Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alone in the universe.

I sort of feel like Elaine Benes after she saw The English Patient.

We saw WALL-E on Saturday. Spoiler Alert, btw. I had really high hopes after David Edelstein's glowing review ("I envy you the first time through: 93 minutes of wonder to come" is about as high a recommendation a film can receive, imho), but I'm sorry to say that I was not blown away by WALL-E. I thought the animation of the robot WALL-E was incredible, and the visual effects, particularly reflections, were stunning, but I thought the story left much to be desired.

I'll give it to them - the opening sequence, where strains of Hello, Dolly! took on an entirely new meaning, were just spectacular and set the scene for great things to come. For a while, great things did happen, but then not so much.

I had momentary flashbacks to the first third of I Am Legend, which had Will Smith's character alone in Manhattan, and recalled Kottke's thoughts on that film: "I would have been satisfied with three straight hours of how Neville spends his time in Manhattan wilderness, alone, procuring supplies, checking buildings off of his scavenging list, visiting the MoMA to get new art for his walls, collecting iPods for "new" music, etc." That's how I felt about WALL-E. The scenes where he is on Earth, alone or with EVE, were my favorite parts. I would have loved more exploration on that. However, once WALL-E gets to the space ship, the story sort of fell apart for me.

If the autopilot had already been given the directive that they weren't to return to Earth, why continue to send probes? Why keep all the mechanisms that could test for viable life signs in tact? Story points aside, the animation of the humans seemed like an afterthought - they all looked the same. I know that there are only so many ways to depict fat, lazy humans, but I really felt like that was an animation cop-out - the Earth scenes were so brilliant and detailed that they made the space ship scenes feel cheap.

I loved Ratatouille, and had similar love-hopes for WALL-E that just didn't pan out. Now, before you go an say that I didn't "get it," I did. (Quick interjection - when I was in high school, I saw Will Rogers Follies, and didn't really like it. A guy who saw it at the same time said that I didn't like it because I didn't "get it." That pissed me off something fierce - I "got it," I just didn't like it. Music was good, acting was good, story was good, dancing was good, but all together, it just didn't mesh for me and while I was glad to have seen it for the sheer pleasure of seeing a musical, I wouldn't pay to see it again unless Will Rogers himself was slapping on a hat and dragging his carcass across the stage. But I digress.) I understand and even applaud the message in WALL-E. But as a story goes, the love story part worked for me, but the"villian" part didn't. Was it still better than most movies I've seen in a theater? Yes. I didn't leave, or feel like I wasted my money. But Ratatouille had big (if small) shoes to fill, and WALL-E doesn't have big (or small) enough feet.

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