It’s no secret that I have a somewhat anti-utopian (as opposed to dystopian) view of the future (and present!) of mankind ("Oh, hello there AI. Please don’t kill me!"), and on the whole, generally prefer my movies sad, and my music sadder. To that end, the first half of Wall·E really delivered.
How could you not be moved by the drab, post-human, almost post-robot Earth? Talk about being simultaneously harrowing and beautiful: the melancholic color palette, the dutiful robot carrying on with its directives even though there is no one left on Earth to appease, the non-dialogue, the re-packaging of consumer detritus — man’s legacy — into skyscrapers, the non-junk saved and savored by Wall·E, and his painful-to-watch attempt at piecing together the human condition and connecting with the past that built him.
You kind of forget that Wall·E is a robot, much less a cartoon robot. Brilliant.
Ah, a perfect beginning to what could have a been a near-perfect movie, but which eventually transmogrified into something else entirely, something packaged and predictable, something happy.
I get it — everything has to work out in the end. For the kids. But, it all felt a bit manufactured and forced to me, and ultimately the ending completely belied the beginning. Or, by the grace of some cosmic, ironic redemption, the whole thing came full circle. Who knows.
Pixar’s ability to consistently deliver movies — over and over and over again — that appeal to every age, is something that puts it in an untouchable class of its own; at the same time though, that versatility continually demands it sacrifice honesty for marketability, and (especially in Wall·E) vision for profit.
There is no doubt that the pre-watch hype surrounding this movie ("OMG! Greatest movie ever!!!") had a role in it not living up to my admittedly impossible expectations, but such influences notwithstanding, I still came away from it slightly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the majority of it, but something definitely was missing.
It’s a smart, emotional movie, and I will no doubt watch it again many times over; I just wish the second half was a bit more like the first, the messages not so strained, and the ending slightly less optimistic.
If I’m being completely honest, I found the similarities to Johnny 5 a teensy bit grating. After all, I’m a robot-loving child of the ’80s (and, if memory serves, had the movie on both VHS and Beta) — how am I supposed to feel? 😉