Thursday, July 24, 2008

23rd July 08 - Wall-E

An animated film about a mute robot? What about angular animals voiced by vaguely annoying American stars? Surely that’s what computer animation has been developed for? You might have summarised that from the trailers preceding this film, each one making me more depressed and ready to push over a toddler to cheer myself up. Throw in a Star Wars “film”, closely resembling a Saturday morning kids show, and you’d be ready to shut down all computers just to make the endless crap stop. But then Wall-E starts and everything suddenly feels much, much better.

Mute robots, it seems, can be endearing, funny and utterly charming to watch. With a cockroach for a companion, wandering through a desolate, rubbish-strewn earth, Wall-E is somehow one of the warmest characters to grace cinemas so far this year. A round of applause for Pixar, who took the winning formula from their flagship short way back in 1986 (Luxo Jr – a “baby” lamp, now the logo for the company) and applied it to a feature. Comedy and heart from supposedly inanimate objects, no dialogue required. It’s a brave step by Nemo creator Andrew Stanton, going from cutesy fish to metal garbage-collector, but his gamble pays off big-time.

Wall-E is refreshing, original, beautifully animated and superbly plotted. Simple but oh so effective, it’ll make you smile throughout and even managed to do the impossible and make me shed a slight tear, though this weakness could be down to recent cracks in my usual bitter and angry exterior. It’s a simple love story mixed with cutting remarks on the state of society and the environment. And it features cute robots and a fabulous sense of fun. What more do you want?

Its message is as blunt as a donkey punch, namely switch off your autopilot, get off your fat arse and don’t just blithely follow the path of consumerism and laziness. For what can be seen as a child’s film it makes a stomping great point, but does it without talking down, or shouting at the audience.

Quibbles to stop it reaching the dizzy heights of a CF5? Well, if I must, I’d say it falters on the whole “America is the world” aspect – we never see anywhere, or anyone, apart from the great A’s, and if it is to teach kiddies that destroying the planet is bad, it’d be also good to throw in “there are other places outside your home town” too. It’s also vaguely ironic that a film showing us how humanity is lost when we only communicate through artificial interfaces is a film made by a huge team of animators sitting in front of artificial interfaces for months on end. And for a film that berates consumerism, it’s interesting to note the Apple product placement and wide variety of Wall-E merchandise now available. Don’t think that buying stuff is the key to happiness – but go out and get yourself a Wall-E t-shirt, cap, toy, computer game, mug, pencil case…

Now I’m just being picky, though, because Wall-E is a winner. Any film that makes me grin for a couple of hours is a film worth seeing, and as such this adorable little robot wheels in with a CF3. The best film of the summer so far. I wonder if an adorable little man dressed like a bat will do any better.

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