23 February 2009

Muriels: WALL*E

my blurb for the winner of the Golden Muriel.

"It's a robot love story", says my one friend. A robot love story? That sounds awful. But it's Pixar and the reviews are good, so the girlfriend and I decide to give it a chance. Even at the late show, the theatre is packed with screaming little bacteria traps. The first four trailers are loud, obnoxious animated films with talking penguins that seem like the perfect torture weapon for a cinephile.

Suddenly this doesn't seem like such a good idea.

Finally, the film starts and the little kids are quiet. There's a robot rolling around a barren wasteland, crushing trash into little cubes. Only, he's spending more time looking at shiny things than working, kind of like a bird that puts foil in his nest. And fucking hell, this is a good film. A very, very good film, maybe even a great one.

One of the first things I notice is how the folks at Pixar, led by Andrew Stanton, focus on the smallest of details to flesh out this post-apocalyptic world. Visually, the film is a feast, crammed with bits of dust and scuff marks and smudges and a plethora of things that, at points, make you wonder if maybe this isn't animated after all. The shots of space, in particular, are stunning.

But all the artiface and craftsmanship is worthless if it doesn't support a worthwhile story, and story (that robot love story) is WALL*E's strength. The robot love story is deceptively simple, basically the same love story we've seen since Shakespeare, but Stanton finds ways to make it feel fresh. Maybe it's the robots. Maybe it's the ecological message. Maybe it's Wall*e's puppy dog eyes (and, man, those eyes kill me). Honestly I'm not sure.

Rather then speding a lot of space here saying what Andrew Dignan has already said so well about this great film, what I would like to do is take a minute to talk about that robot love story.

When Wall*e meets Eve, at their "meet cute", Eve asks Wall*e for his directive. He doesn't really know what that is, but it doesn't take him very long to find one. Eve becomes his directive. He becomes soley devoted to her, to helping her, to being with her, to saving her, to (most importantly) holding her hand. And not to belittle his intelligence, because clearly he's a pretty inquisitive little robot, but it's almost as if he's oblivious to everything else. Or maybe that's a perfect representation of what it's like to be in love, just two people existing in a world all their own. His devotion, his single-minded focus, is what makes this such a compelling story. The fate of all humanity hangs in the balance, but none of that even registers to Wall*e. All that matters is that Eve needs his help. In one of the film's saddest moments, he even loses his memory trying to rescue her. You can't find a stronger love than that. In a room full of transfixed little DNA samples, I almost broke down and cried.

And, I don't know, maybe it's those puppy dog eyes, maybe it's the sequence where Wall*e cares for a comatose Eve with the same tenderness that so many people show when their spouse is unresponsive in a hospital, or maybe it's just that this is one of the first pure love stories I've seen since falling in love myself, but to me, WALL*E is one of the greatest love stories ever put on film. It's so far superior to every other film this year, I considered leaving the rest of the spots on my ballot blank.


DAMIN said...

The movie is pretty entertaining. It's a good example of how far computer generated graphics have come.
If you are looking for a movie with recycled plots, endless and banal cliches,and commonplace animation styles, then Wall-E is your movie.