WALL-E

Movie Information

The Story: Left on Earth to clean up the tons of waste left by humans, a robot develops a personality and falls in love with a visiting robot. The Lowdown: A brilliant first half and a more traditional second half result in an entertaining film that just never scales the heights intended.
Score:

Genre: Animated-Sci-Fi Comedy-Romance
Director: Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo)
Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
Rated: G

Judging by the reviews of Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E, it’s probably time the folks at Pixar designated themselves as a church and claimed tax-exempt status. Now, although I find it an uneven one, WALL-E is a good film. But the amount of unstinting praise being heaped on it is frankly alarming. I mean, seriously, is it really “one of the best films ever made” as Steve Rhodes (Internet Reviews) claims? Does Sean O’Connell (Filmcritic.com) truly wonder what he will do to “pass the time until Pixar’s next endeavor, Up, arrives”? Does Lou Lumenick (New York Post) honestly believe that “some day, there will be college courses devoted to this movie”? Will it one day be possible to get a master of arts in Pixarology?

Now, before a massive letter-writing campaign commences, attacking my parentage, my politics and even my right to continue using up oxygen, please note that I have not called WALL-E a bad movie. I’m simply asking for a little perspective here. This is an animated film about robots in love. There’s nothing wrong with that. It also has a deeper theme about consumerism and ecology. There’s nothing wrong with that either (though it raises a separate issue of its own). It is not, however, the 21st-century equivalent of the Mona Lisa or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

The first part of WALL-E actually is a thing of wonder. The Pixar people have created a post-civilization vision of Earth that’s more striking and more believable than anything I’ve ever seen in a straight science-fiction movie. The decayed, empty skyscrapers and big-box retailers flanked by towers of compacted trash are remarkable (eerily similar to depictions of the Tower of Babel). It’s perfectly believable that the only inhabitants of this landscape are the sole functioning cleanup robot, WALL-E (“Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class”), and his nameless cockroach buddy. Since robots work on the basis of simple directives, WALL-E happily carries on with his seemingly endless task of amassing, compacting and stacking the accumulated waste generated by humankind.

The catch is that the little fellow has developed a personality over the years. He stopped simply compacting everything and has taken to storing items that catch his fancy in a kind of curio museum that resembles Juliette Binoche’s character’s cache of shiny stolen objects in Bee Season (2005). WALL-E has also developed a romantic streak—through endlessly watching a worn VHS copy of Hello, Dolly! (1969). (Whether this prime example of overproduced, overpriced conspicuous consumption was chosen with a sense of irony is unknown. We should perhaps merely be thankful he didn’t come across Mame (1974) instead.)

His world changes forever with the arrival of EVE (“Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator”), a sleek, hovering robot that vaguely resembles one of those personal battery-operated fans. She has her own directive and a trigger finger that makes Marvin the Martian from the old Warner Bros. cartoons look positively placid. This being a movie means that WALL-E will immediately develop a hopeless Chaplin-esque adoration for this sleek beauty. But it turns out not to be so hopeless once she realizes WALL-E isn’t a threat. She succumbs to his awkward charms—at least until he shows her his greatest treasure, a seedling, which kicks her directive into high gear, shutting her down and signaling her for pickup.

It’s at this point that WALL-E itself shifts gears. As soon as WALL-E stows away on the spaceship in pursuit of EVE, the film turns into something a lot less special and a lot more like a fairly typical animated movie—no matter how well done. Even the drawing becomes less realistic and more cartoonish. That this is the section of the movie that’s packed with satirical commentary of humankind’s enslavement to its own creations doesn’t make the tonal shift any less jarring, and it doesn’t keep the second half of the film from becoming ordinary by comparison with the first.

Human beings are reduced to morbidly obese gigantic babies who float around on hover chairs, playing video games and sucking down fast-food meals in cups. There’s no human interaction (yet, strangely, there are baby humans) except that which occurs on their computer screens. These are our couch-potato selves taken to the logical conclusion. As a commentary on our lazy, self-contained, e-mail, cell phone, text-message, videogame-driven society, this is unnervingly on target.

That this image and its message are housed in a film with a massive amount of tie-in merchandise destined to become part of the landfills of waste WALL-E compacts—including a video game for every known operating system, which is hawked in the film’s closing credits—is either ironic or just plain hypocritical. (Hey, folks, think about all that waste you generate, but on the way home stop at Wal-Mart and pick up the WALL-E video game and some WALL-E pajamas for the kids to wear while playing it!) Does this make the film’s message any less important? No, but it takes the concept of “do what I say, not what I do” to new levels.

The end result is a good movie—and one-half of a great one—but with a message it doesn’t seem to actually subscribe to. Some will say that I’m taking this all too seriously and overanalyzing the film, but the message is right there and in your face. And really, if this is indeed to be accepted as “one of the best movies ever made,” how is it that I could be taking it too seriously? You can’t have it both ways. Rated G.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

51 thoughts on “WALL-E

  1. Ken Hanke

    Do you see shades of Tati in this movie, like other reviewers?

    I can’t say that Tati came to mind, but I don’t think in terms of Tati as a general rule, so I’m not sure he’d occur to me. Thinking back on it with Tati in mind, I’m still not seeing an obvious connection.

    I haven’t seen Hancock yet (I watched Kit Kittredge last night), so I’m not weighing in on whether to choose it or WALL-E.

  2. TigerShark

    >>no human interaction (yet, strangely, there are baby humans)

    Generated by test tube, they’re there to generate some concern at the end, with the ship tilting, so that the two human characters have to show some heroism and concern for others. Baby blobs arouse more concern than grownup blobs, and probably always will. The one unnecessarily calculated event in the movie.

  3. Robin Anderson

    While the irony of being berated about conspicuous consumerism by the Disney/Pixar corporation isn’t lost on me (or anyone seeing this movie who have reached the age of majority and who possess a three-digit IQ), I really quite disagree with the notion that the film somehow disappoints in its’ second half.

    Though it’s presented in day-glo colors, the society that has evolved on the spaceship is even more horrible than the lifeless husk of the earth. The bright, candy-coated existence the human race has been reduced to is easy to laugh at on a superficial level (there’s a great joke about the mass of humanity actually tipping the ship over to one side), but it’s really a lot more frightening–and interesting–than the usual post-apocalyptic burning trash can movies science fiction films usually dish up.

    WALL-E might not stand the test of time, but right now, in 2008, it’s as good an SF movie as we’re likely to see.

  4. A-Jack

    The reviewers cynical comments about the possible hypocracy of the movie’s message when considering the realities of the merchandising movie business are desultory and ill informed. The minds who dreamed up WALL-E and crafted the message are almost certainly not the same people who will turn it into a shilled product to recompense the production companies investment as well as line the pockets of its executives. You act as though individuals can still own their own movies and everything affiliated with the movie is their responsibility. So what? Should they have kept their idea to themselves for fear that the studio would make a buck off it? Give me a break.

  5. Andrew Leal

    As for the movie itself, my sentiments were not dissimilar to Ken’s (though I’ve seen most Pixar movies in theaters and own every DVD save the utterly disposable “Cars.”) It was good, but more interesting for what they were trying to do. The pacing also felt off, so the film felt longer than it should have (and the second half didn’t help), but I think it had more than a little to do with the attached Pixar short “presto.” The frenetic Tex Avery-style short, with wild action every second, was not the best choice to precede the lovely but slow first half of “Wall*E.” As for “Hello Dolly,” the bits and pieces repeatesd over and over were a bit much, to where I almost wished they’d use Walter Matthau “singing” “It Takes a Woman” instead. The characters, apart from Wall*E (who was surprisingly more appealing and less of a cliche than I’d thought), were more cogs than personalities, especially EVA. Not planning to see it again in theaters, but on DVD, with a chance to pause and savor the details, I think I’ll find it well worth revisiting (if hardly one of the greatest movies ever made, and again, I’m hardly a Pixar basher myself, but you’re dead on about the overkill).

    As for the movie’s message and merchandising, Ken Hanke’s not the only critic to notice it. And the “certainly not the same people” claim doesn’t quite hold here. Personally, I’d call it ironic and a result of the Disney/Pixar merger and what seems to me to be a sometimes willfully naive happygolukcy attitude endemic to Pixar. In several interviews, Andrew Stanton claims the environmental message isn’t necessarily his deep belief, noting that he just recycles when he remembers, but that it worked in the narrative. That’s fine, but the message is still ingrained. As is the marketing. A-Jack, read the credits some time. Pixar often makes it a point to thank all of their different departments, with individuals named, in the credits, from software and research to the cafeteria staff, but there’s three blocks in a row, covering “Consumer Products,” “Marketing,” and “DVD Authoring,” all in-house Pixar departments, not the Disney monolith. And since John Lasseter is “Chief Creative Officer” in charge of the joint Disney/Pixar animation departments, while he doesn’t have full control, he’s one of those very executives and could certainly influence the marketing and choice of products if he chose. I don’t know about the “Wall*E” video game specifically, but director Stanton worked on the Finding Nemo tie-in games, directing new footage and so on, and in general, the Pixar people have more input and shape a good portion of the merchandise.

    From interviews, blogs, featurettes, and others, my take on Pixar is this. The Pixar folks are sort of self-enclosed in Emeryville, a happy semi-hippie group, cheerfully creating shorts and features and presenting things which amuse them or what they want to entertain the masses with, and whatever messages they want to send (intentionally or otherwise). At the same time, they seem to genuinely *love* the merchandise. I’m not talking about the profits even, but artists and animators keeep and collect toys from their own movies, give them to family, spout on about how cool and how happy they are that the action figures turned out the way they dreamed they would be. One Pixar animator, on his blog, has talked about his struggles to complete his own collection of die-cast “Cars” vehicles. The “overgrown kid” mindset often attributed to animators is, to some extent, present at Pixar, and that’s not always a bad thing, but it seems part and parcel of why contradictions like these come up, but cause no apparent concerns to them.

    This isn’t necessarily a knock, and it’s all my own perceptions, not based on actual experience of direct observation, but it certainly seems to fit the facts.

  6. Ken Hanke

    You act as though individuals can still own their own movies and everything affiliated with the movie is their responsibility. So what? Should they have kept their idea to themselves for fear that the studio would make a buck off it? Give me a break.

    I’m not that naive or misinformed. Nor do I begrudge them the film or its ancillary products (do you suppose the filmmakers themselves denied themselves their cut?). That it should go unremarked and unnoticed, however, would be hypocrisy of the first order by anyone reviewing the film.

  7. Ken Hanke

    it’s really a lot more frightening–and interesting–than the usual post-apocalyptic burning trash can movies science fiction films usually dish up.

    To some degree, Robin, I wouldn’t argue with you over that point, but I do find the second half of the film at odds with the first in terms of tone and style. It is definitely more cartoonish than anything in the first half.

  8. Murray Rosner

    I agree with you 100%.great technical effects.Story sucked.Everyone knows a Wall-E Robot and an EVE can’t be romantically linked.Yet Pixar totally ignored this crucial fact.Next we’ll have 3CPO and R2D2 becoming an item.Will it ever end?

  9. Vince Lugo

    I’m a massive pop culture junkie, and my area of expertise happens to be animation (and not just from the US either). When I saw WALL-E on Tuesday, for most of the runtime I actually forgot that I was watching a movie because I was so sucked into the world of the story. It is truly a mesmerizing film and those are rare these days (the last film to have that effect was the masterful “Good Night and Good Luck”).

    I am also getting started as a writer and looking at it from a writer’s perspective, I feel that if you want to tell a story, you shouldn’t worry about who it’s going to appeal to, just tell the story and Pixar does that better than anyone else. In the case of WALL-E, if they actually manage to get a Best Picture nomination (as they are rumored to be pushing for), it would not be undeserved, if only for the fact that the filmmakers managed to get so much emotion, character, and storytelling out of the robots saying not much more than each others names (which one would imagine to be a monumentally challenging task).

    On a final note, I want to say that people who refer to Pixar’s films as “disney movies” should be drug out into the street and shot. Disney itself hasn’t come anywhere close to that level of quality in years, so confusing the two is an insult to Pixar (and remember, kids, they only merged because Disney offered them a rediculously huge bribe. They would have been just as content to take their work elsewhere, and any sane studio would have jumped at the chance to work with them). And that’s all I have to say about that.

  10. Elleirba

    Ken, I actually agree with you on most levels, which surprises me because when I saw the movie, (yesterday,) I thought it was ‘one of the best movies ever made’. Then again, I’m not hard to please. (That’s probably why critic is at the top of my ‘future career’ list.) But reading your review, and thinking back, I do agree, especially when you mention the fact that although there is little to no physical contact with the adults, there are still baby blobs. My younger sister alson noticed this: Where are the children, the teenagers, the old folks? All you ever see are the adults and the babies. Personally, I found this more than a little too weird. There were actually a lot of aspects I noticed on the Axiom ship that just didn’t feel right. Basically, anytime humans were shown, I felt a bit uncomfortable watching. My personal opinion. Although I still feel the movie as a whole was 100% fabulous.

  11. Ken Hanke

    I think it had more than a little to do with the attached Pixar short “presto.” The frenetic Tex Avery-style short, with wild action every second, was not the best choice to precede the lovely but slow first half of “Wall*E.”

    That’s an excellent point. My only real problem with it is that — apart from the overdose of Hello, Dolly! — it wasn’t the first part of the film that dragged for me, but the latter, faster-paced part. That reaction may not be standard.

    I’d call it ironic and a result of the Disney/Pixar merger and what seems to me to be a sometimes willfully naive happygolukcy attitude endemic to Pixar.

    I’m perhaps unduly cynical in this matter, but can I be the only person who occasionally wonders whether the “willfully naive happygolucky attitude” isn’t a deliberately cultivated image?

    In several interviews, Andrew Stanton claims the environmental message isn’t necessarily his deep belief, noting that he just recycles when he remembers, but that it worked in the narrative. That’s fine, but the message is still ingrained. As is the marketing.

    I’ve read this, and I really find it hard to believe that the message of the film is a happy accident, because it’s pretty darn obvious, or, as you put it, ingrained. As for the merchandising, it’s likely a little more ramped-up than usual, since one of Disney’s apparent complaints with Ratatouille was its lack of tie-in merchandise.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Personally, I want to see a romance between the robot in The Phantom Creeps (1939) and the one in Mysterious Dr. Satan (1940). Then you’d have something.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Although I still feel the movie as a whole was 100% fabulous.

    That far I can’t go, but after seeing Hancock, it seemed a lot better to me, but that’s another story for another review.

  14. Andrew Leal

    “That’s an excellent point. My only real problem with it is that—apart from the overdose of Hello, Dolly!—it wasn’t the first part of the film that dragged for me, but the latter, faster-paced part. That reaction may not be standard.”

    I think for me it was a little of both. The shift from short to feature was abrupt, so it took me longer to become engaged with the world and Wall*E (and that was itself disrupted even before the second half with the arrival of EVE, but moments like the montage where the robot holds an umbrella over the unconscious egg and is electrocuted for his troubles made up for it). But in the second half, it becomes a different movie. I don’t know if this explains it, but going through the “art of” book, the ship was originally supposed to be populated by fat aliens called “gelatins,” colored in six delicious flavors, but at some point that was shelved in favor of the future of the human race. In either case, though, it seems like the development of that portion didn’t go beyond the idea and basically served as an excuse for standard action contrivances (fight the evil authority robot, free a ragtag band of friends with no real personalities, multiple near death encounters, as far as death applies to robots, etc.)

    “I’m perhaps unduly cynical in this matter, but can I be the only person who occasionally wonders whether the “willfully naive happygolucky attitude” isn’t a deliberately cultivated image?”

    Oh, no, it’s most definitely cultivated (as it was even for the “Termite Terrace” halcyon days or certain directors and so on, or for that matter the “star text” of anyone in the studio era), but I think there’s more than a grain of truth in it, not so much as far as “happygolucky” (a poor choice of words from a tired mind) but as far as a willful self-absorption and basically Pixar as an enclosed environment, which sometimes works as far as the film goes, but also leads to the very problem we’re discussing (and also questionable messages in “The Incredibles” and elsewhere). I didn’t word it well, but I think my point there is that for whatever reason, the folks in question, who cannot be blind to the ironies, play and collect and even sometimes buy their own toys and video games, whether out of genuine desire or just to add to that cultivated image and say “we’re also a client, so the merchandising can’t be that bad, can it?”

    I may have to see WALL*E again in theaters after all, but will see it again at some point anyway, to revisit these points. The saddest part is, if the upcoming list of Pixar movies suggests even less of a “tries but doesn’t quite make it” spirit or a conflict between message and market, but a capitulation to quick tie-ins and toy bucks, like CARS 2 (set for 2012 and to be directed by Pixar producer Brad Lewis, who has never directed, written, or animated a thing in his career). The plot, as released so far, is just that the mean car goes on the European racing circuit, thus introducing more marketable vehicles (the movie’s box office was pretty poor, but the toy sales, for both kids and adult collectors, have been surprising). Also coming is TOY STORY 3 (maybe a glimmer, with a screeplay by the “Little Miss Sunshine” writer, but still not exactly necessary), NEWT (directed by LucasFilm sound designer Gary Rydstrom, a semi-environmental tale about amphibians who must mate to save their species but hate each other, how original), and THE BEAR AND THE BOW (by Brenda Chapman, moved over from Disney where she worked on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST; a 1990s Disney-style Scottish fairytale about curses and a feisty princess who defies her parents, yawn). The most promising so far is Brad Bird’s live action movie about the 1910 San Francisco earthquake (and that mostly because of the subject matter and as the studio’s first attempt at a purely live action, dramatic movie).

  15. I liked the film, although it is more flawed, then say RATATOUILLE, which is probably my favorite Pixar film right now.

    It was mentioned earlier in this thread, but the real reason to go is the manic short “Presto” which tips the hat (literally) to Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, two of my heroes. The laughs come SO fast that you don’t have time to catch up.

  16. IvanIvanovitch

    Exactly my sentiments. Wall-E, like Ratatouille, has a unique idea and appealing characters. Unfortunately the plot falls through in both films. Sad comparisons to classics like Toy Story and Nemo.

  17. Ken Hanke

    It was mentioned earlier in this thread, but the real reason to go is the manic short “Presto” which tips the hat (literally) to Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, two of my heroes.

    I might second that, but I’m not sure how many people are apt to shell out $8.50 for a seven minute movie. OK, so I once drove 65 miles to see the Roman Polanski short Two Men and a Wardrobe, but then I’m just a little bit nuts when it comes to things like that.

  18. (Tried to respond hours ago, but either I goofed or it didn’t get through the moderating system, so I went ahead and registered, as I should have long ago).

    “That’s an excellent point. My only real problem with it is that—apart from the overdose of Hello, Dolly!—it wasn’t the first part of the film that dragged for me, but the latter, faster-paced part. That reaction may not be standard.”

    For me, I think it was mainly because the transition and shift in pacing was abrupt, so it took me longer than normal to become engaged even by the magnificent visuals and details; the arrival of Silly Putty shell EVE jarred first, since I never warmed to her as a character rather than object (though the montage where Wall-E cares for her shell and attracts lightning and other disasters compensated). Then it shifts to an entirely different movie, one with cliched conflicts and action (evil computer program as villain, rallying a band of misfits, near death experiences, or as close as robots get, etc.) I looked through the “Art of” book, and originally the ship that picks the robots up was supposed to be alien, and the obese characters were extra-terrestrial blobs “gelatins,” colored in six delicious flavors. That may explain some of the second act problems.

    “I’m perhaps unduly cynical in this matter, but can I be the only person who occasionally wonders whether the “willfully naive happygolucky attitude” isn’t a deliberately cultivated image?”

    Oh, it’s definitely cultivated, though I’m sure there’s at least a grain of truth regarding Lasseter and a few others (which the studio as a whole either has picked up or performs for the press/DVD extras; even at Termite Terrace, I’ve thought, with the exception of the genuinely odd ducks like Avery, I’ve felt the folks had to set out to be wacky and so on). “Happygolucky” wasn’t the best word choice, but the point I’m getting at is that Pixar people seem to operate in a self-enclosed world to a large extent (they’ve tried to set up Emeryville as their own private Hollywood, everyone is urged to eat at the “Luxo Cafe,” and so on, sort of the fake Disney studio in THE RELUCTANT DRAGON put into at least semi-practice), and I think that environment encourages certain amount of self-absorption, some of the confused or banal messages of earlier Pixar films, and so on. So while they can’t possibly be unaware of the ironies and conflicts between message and market, they praise, collect, and play with the toys and games themselves, either out of genuine desire/obsessiveness (not unlike the “Monster Kid” mindset) or in a “I’m also a client” display, to show that if Pixarians love the toys, then what’s the problem? (Similarly, I’m with you, Stanton’s protestations are a little hard to swallow, except as the equivalent of 40s studio system PR puff). In general, the Disney/Pixar merger has probably done neither any favors.

    Pixar’s upcoming slate reeks of more marketing than even problematic messages or over-reach: TOY STORY 3 (with a script by the “Little Miss Sunshine” scribe and the voice of Ned Beatty), NEWT (directed by former LucasFilm sound designer Gary Rydstrom, the story of two endanged amphibians who must mate to survive, but hate each other), and THE BEAR AND THE BOW (from Disney veteran Brenda Chapman, your standard 1990s Disney-style fairytale epic, with curses and a feisty princess who rejects family tradition blah blah). Worst of all, we have CARS 2 for 2012 (helmed by producer Brad Lewis, who has never written, directed, or animated anything in his career), greenlit only because the toy sales are still going string (collected by both kids and adults), so the “plot” involves the lead car going on the European racing circuit, just to introduce more merchandising vehicles. So far, the only project which holds some interest is “1906,” a live action look at the great San Francisco earthquake directed by Brad Bird. It at least has an interesting subject and will be the first Pixar live action film, which could either bode well or, given the way their CG features are going, spit forth a rack of 21st century equivalents of “The Cat from Outer Space” and “The Barefoot Executive.” Ugh.

  19. Ken Hanke

    I am also getting started as a writer and looking at it from a writer’s perspective, I feel that if you want to tell a story, you shouldn’t worry about who it’s going to appeal to, just tell the story and Pixar does that better than anyone else.

    I’m not sure I agree with the idea that Pixar does that better than anyone else. In fact, I don’t think they do it as well as Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry, or Pedro Almodovar to name three. However, I fully endorse the first part of your statement. Nothing has so constrained film as the “science” of demographics and focus groups. While no one ever sold a project on the basis that it wouldn’t make money (try pitching something with the phrase “of course, it won’t make a nickel”), the idea of carefully playing to a presumed audience mindset is foolish.

  20. devin5656

    this movie was a good movie and i did enjoy it-but for people to call it a masterpiece is stupid.The story lagged a little to long in the begining and then i guess the disney/merge artists must have jumped in on some of the drawings because for the first time it looked like to me Pixar got cheap,almost like the budget was running low and someone said “hey,let the guys from disney that have been dying to try this-do all the human shots”If you look at “the Incredibles” for example you can tell that their was no skimping out at any part of that movie.Also nobody has brought up the fact that their was that lousy real life actor in the movie who i cant remember his real name but i do remember when ever i did see the jerk he was acting horribly,like love boat shows or some other crappy show which besides that,the actual visual sight of the complete opposite of any form of animation breaks your concentration of the magical world of pixar and kind of makes the animation look bad.what also didnt help was the constant-eeeeevvvvaaaa every 5 seconds-you go from loving wall-e to wanting to say shut the “f”up,it made wally seem retarded .Eva struck me as 35years old and wally her 12 year old son.one more thing just remember who most of these critics are and the reasons for their comments such as “masterpiece”.If you ask a 5 year if he likes “the incredibles” better than “Wall-e” he would say “Wall-e” because he just remembers a cute robot that makes little noises.If you ask the same question to a -lets say 12 year old boy and why he probably would say “The Incredibles”,because of the whole superhero stuff that boys like.If you ask for an opinion from a newspaper critic about wally he,s going to come up with some over the top
    -looking to into something answer.I just go with my gut- if i walk out of a movie theatre after reading that the movie i went to see was a “masterpiece”and im kind of dazed in how i feel ,thats a problem-so far in the last 6 months i have been really dissapointed.I saw “thier will be blood”and if it wasnt soley on the fact that Daniel Day Lewis who to me is the greatest actor of all time carried the entire film than that movie would have been a much bigger let down than it was.You could put that guy in “Popeye 2″and it would work.”No Country For Old Men”should have been called “Staight To D.V.D.For Old Men”well anyhow i really did like wall-e but my prediction is that its going to drop off to knowhere land as fast as it showed up-oh yea-it will make a ton of money in the next few weeks but 5 or 10 years from now you wont be digging it out like “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo” i might be wrong.

  21. John Hamer

    When anybody calls a movie like “the incredibles” or “wall-e,” a “masterpiece,” it really is sloppy thinking.
    Art vs. commerce is always a fun, crack the bottle-and-stay-up-all-night argument. It’s also a very real problem.
    The “creative people,” as opposed to the “business” ones, especially at companies like Disney, are not quite as seperated as one writer might think. Long ago, Pauline Kael presciently wrote about the first Star Wars movie observing that George Lucas was really in the toy business. Disney/Pixar give enough “art” for the average critic to believe there is a human, emotional component (this is where the “masterpiece” hype comes from and where weaker-minded viewers get snowed). But I think the “art” is compromised, generally sentimental and thrown in as in a meatloaf recipe, for adults and critics.
    On TCM yesterday I watched Gary Grant in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” and the subtle shadiness of Grant’s character was funny and unpredictable. It’s something that is extinct from most modern movies.
    I think is that CGI is generally a horrible development for movies. It is cheap. (Where does the money go, you ask? another good question.) I can’t really stand to watch these Pixar movies since the animation, generated by algorhythms, is too mathematically perfect and relentless speed and loudness have replaced genuine suspense and emotion.
    Formulas rule, let the marketing begin.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Art vs. commerce is always a fun, crack the bottle-and-stay-up-all-night argument. It’s also a very real problem.

    At best, it’s a balancing act. Almost all art is exists in a commercial medium, and film is the most expensive one I can think of. As I said before, nobody ever sold a studio on a movie by telling them it wouldn’t make money. Ken Russell sold United Artists on making The Music Lovers not on the basis of it being a movie about Tchaikovsky, but by pitching it as “the story of a homosexual who marries a nymphomaniac.” In the end, the movie’s both.

    The “creative people,” as opposed to the “business” ones, especially at companies like Disney, are not quite as seperated as one writer might think.

    They’re probably not really separated anywhere. There are few more avid admirers of Tim Burton than I, but I’ve never bought into the carefully cultivated image of him as this kind of wide-eyed twisted innocent who just happened to wander in to making movies. As someone who worked on Batman Returns commented to me, “You don’t find yourself heading up a studio’s biggest movie of the year by being some naive lost soul.”

    I think is that CGI is generally a horrible development for movies.

    It’s a tool like anything else — in essence, no different from color film or talking pictures, both of which were decried as the ruin of the movies at first. Same with widescreen. It’s unfortunately, a much misused tool, but I have seen it used well. (A lot of it isn’t even what you see, but what you don’t see — like using it for removing powerlines or other objects that mess up a shot.)

    I can watch the Pixar films and appreciate them for what they are (well, some of them), but I will say that I’ve never felt compelled to own one. (I think I was sent a screener of Monsters, Inc.) Then again, I have to admit that I don’t own a lot of animation — the early 30s Max Fleischer cartoons (their Snow White is unbeatable), Yellow Submarine, Lilo and Stitch (unique in the Disney realm for having not been made by committee), some Miyazaki, and the amazing Paprika are about it.

  23. John Hamer

    > “You don’t find yourself heading up a studio’s >biggest movie of the year by being some naive >lost soul.”

    Right you are. It’s a business alright, and a tough one at that. Despite my own arty tastes, I still like my movies to be entertaining and engaging and I don’t mind the tug of war betweeen art and commerce, as long as directors like Burton make movies as smart and funny as Beetlejuice, or Altman’s “The Player”. It’s all that “marketing” that is so putrifying and corrupting. Image if Buenuel’s soundtracks featured JayZ and Matchbox 20 and had “Phantome de Liberte” pyjamas for sale at Wal-Mart.

    >It’s a tool like anything else — in essence, no >different from color film or talking pictures, >both of which were decried as the ruin of the >movies at first.

    I am not blaming the hammer for crummy carpentry. The computer in itself is not the problem. Sure, CGI has been an aid to moviemakers, used in removing power lines and such. A tidal wave hitting New York City can be cool (but how much of this can we really stand? Ice cream is nice too). The original Poseidon Adventure from the 70′s was awesome as pop entertainment and the effects were harrowing and believable. But as far as I can tell, CGI really hasn’t advanced the art of film like color and sound have. The added richness of sound, hearing Marlene Dietrich talk and sing for example, was a monolithic advacement for film technology, or the wild reds and oranges of the burning of Atlanta in Gone With The Wind.

    It always comes down to how tools are used.

    Sound has been abused in movies for many years. Watch a preview of a modern mainstream action movie; the same generic loud thunks come from a car door closing as bombs exploding and trains colliding.

    I do decry the overuse of CGI and the emphasis on speed to fool the eye. It doesn’t enhance movies for me. But then again I am old enough to know better.

  24. Ken Hanke

    “Phantome de Liberte” pyjamas for sale at Wal-Mart.

    Now, those I’d buy in a heartbeat!

    But as far as I can tell, CGI really hasn’t advanced the art of film like color and sound have.

    No argument from me on that. Still, things like the CGI Paris in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! has its charm, and I don’t know that I find it any less charming than, say, the model shots in movies like Roland West’s The Bat Whispers (1930) or Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) that allowed the camera to do things that would’ve been impossible with full-size sets or locations. That said, I’m obviously not talking about tidal waves or hordes of computer-game-looking zombies.

    Sound has been abused in movies for many years. Watch a preview of a modern mainstream action movie; the same generic loud thunks come from a car door closing as bombs exploding and trains colliding.

    Granted, but it’s also been used well in other instances. The surround track on Alan Parker’s Angel Heart definitely enhances the film’s creepiness. The sound mix on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in Across the Universe is electrifying. And, no, these are not mainstream action movies.

    I do decry the overuse of CGI and the emphasis on speed to fool the eye.

    Both points conceded — assuming we mean the same thing about speed, which may not be the case. I’ve nothing against fast-paced movies as such. I’ve nothing against rapid-fire editing in its place. I have everything against it when it’s used — as it often is — by third-rate directors who haven’t got a clue how to create a coherent, exciting action scene and resort to fast-cutting between a lot of incoherent shots to convey the impression that whatever’s going on must be very exciting indeed if you could only see what it was.

  25. John Hamer

    >assuming we mean the same thing about “speed”

    I do like a good fast-paced movie, too. Snappy editing certainly can be a gas. Editing has always been a staple craft at the heart of good moviemaking I’m sure you’ll agree.

    >fast-cutting between a lot of incoherent shots to convey the impression that whatever’s going on must be very exciting indeed if you could only see what it was.

    Exactly! I mean specific CGI “shots”: a car rolling over towards the camera, explosions with debris flying rapidly at the viewer. Simulated acceleration is often used to attempt to trick the brain and it just doesn’t make me believe.
    I thought the upending of the ship in “Titanic” was well done and served to heighten the tragedy. I was fairly alone in enjoying Linklater’s computer rotoscoping in “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.” I liked that it was used to deliberately make things LESS real instead of trying to fool me into believing the head of the Statue of Liberty was bowling me down as in “Cloverfield.”

    >Granted, but (sound) it’s also been used well in other instances.

    Absolutely. I bet we could go on and on about great things sound has brought to movies, old and new. But I refer to the tiresome, omnipresent onslaught of theater shaking thumps and, on the other end of sound abuse, the low volume, almost unnoticeable, irrelevant soundtrack hit recordings that just serve to give the corporations more product to push at “da yout’s.”

  26. Ira

    If any of you think that cgi is not any better than regular animation your on drugs-just look at finding nemo -its like staring into the water in real life to see the outragous colors of these types of sea life-no other form could produce that

  27. “If any of you think that cgi is not any better than regular animation your on drugs-just look at finding nemo -its like staring into the water in real life to see the outragous colors of these types of sea life-no other form could produce that.”

    Well, there lies the rub, in fact. I don’t think anyone here is decrying the technical achievements of CGI, but it begs the question, if you can just stare into a water tank in real life, why bother to do so on film? Even in FINDING NEMO, that’s just set dressing anyway, and I don’t think that’s the type of CGI usage that’s being discussed (since the criticism mostly pertains to its overuse in live action movies anyway, not to Pixar).

    It’s one of the oldest saws of animation, purportedly said by Chuck Jones and others, “If you can do it in live action, why bother to animate it?” Similar concerns were raised and still exist about overusing rotoscope (Bakshi’s later films like “American Pop” are basically long live action movies with paint slopped over the cast). Even in Disney books, the animators would talk about striving for “the illusion of life,” as distinct from a painstaking recreation thereof. But the likes of YELLOW SUBMARINE, the best Fleischer, even the best Warner Bros. shorts have little to do with recreating life as it appears.

    And of course, however one feels about Pixar or animation in general, it’s rather like comparing a Fisher Price farm set toy to an early German wooden Noah’s ark or something of the kind, or a Victorian Punch doll to a McFarlane collectible action figure. One may arguably look glossier or even more realistic, depending on point of view, and one might even like both in different ways, but the craftsmanship and physicality of one differ from the mass produced material of the other.

  28. Ken Hanke

    I thought the upending of the ship in “Titanic” was well done and served to heighten the tragedy. I was fairly alone in enjoying Linklater’s computer rotoscoping in “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.” I liked that it was used to deliberately make things LESS real instead of trying to fool me into believing the head of the Statue of Liberty was bowling me down as in “Cloverfield.”

    I can’t weigh in on Titanic, because I’ve never made it that far into the movie. And I won’t be joining you in admiring those Linklater films, but I appreciate where you’re coming from in that instance at least. When you consider that a use of CGI that I liked was the Paris of Moulin Rouge, I obviously wasn’t endorsing CGI for its realism! It’s not CGI (far, far from it), but I watched Hitchcock’s Number 17 (1932) not so long ago and was utterly entranced by the car-bus-train chase business at the end — mostly done with models. I wouldn’t trade it for any similar CGI scene I could think of. It’s not particularly more believable, but it looks more solid, and — maybe more important — it looks hand-made.

    But I refer to the tiresome, omnipresent onslaught of theater shaking thumps and, on the other end of sound abuse, the low volume, almost unnoticeable, irrelevant soundtrack hit recordings that just serve to give the corporations more product to push at “da yout’s.”

    Oh, I knew what you meant and I wasn’t disagreeing with you, but it’s an area where I almost feel the plus outweighs the minus. The price you pay for the bone-jarring explosions and the inapt soundtracks seems relatively small for the often rather glorious soundtracks on other films. And let’s face it, most of the films you’re talking about wouldn’t be all that hot regardless of the sound.

  29. Ken Hanke

    If any of you think that cgi is not any better than regular animation your on drugs

    Well, that’s rather inelegantly put.

    just look at finding nemo -its like staring into the water in real life to see the outragous colors of these types of sea life-no other form could produce that

    Actually, I would trade that look without a second thought for the psychedelia of Yellow Submarine (which does not mean I’m on drugs) or the unbridled imagination of Paprika, but then I’m not using anything like the same barometer of what’s of value you appear to be.

  30. We saw WALL-E last night. From a viewpoint of writing and publishing reasonably successful science fiction for the last 30 years, I was prepared as usual with “sci-fi” movies (real SF professionals hate the term ‘scifi’) to be greatly unimpressed. Movies usually mangle science fiction concepts and turn them into tasteless pablum.

    However, I LIKED WALL-E (as one kid in the audience piped up so enthusiastically, “I love that little robot!”).

    Now that theaters are using digital projectors (I had not been in a theater for awhile, I was awed by the technology) it’s a joy to see the quality of the projection (this was at the Carmike off Swannanoa River Road).

    Also, as an animator myself, WALL-E makes you gasp with it’s quality. I only hope the recent merger of Pixar and Disney does not kill the technical excellence side of Pixar.

    But the very best thing was that WALL-E (unlike SO many movies) has a STORY and it’s an inspiration and inspiring story… and it’s real SCIENCE FICTION, not ‘skiffy’ (scifi).

    Yes, I love that little robot!

  31. If MountainX EVER lets us edit our posts, I would fix ‘an inspiration and inspiring story’ above to something like ‘a joyful and inspiring story’ … because, that’s what it is.

    (I hates typos about as much as EVE hates moving objects and would be pleased to have her arm and use it in reaction … alas, that would leave HUGE holes in this board and most everything I write as well … sometimes flying fingers outrun our brains and senses of literary composition). ;-)

  32. Ken Hanke

    it’s real SCIENCE FICTION

    What makes WALL-E “real science fiction?” I’ve seen this accolade slapped on it before, but I have to confess I don’t see where it’s anymore “real science fiction” than your standard space opera, except perhaps the rather gloomy vision of an earth destroyed by consumerism and pollution (not in itself terribly unique as a concept) and the even bleaker image of the future of humanity.

  33. Ken, it’s not a “gloomy vision” — it’s a triumphant overcoming of adversity using the standard SF extrapolations of “what if this goes on?”

    simplified plot goes something like (WARNING: spoilers):

    Boy robot lives on destroyed world. Boy robot meets girl robot. Boy robot loses girl robot. Boy robot searches for girl robot. Boy robot finds girl robot but there are complications. Boy robot winds up having to save humanity AND the earth to be with girl robot! There are complications. Boy robot is instrumental in saving humanity and girl robot but is severely injuried in doing so. Humanity returns to earth and girl robot repairs boy robot but he has lost his personality. Girl robot is sad. But by a last desperate effort boy robot regains personality. Boy robot and girl robot and cockroach sidekick prepare to live happily ever after. Humanity reseeds the earth.

    Triumphant, inspirational, makes little kids joyously shout out “I LOVE that little robot.”

    But there’s more, more levels. Did you watch the end credits, Ken? There was the true denouement of the story.

    THAT’s what makes it “real” science fiction.

  34. Ken Hanke

    Ken, it’s not a “gloomy vision”—it’s a triumphant overcoming of adversity using the standard SF extrapolations of “what if this goes on?”

    Problem is I don’t buy the triumph for a minute. And if it’s supposed to be that the film contains real science, this is where it falls down spectacularly for me. I’m not talking about the robots here, but the humanity aspect, though this is something it’s impossible to really discuss without indulging in major spoilers. Let’s just say their triumph is preposterously easily won.

    Triumphant, inspirational, makes little kids joyously shout out “I LOVE that little robot.”

    Oh, I completely disagree. Little kids shout out that they love that little robot because he’s cute, makes cute noises and they’d like to have one.

    And, yes, I watched the end credits, and I still don’t see what about this makes it any more real science fiction than Star Wars. What is your standard for science fiction? That it works on the basis of “what if this goes on?” That’s essentially the basis of all drama. What if Hamlet decides to avenge his father’s death, for example. And Hamlet isn’t science fiction.

  35. IF Hamlet decided to avenge his father’s death by building a steam-powered robot to search for and destroy them, THEN it WOULD be science fiction and not only that, but STEAMPUNK SF, which is the latest craze and I don’t think much of it, having tried several. However, we will be reprinting THE STEAM MAN by Edward S. Ellis (1865), the first true robot novel this year.

    As to my standard of science fiction, it’s pretty high. STAR WARS was scifi, NOT science fiction. Edward E. ‘Doc’ Smith did better space opera than that in the 1920s (read the both the Gray Lensman and Dick Seaton books). To put it in film terms, METROPOLIS is better science fiction. In fact, WALL-E is better science fiction.

    Revisit the end credits again. Think ‘cycles.’

    I love that little robot (but that has nothing to do with science fiction).

  36. In fact, Ken (and I really would like to see you review it) Le voyage dans la lune by George Melie from 1902 is better SF than STAR WARS, merely by its existence. The movie is about a group of scientists who fly a rocket to the moon. True science fiction predicts! You can watch it at:

    http://www.archive.org/details/Levoyagedanslalune

    And WALL-E asks “what if this goes on?” and predicts a result, which happened, and we’re now doing it all over again.

    That is science fiction and I’ve loved it since first encountering it in the 1950s and written it professionally since the 1970s.

  37. Ken Hanke

    IF Hamlet decided to avenge his father’s death by building a steam-powered robot to search for and destroy them, THEN it WOULD be science fiction and not only that, but STEAMPUNK SF, which is the latest craze and I don’t think much of it

    Well, steampunk’s been around for a while, though I think its attempt to create an alternate universe that mirrors the world of early science fiction — or speculative fantasists — writings probably works better in animation than on the printed page.

    As to my standard of science fiction, it’s pretty high. STAR WARS was scifi, NOT science fiction.

    I wouldn’t argue that Star Wars isn’t science fiction, though I really thought this war over the term “sci-fi” (the term which is generally attributed to Forrest J. Ackerman) was kind of a non-issue. I would put it firmly in the realm of space opera — essentially Flash Gordon with a snappier suit of clothes.

    But all this is just definition arguing anyway and you can go all kinds of places with it. (I believe that Robert Bloch made the rather extreme claim that there were only four real science fiction movies back in the 1960s.) Is Frankenstein (we should probably leave Mary Shelley out of this and leave it at the movies) horror or science-fiction? Or is it both? Is Cabaret really a musical or a film (or play) with music? After all, by strictest definition, the songs in a musical replace dialogue and advance the story. In Cabaret, they more comment on the plot and are performed on a stage. Yet I doubt anyone would argue that it isn’t a musical. Most Busby Berkeley movies work with the songs being performed for an audience and not as a part of the story itself, yet we call them musicals. Plus, all this crosses over constantly. Most of the songs in Love Me Tonight are of the “pure musical” variety, but Chevalier’s “Poor Apache” is a theatre piece. The numbers everyone remembers from Berkeley’s Golddiggers of 1935 are the stage presentations, but “I’m Going Shopping with You,” while pretty forgettable is “pure musical.” Genre boundaries are made for pushing — even breaking.

    Yes, of course, I know Melies’ Trip to the Moon. That’s pretty basic film history stuff. I don’t know that I’ve ever written about it, except in passing, but I’d put it more in the realm of speculative fantasy than science-fiction. My understanding of “real” science-fiction is that it’s grounded in real science — or at least science as it was known at the time, or at least as it was theorized. As a result, I’d put something like R.C. Sherriff’s novel The Hopkins Manuscript in the area of science-fiction, even though the idea of the moon as hollow now seems quaint. At the time he wrote it, it wasn’t a wholly discredited notion. Even when Melies made A Trip to the Moon, I don’t think anyone really thought a missile fired at the moon would put out the man in the moon’s eye! That’s more playful fantasy than anything else.

  38. I really thought this war over the term “sci-fi” (the term which is generally attributed to Forrest J. Ackerman) was kind of a non-issue. ..

    no among SF fans (i.e. literary fans as opposed to media, though the newer generations are not quite as rabid as those of us older fhans). … but, of course, everyone loves Forrest J (no dot after the J). I once had the honor of introducing him at a science fiction convention here in Asheville (I believe it as 1982). Also got to see him again at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in L.A. in 2006 (he’s now over 90 but still going strong).

    I still say WALL-E is science fiction as opposed to scifi or any even lesser designation. Still, it’s not my favorite SF robot film, that would have to be SILENT RUNNING with Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Not animated, of course (including the start, Bruce Dern) and the robots were run by amputees inside (for yer weird triva) … but overall, an enjoyable and though-provoking movie.

  39. Ken Hanke

    I once had the honor of introducing him at a science fiction convention here in Asheville (I believe it as 1982). Also got to see him again at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in L.A. in 2006 (he’s now over 90 but still going strong).

    Definitely still going pretty strong. I had dinner with him at the Monster Bash in Pittsburgh in 2005 and 2006. His health didn’t permit him to attend the last couple years, though his personal assistant, the delightful Joe Moe, was there this year and Forry “appeared” via an internet hook-up. And I did get to have dinner with Joe.

  40. Ken Hanke

    I bet we know lots of the same people.

    Very likely, though I’m much more involved with the horror film side of fandom than the science fiction one.

  41. cvdcvfb

    Definitely still going pretty strong. I had dinner with him at the Monster Bash in Pittsburgh in 2005 and 2006. His health didn’t permit him to attend the last couple years, though his personal assistant, the delightful Joe Moe, mini free games was there this year and Forry “appeared” via an internet hook-up. And I did get to have dinner with Joe.

  42. Loved it, it was a cute cartoon. Watched it with my daughter and she loved it too. And the fact that Director dubbed in a good meaning behind it made me like it even more. If we’re not careful, technology is going to turn us into a bunch of heavy and lazy pigs.

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