Saturday, August 02, 2008


A week ago, as we exited 'WALL-E', Paula asked me, "Would you say that's Pixar's best yet?"

Floating rather than walking out of the cinema, suffused with a warm happy feeling, unhesitatingly my reply was, "Yes."

Then I spent a few days wondering if it really was. Did it quite match the colourful vibrancy of 'Cars'? Or the unalloyed visual (and damn near olfactory) perfection of 'Ratatouille'. Wasn't it, in fact, a film of two halves, the first - set on a garbage-ridden future vision of Earth - a joyous, imaginative, dialogue-free study of one robot's day-to-day life, his yearning for companionship and the sudden arrival of EVE, a sleek, balletic female robot; the second - set aboard a huge starliner whose entire human inhabitants have devolved into grotesque obesity - a frenetic chase story substituting manic set-pieces for the erstwhile poignancy? Were a couple of nifty musical cues homaging '2001: A Space Odyssey' any match for the welter of in-jokes in 'The Incredibles'?

There was only one thing for it.

We went to see it again.

And, yes, now I'm sure: 'WALL-E' is, by a short head, Pixar's best yet.

Here, at random, are six reasons why:

1) Boiled down to its simplest narrative arc, 'WALL-E' is about a robot, left alone on a wasted planet for 700 years with just a VHS tape of 'Hello, Dolly' for company, who finally breaks away from his routine, braves the stars and involves himself in a quest hitherto beyond anything in his understanding or experience, simply because he wants to do no more than hold EVE's hand. It's perhaps the most chaste and wonderfully innocent love story in all of cinema.

2) It tells so much - and implies so much more - through visuals alone. It's pure cinema.

3) It introduces themes of corporationism, environmental irresponsibility, dependency on technology (like all the best sci-fi, it holds up a mirror to contemporary concerns) without seeming preachy, political or heavy-handed. It's a slap in the face to contemporary America that still manages to be supremely entertaining and utterly heartwarming.

4) WALL-E himself has to be the cutest animated hero of all time. God, that li'l robot is adorable! I also love the fact that he's not a hero. Things happen to him. Most of the time, he's confused or scared when events snowball. In other words, he acts like most people would act when caught up in something beyond their control.

5) EVE is a fun and fiesty heroine. Even though she looks like a cross between an egg and an iPod, she's still pretty swish. (I'm starting to doubt my own sanity having just typed that sentence.)

6) For every moment that makes you laugh - WALL-E pursued by a convoy of runaway shopping trolleys, the manic cleaning robot on the starship - there's one that brings a lump to the throat - WALL-E rocking himself to sleep, WALL-E trying to recreate a romantic idyll with EVE after she shuts down - and director Andrew Stanton holds the humorous and the heartfelt in perfect equilibrium.

There are essays to be written about 'WALL-E' by future film scholars, perhaps book-length studies. I've bashed out about 700 words and barely scratched the surface. But maybe all that needs to be written about 'WALL-E' can be said in ten words:

It's Pixar at the top of their game. See it.


James Hansen said...

I've only seen the film once so far, but the first half of it is the best thing Pixar has done by a mile. The second half loses me a bit though. It doesn't have the same emotion, feeling, or resonance when the focus shifts to the humans and the captain. 2001 references are cute, but they were so heavy handed (at least coming from someone who has seen 2001 a few times.) I aprpeciate the subtleties of Ratatouille and the all-out perfection of Toy Story (still my Pixar fav). Ratatouille had many of the same problems with lacksadaisical pacing in the second half. For me, Toy Story is still #1 followed be Wall-E and Ratatouille in a virtual tie...I'd give the #2 edge to Wall-E for its incredible first half.

Neil Fulwood said...

Good point, James: the second half certainly doesn't live up to the sustained brilliance of the first 40 minutes, particularly because it backgrounds Wall-E ever so slightly in favour of Eve and the captain.

I think a second viewing is necessary, though: the second half worked much better for me second time round. I'm still standing behind my 'Wall-E'-as-Pixar's-best opinion - more, I think, for the big ideas it sneaks under the radar.

James Hansen said...

I plan to see it at least one more's a really good, fun film to watch no matter what.

Neil Fulwood said...


Your earlier comment has given me a yen to watch the 'Toy Story' films again. In fact, I think a Pixar-fest might be a nice little project for Agitation of the Mind next month.