Saturday night we were watching some re-runs of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on probably USA Network. So it was with some amusement that the 8pm re-run was called "Avatar". Had to do with a virtual online world called Another Universe, i.e. Second Life by another name. After that we hauled out one of the Christmas DVD presents...
DVD: WALL•E [G]
For whatever reason we didn't see this in the theatre, even though we wanted to. Pixar does an extraordinary job with animated movies, as in animated movies and not Avatar-type integrated CGI. Mrs. Dr. Phil's favorite is Monsters, Inc., while I think The Incredibles has the best integrated plot, and then there's Ratatouille... ah, sigh. So WALL•E and any new Pixar film is going to go up against some stiff competition, and all from other Pixar films! Starting the DVD leaves you no doubt that you are loading a DISNEY DVD, but they're wrong. It's a PIXAR DVD and that carries a sophisticated excellence which is the gold standard of today's animated moviemaking.
In short, WALL•E is a delight.
Our hero WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class), is the last of a class of robots that is supposed to clean up all the garbage left behind by the humans, who planned on leaving Earth for a few years and come back when it was all cleaned. Alas, a few years has stretched out into 700 years, and WALL•E is left forgotten on the Earth. But he's happy, with a cockroach buddy (of course) -- who does NOT do the Disney singing and talking cricket routine, he's just a cockroach -- and a collection of spare parts and interesting bits and pieces. We even are treated to a delightful spork joke, all told without words and without people, except as ghostly images projected from a VCR tape.
WALL•E's life changes with the arrival of EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). EVE is everything that WALL•E isn't. She's sleek, airborne, fast... and utterly unrealistic from a physical device point of view and has a very itchy fast trigger finger on her powerful blaster arm. (grin) And she has a real mission. The realism argument is something of a problem for me. The garbage situation created by the 22nd century scenario is itself something of a crock. But since WALL•E is obviously a well thought out electromechanical system, anything which breaks that realism is going to be noticed by me. WALL•E's solar cells, for example, are THE MOST EFFICIENT converters of sunlight to TONS of energy ever, since one charge in the morning and he seems good to go the rest of the day. But trying to think of WALL•E as a totally realistic movie is a crock itself -- it's an animated feature and it's fun, so stop trying to think so damned hard, Dr. Phil!
When a ship comes back to pick up EVE, WALL•E latches onto the ship and travels to meet up with the massive starship Axiom. WALL•E's world, so to speak, is expanded, but though he marvels at all he sees, he is dedicated in his pursuit to find and protect EVE.
There are more and wondrous types of robots on the Axiom, including some giant versions of WALL•E himself (there's a cute deleted scene where WALL•E is trying to get the attention of the giants and crushes some garbage into a small cube and gets patted on the head by one of the giant WALL•E machines, before it goes back to making big crushed garbage cubes). Also a running gag with a cleaning robot with OCD named M-O (Microbe Obliterator), which has to deal with WALL•E's trail of debris. Oh, and huh. Sigourney Weaver was the voice of the Axiom's computer. More shades of Avatar. (grin) We'd actually seen the Pixar short BURN-E, which involves a repair robot BURN-E (Basic Utility Repair Nano Engineer) on the starship Axiom, as part of a TV special of a dozen or so of Pixar's shorts, so it was great fun to see BURN-E being passed, knowing what was going to befall that little repair robot.
I'd heard that humans didn't come off very well in this movie, and it's something of a mixed bag. PARADE Magazine in today's Sunday paper had a silly fluff piece on how surfing the web improves the brain. Yeah, right, as your body turns into the blubbery blobs from WALL•E ? Surely learning or reading or researching anything helps improve the brain. Is it news that scarfing new info like some Internet Hoover vacuum cleaner would occasionally cause you to learn something and improve yourself? Way to enter 2010, PARADE.
But once opened up to the possibilities of the real world, the humans do okay -- though as non-physically interacting blobby people, I had to wonder where the heck the babies came from -- and the ship's captain owes a lot, I think, to Mr. Incredible himself, as he comes through in the end.
Still, one can forget the silliness and appreciate, sort of like Avatar, that you can enjoy the movie without having to feel bludgeoned by That Environmental Disaster Theme. And maybe the young'uns will think a little bit about all that junk food and disposable stuff they want all the time. (big grin)
Oh, and for those of you who don't bother with credits, you've missed two little gems. First, the credits feature some Atari 2600-like 8-bit style clonky graphics of WALL•E and EVE and Auto, etc. Second, there's a Dr. Phil Special -- two actually -- at the end of the credits. Ex-cellent.
Trailers: Includes a cute and simple promo for Up, which alas we have not seen yet either. And alas, if we see that one on DVD, it shan't be in 3-D.