Some of these spots played during the NBA playoffs of 2008. Just from them, I knew I had to see the movie.
So I was there the Sunday evening of opening weekend. And then again the next night. And then again a month later. Because I had to.
From the opening moments, this film sparked an emotional reaction in me. I can’t explain it, but that first half hour is perfection to me. I’ve never laughed that hard before at something that’s basically an anthropomorphic Roomba. And terrible show tunes from Hello Dolly (which I still haven’t seen by itself, though it may make an interesting double feature one day), which turns out to be the last movie on earth. Thank God we work so hard to make perfection, right?
Once the movie goes into outer space and onto the Axiom, it experiences a From Dusk til Dawn-like transition. From sci-fi slapstick comedy to sci-fi action comedy. While two of the three words are the same, the change is nonetheless jarring as the quietude of Earth erupts into the cacophany of Thomas Newman’s weird-ass score and inane chatter of the whales. This makes the movie feel slightly uneven as the back half of it so completely different from the first half.
Both are necessary to this story. As awkward a transition as it may be, the first half hour is simply the first act. Had it stayed there for 90 minutes, it would’ve been a completely different film–like a short film dragged beyond its limits (if you’ve ever seen the movie Aaltra, it’d be like that).
Without that last hour of the film, on the Axiom, we also wouldn’t have had as many angry people. Wall-E is cute when he’s roaming the lonesome, trashed, Earth, wooing Eve, but the sociopolitical commentary doesn’t kick into high gear until Wall-E reaches the humans .
Turns out, after seven hundred years in space, people become Orca whales, stuck in their computer screens and completely unaware of the world beyond it. When the computer says “Blue is the new Red,” everyone’s suit changes color. When the computer switches from afternoon to morning, people accept it and restart their day as if it never happened. Everything they eat is liquid. It’s kind of awesome because it’s our current plugged-in culture taken to its logical extreme. We’ll all get fat and sedated. We won’t even know there’s a pool onboard. Or how to swim. Or how to function.
In my original review, I talked a lot about the cinematography–and this is something that still holds up for me. This is some of the best animation in the sense photographic realism. Roger Deakins does some amazing work in live action films, and his consultation on this film is no different to the work he’d previously done. Except that blocking was done with animators and computers versus people and masking tape.
There’s one major thing I’ve uncovered that has heightened my enjoyment of this movie. In a lot of the commercials they use the theme song from the movie “Brazil,” which, sure, yea, was written in 1939 but it’s also something the filmmakers were most likely aware of.
This gives the ads a different context, as well as the movie itself. They’ve basically given homage to what seems to be one of their major influences. The ineptitude of the captain, and the takeover of the government by a corporation basically mirrors all the red-tape clusterfuckery of Brazil.
And I like that they were aiming for the Axiom essentially being the fallout of a totalitarian/corporate regime 700 years into the future that also happens to be shaped like Africa.
This film is about as leftist as Avatar, and just as overt. Turn off the screens, and get in touch with the Earth.
But the funniest thing is that one of my professors at Humboldt State took her four year old daughter to see the movie. When they got home, her daughter immediately began putting on all her clothes because she wanted to look like one of the people on the Axiom.
She didn’t want to plant a tree or recycle, she wanted to look like a whale with thumbs.
I thought that was interesting because people think this movie teaches these kids all these terrible things, but I sincerely doubt any of it. When I was a kid, I never noticed half the jokes let alone the thematic subtext.
The fact that this movie even has a thematic subtext says something about this film. Pixar is willing to make films for all ages, that just happen to ostensibly be kids movies. When I realized this, I decided to go back and watch the rest of their films to see if any of them were political.
Monsters, Inc. is just as political. It’s an indictment of the electrical industry and how fear mongering isn’t as powerful as making someone laugh.
Cars is about the loss of road culture and the destruction of towns.
Those seem to be the only other two that had politics intertwined with their story. Most of them are about coming of age and finding out who you truly
are–either as a toy or a fish or a rat or a half-Japanese Wilderness Explorer.
But this movie. This one remains their crowning achievement. Not to mention the preceding short film, Presto. One of their best ever. I absolutely love that this is a tradition that Pixar is upholding.