Tuesday, July 15, 2008
When You Wish Upon A Clone
Film Review: Wall E
The opening scenes in Wall E are stunning, let me tell you: A once mighty U.S. metropolis without people, its towering buildings decayed, the fading signs above urging consumers who once lived there to “Buy Large.” It is now a long-lost world buried alive under its own plastic trash. Through it waddles a little rusty robot guy, still picking up garbage and stashing it neatly off into storage units. In the background we hear a song from Hello, Dolly, "Put On Your Sunday Clothes.” Somebody forgot to turn off the last VCR. What a sensational start.
Nobody home anymore — but the robot, who ends up whisked away on a space ship to a space station where cloned pig-like humans (evidently, the ones who fled Earth when it could no longer sustain their consumer-driven greed), are pampered by robots 24/7 and luxuriate, cruise ship style, under controlled sunshine. All live on auto pilot. The scenic effects here are stunning, too, but a bit nauseatingly repetitive, like the redundantly meaningless lives. After a while, this endless holiday, twelve hundred years long and counting, feels about as exciting as being confined to a steady diet of Twinkies while "It's a Small World After All" plays over and over again for the rest of your life.
Sitting through this brilliantly abstract, if a little too abstract, movie, it felt something like walking into a modern art museum, through an installation exhibit designed to evoke the end of a civilization gone mad at the mall. I could care less whether it is a satire on the so-called values of either the Democrats or the Republicans.
Oddly, they have inserted into the surreal sets a fairly standard Walt Disney type curtsy romance. Robot guy meets pretty and faceless girl off the space ship that takes him back. Sure, they are in and out of the action, but another plot line revolving around the space station captain who fights to regain manual control of his own destiny is what generates some real excitement, and so the ending reached is worth the patience it may take you to endure all of the time-consuming special effects. Thought some, to be sure, are quite amusing. Still, for me it feels like two movies in one that don’t quite mesh.
Maybe the original Pixar vision got watered down for box office concerns and theme park spin offs. I do know this, glimpsing the idiocy of cloned figures passing their thousands of days away on recliners in absolute predictability, I wanted to run outside the theatre and hug the first real live person I saw, even if it risked my getting mugged.
I didn’t. By then, fortunately I was sufficiently moved by the universal poignancy of a return to earth to overlook the intervening dullness. As for the two robots, yeah, they finally get to hold hands. So Disney. Good news, Dorothy, you can go home again -- back to sound stage E.