Monday, June 30, 2008

More Thoughts on "WALL-E"

The more I think about it, the more I love WALL-E.

I don't know what it is about that little robot, but the more I revisit it and mull it over, the more he grows on me.

I came out of the theater loving the movie, but with the feeling that it hadn't grabbed me the way Finding Nemo and Ratatouille did. I think there are two reasons for this; one, it is not as funny as Finding Nemo, but then it's not supposed to be, and two, it doesn't have the same witty elegance of Ratatouille, but again, it's not supposed to. WALL-E is not a dialogue driven film, it's an image driven film. It's 2001: A Space Odyssey meets City Lights.

Instead, WALL-E is a film built around a nearly wordless protagonist that nevertheless builds a deep personal connection with the audience. WALL-E differs from its predecessors in that it's unique sense of humor is not the focus. It is a film of wonder and beauty, just as WALL-E is awed by the simple world around him, so too is the audience. The film shows us the beauty in the simple and sublime, from the amazement at the simple workings of a light bulb to the charms of old musicals like Hello Dolly!, which WALL-E listens to constantly.

It is that kind of sense of child-like awe that the humans in the movie have forgotten, and when the two humans voiced by Kathy Najimy and John Ratzenberger are accidentally set free of their mindless, view screen stupor, their first reaction isn't fear or anger, it's awe at a world they have never taken the time to look at. And that is WALL-E's greatest achievement, to make us look at the world with different eyes.

For me, the film's quintessential scene is the one where WALL-E clings desperately to the hull of the ship carrying the lifeless EVE back to the Axiom, and suddenly the wonders of the galaxy are at his fingertips. It is a purely visual scene, swept off by Thomas Newman's beautiful score, that for me perfectly captures the film's sense of childlike wonder. It is also one of the most jaw-droppingly animated scenes in recent memory. It is that kind of open-mouthed amazement that WALL-E inspires that is what the humans in the story have forgotten about in their laziness, and the film wants us to recapture before it is too late.

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