Wall-E: A Sci-Fi Masterpiece
Let’s not discuss Wall-E within the realm of other Pixar films. It’s the best of the bunch, mostly due to its audacity and its melancholy, its pointedly adult satire, and its flawless storytelling. Instead, I’m pleased to confirm that it stands on its own as a sci-fi great. Its depiction of the future is the most original since The Matrix, and the best apocalyptic satire since Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It will be impossible to write this review without references to films such as E.T., 2001: A Space Odyssey, and others, because this film deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the others. Its mix of Spielbergian fantasy and Kubrickian dystopian eerieness makes it stand amongst giants, not just in their shadows, and creates the mood of what is easily the best film of the year thus far.
Without going too deep into spoilers (because the beauty of this film is in the surprise), it takes a view of the future very similar to Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, a film whose satire hits hard despite not being very funny. The fact that this film creates a similar portrait of humanity and hits even harder, despite being a G-rated animated film, underlines how brilliant the execution and how witty the writing is. You get the commentary on corporations, on global pollution, on humanity’s reliance on technology, on the willingness of people to do what they’re told on TV. Yet within this satire is a heart– you never get the sense that people or technology are “bad,” the way other futuristic films tend to label them. Wall-E embraces the complexities that technological advances provide. And all of this in an animated film. With a G rating.
And did I mention there’s basically no dialogue in the majority of the film? Everyone talks about the first 30 minutes, which truly are remarkable, and reminded me of a darker Tom and Jerry cartoon, the way that characters communicated ideas and explored their world without anything other than the occasional unintelligible noise. But the entire film is led by two characters who only know two or three words. Yet their love story is more touching than the majority of romantic comedies or dramas that the studio system has produced in the new millennium. It’s a masterful lesson in the way story can be told through picture, not dialogue, and will inevitably be discussed and dissected by film classes for years to come.
Isn’t it about time we stop judging Pixar films as animated films, or only rank them in terms of other children’s films? Ratatouille was easily a Top 5 film last year. The Incredibles is not simply a fantastic piece of cinema, it’s one of the greatest films about superheroes ever made, perhaps the best. Finding Nemo is one of the best father-son films of all time. Monsters Inc. is easily one of the most original worlds created in a film within the last twenty years, maybe even longer than that. And I haven’t even mentioned Toy Story, a film which was revolutionary at the time and still to this day is an example of expert storytelling– hilarious, suspenseful, and an instant classic. Entertainment Weekly recently released a list of “New Classics,” the best one hundred films of the last twenty-five years. The fact that only two films made the list is a joke– there hasn’t been a more expertly handled run of films by a production company in memory, and at least six of the films they’ve put out should easily made a top 100 list of the last twenty-five years.
If you don’t see Wall-E on the big screen now, you’re going to be kicking yourself. This is a film that is going to stand the test of time, your children and grandchildren will be watching years from now, and people will be listing it next to 2001, Blade Runner, and The Matrix as one of the great visions into the future. And satire aside, it so aptly captures the magic of space that surely the same people who have treasured E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind for decades will treasure Wall-E in the same way. The animation in this film is stellar, it’s a lock for the Academy Award for Best Animated Film and any sound-related awards, and if there was an Oscar God, it would have a nomination for Best Picture at year’s end.