last “man” on earth: WALL-E.
Human Than Human
by Andrew Stanton
Merging the seemingly disparate sensibilities and visual styles
of futuristic sci-fi flicks such as Alien with Nick
Park’s whimsical approach in the animated Wallace &
Gromit: A Grand Day Out might at first seem like a strange,
if not altogether bad, idea. However, the brains behind Pixar’s
new movie WALL-E have nailed it in such a way as to
intertwine a lyrical love story with a dire warning about
global warming. Bonus points: This movie doesn’t feature tap-dancing
At some future date, all of Earth’s inhabitants have taken
refuge in a starship outfitted with every possible luxury,
all attainable by the mere push of a button. Needless to say,
all of Earth’s inhabitants have gotten extremely fat and useless
(which begs the question of why the starship has so many adorable,
if too chubby, babies, but I digress). Robots and computers
keep everything and everyone running smoothly, including the
captain (Jeff Garlin), who requires their assistance just
to haul his heft out of bed.
Meanwhile, back on the mother planet, a sole occupant remains
busily occupied; Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth Class,
or WALL-E, assisted only by his trusty cockroach pal, spends
his days hauling the mountains of trash left behind and converting
them into compact cubes, which then become the basis for enormous
skyscraper-type structures. At night, in the shelter of a
metal trailer, he mulls over his collection of artifacts (Rubik
cubes, etc.) and enjoys grainy rewinds of Hello, Dolly!
The monotony of such an existence is permanently altered when
a research probe from the starship, Eve (Elissa Knight), lands
in search of signs of intelligent life. What follows is the
burgeoning of a lovely romance that evokes the best Chaplin
or Keaton silent-screen moments, made even more memorable
by Pixar’s seemingly impossible accomplishment of making two
non-humans, one a rusty, hard-angled robot and the other resembling
the latest ladies’ electric shaver, eloquent and empathetic.
As with Chaplin or Keaton, WALL-E is the slower, less worldly
of the two, whereas Eve is a cool sophisticate, preferring
to maintain a Garbo-like allure unless, if surprised, she’s
forced to use her laser gun.
When Eve returns to the ship, she’s carrying a “contaminant,”
a green plant WALL-E had given her. The captain, with such
evidence of sustainability, determines to adjust course and
return, but the robots will have none of it. When a desperate
but determined WALL-E finds a way to follow Eve, the two endeavor
to stay together despite the odds. Meanwhile, as in all good
sci-fi, some of the starship inmates, namely John (John Ratzenberger)
and Mary (Kathy Najimy), come out of their mindless existences
just long enough to connect, to note that they’ve been pod
people for too long, and to assist the captain in his quest
for human mastery of machines. Sounds lofty and possibly yawn-inducing,
but somehow, screenwriters Stanton and Jim Capobianco give
this largely gloomy story a positive spark, and imbue its
human characters with the chance for redemption.
does a superior job of depicting the collapse of a civilization,
through mindless intakes of entertainment news, empty calories,
new gizmos and utter lack of will and commitment. The starship
is like a supersized Wal-Mart, only in this case, it’s the
conglomerate B&L, or Buy’nLarge; interestingly, much of
the refuse and remaining structures that remain back on Earth
are B&L as well. The earthscape that WALL-E, and later
Eve, scoot around is an otherworldly yellow, with lots of
dust, battered metals and crumbling concrete. The emptiness
is palpable, but it’s ironically similar to the emptiness
of the way-too- colorful, automated starship.
In either case, it’s clear that people have the power to make
what they will of technology and new inventions, and, by extension,
their byproducts. There’s a telling moment, early on, when
Wall-E sifts through his souvenirs. For all the junk that
abounds on the shelves, in our closets, in the airspace and
on the web, there exists brilliance, innovation and just plain
fun. Both WALL-E and Eve are the most obvious examples of
the benefits of technology, so it is befitting that the two
assist the captain in his efforts to salvage his and his passengers’
humanity. I went into WALL-E expecting not to like
it, as I generally don’t like science fiction (nor do I find
robotic anythings particularly endearing), but I came out
impressed with an unexpected sense of wonder, possibility,
and most of all, hope.
by Timur Bekmambetov
In spite of itself, Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov’s
kill-a-minute actioner Wanted is ridiculously entertaining.
The “in spite of itself” part is the film’s story, a comic-book
mythology that is among the stupidest fucking things I’ve
ever encountered in any kind of fiction. It’s something about
medieval weavers finding binary code in the fabric produced
by a magic loom, and how they pass the secret of this heavy
wisdom down through the centuries to a league of assassins
led by Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie.
What it’s really about is a nerdy office drone named Wesley
(James McAvoy), and his violent, bone-crunching journey from
being a slave to TPS reports to his true self—an assassin.
(Don’t let the ads fool you: McAvoy is the star of the picture,
not Jolie. She has almost as little dialogue as the title
character in WALL-E.) He’s so uptight, so repressed,
that psychic self-suffocation has made him stupid. Naturally,
the task of transforming him from quivery wreck to cool-eyed,
quasi-mystical superkiller—a task entrusted, of course, to
the enigmatic assassin Fox (Jolie)—is unpleasant.
It’s this unpleasantness that makes the film work, however.
A physical and mental price must be paid to free oneself from
this level of repression, and Wesley pays it. Scotsman McAvoy,
best known for his showy performances in The Last King
of Scotland and Atonement, plays an office-bound
American loser so well, one would think he’d really grown
up in some cul-de-sac nightmare of a suburb, flat accent and
This palpable sense of pain balances the absurdity of the
ho-hum, seen-it-all-before special effects and endless CGI
Among the cast, Jolie is good; Freeman is a little better.
Terrance Stamp turns up as a Moravian monk, and has more dignity
than the entire picture.
The story may be dumb, but the screenwriters do a nice job
of tying everything together. (And, of course, setting things
up for a sequel.) It’s deeply silly stuff—but you’ll probably
enjoy it as much as I did.