utterly related to two computer-generated robotic characters is baffling and only a slightly worrying reflection of myself. Wall-E and Eve aren't just about the angst or the romance, they're about the funny too. Joined later by a gang of robots - Mo being the most adorably memorable - their innocence and playfulness lead to some wonderfully funny moments.

So far, I've not even mentioned the animation. Pixar have utterly outdone themselves. From the bleak landscape of Earth to the sleek designs of the Axiom, the animation is faultless. Some sequences could easily be from any other big-budget effects movie. The use of music and sound in the film is vital - there's virtually no dialogue for about the first thirty minutes - and Thomas Newman's score is wonderful. Of course, it goes without saying that Ben Burtt's chirps and beeps are glorious.

Best of all about Wall-E is that it's a kids' film for adults, an adult world made for children. A film both sweet and terrifying all at once, the combination of innocence lost and found is makes for an incredibly moving piece of cinema. In addition to the little robots making cute, the cinematic references are wonderful. When the Axiom's Captain takes his first steps on legs that humans have forgotten how to use - all to the sounds of Also Sprach Zarathustra - I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Like I said, reviewing the film is difficult, because I'm struggling to get past that "blub, blub, oh god the cute, blub, blub" stage of things, but I don't really care how much my hyperbole makes me sound uncritical. Wall-E deserves all the praise it receives - for creative bravery, for social commentary, for pure romance and cuteness - cinema does not get much better than this.

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