Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wall•E is a Beau-ty

The highlight of the second day of the New York Comic Con was a special preview of Pixar's Wall•E. I've included the earliest teaser poster to your left cuz it's so cute and all but forgotten with the release of more and more trailers and imagery. It's like Wall•E himself, abandoned 700 years back when everyone left Earth...and forgot to turn off the last robot.

Day two of the con was actually quite a bummer for this casual non-committed geek. He grew tired of all the constant shilling of new product in place of actual conversation or sneak peeks. Lucasfilms was particularly evil about this. They got a whole hour of prime space and location and then abused the eager fans. They sent a corporate guy to repeat himself frequently, congratulate George Lucas on his genius (*cough*), threaten us "delight us" with stories of George's "control" over every new Star Wars project (Didn't The Empire Strikes Back prove definitively 28 years ago that George is more effective when he's not holding all reigns?). Then they showed only trailers, despite other studios offering actual advance scenes. As an added "bonus" they also showed footage of the same guy at other conventions interviewing people about the new product (a new video game and an animated series) in which they repeated everything you'd already heard in his scripted banter. Yes, thanks. Lucasfilms went to the Dark Side long ago.

But not Pixar. Pixar is not only of consistent quality, but also of warm fuzzies. They're so generous and thus quite contemporary, after all a lot of new models for entertainment do involve giving the product away: tv, music, blogs, podcasts, web comics all do this. The expectation being that if you're any good and people love the work, they'll buy compilations, go to your shows, donate to keep you writing and snatch up print versions of your online work, respectively.

Pixar's man showed three lengthy scenes from Wall•E, all of which were highly amusing and emotionally direct and thus tender (cuz it's Pixar, not...Haneke). The first was Wall•E doing his garbage dump thing when he discovers a red light, which he begins to chase into the desert. The chase will be even funnier for people who have cats: they can't resist chasing laser pointers, even though there's nothing to catch. It's an eternal fruitless struggle for pea-brained felines. The light turns into multiple lights and eventually a huge space ship is landing, completely disrupting our little robot's existence and bringing his new girl into full view. She's "Eva", a sleek modern robotic beauty. MaryAnn (The Flick Filosopher) whispered to me that she was like 'the iPod of robots.' It's so true. How Pixar's crack animation team is able to make a rusty box-like protagonist and his elongated egg-like love so expressive is a delightful mystery. I find still photos of Wall•E to be rather unfulfilling but the animation, very photo-realistic this time, is stunning. To see the characters move and emote is a wonder. It was also interesting to hear that the filmmakers had consulted with world great cinematographer Roger Deakins (two Oscar nominations last year for No Country For Old Men as The Assassination of Jesse James) on the film. Wall•E may look like he belongs in the junkyard but Wall•E looks like a hundred and twenty million bucks.

The second scene had our Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth Class showing Eva a beta-max copy of Hello Dolly that he obsesses over. I'm not making this up! The final scene was even more hilarious and featured a crowd pleasing cleaning robot who is horrified by the earth muck that Wall•E has contaminated his ship with. All three scenes were dialogue free, which means Thomas Newman's score as well as the sound mixing and effects were front and center. Peter Gabriel, pictured left, is doing the end credits song! I'm quite relieved to have predicted the film in all four of those categories for next year's Academy Awards. This should be a fairly easy sell in most of those.

The big question mark regarding the film's quality is whether Wall•E's mix of sci-fi whimsy and silent movie pathos can be sustained at full feature length without getting too gooey/cutesy but the footage screened was very impressive.

Here's the newest trailer.

related articles
Oscar Predictions for 2008 -the first round
We Can't Wait -Wall•E was TFE's #12 entry
Pixar Eight -Ranking the studio's feature filmography. Where will this new film land when all is said and done?

More Comic Con Posts:
Super Women or Cheap Whores -genre land isn't kind to the ladies
Puny Fanboys. Hulk Smash -corporate nerves and collateral damage


Anonymous said...

Wall-E seems a bit like a robot version of E.T. eh

Anonymous said...

Yeah, except the fact that they seem nothing alike.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, you've got to change the tally for Wall-e. You've predicted noms in 5 categories, but the tally stands at three.

Still, i can't wait for this film. The reactions to previews have been great.

Anonymous said...

Sigourney Weaver is voicing one of the robots.
It just adds to the cool factor of the film


yes, we heard her voice in one of the final scenes we saw. Forgot to mention. But honestly, I wouldn't have known it was her if they hadn't mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Well, Nat, she's a character actor, after all...

Anonymous said...

Betamax copy of Hello Dolly? Are we sure he isn't gay? ("Eva" could be transgender, after all.)

Seriously, this is going to be HUGE. Forget The Hulk. This is the movie folks of all age levels will be able to enjoy - those of us who grew up in the '70's and '80's will dig all the Star Wars/ET referencing and other cultural referencing, parents will be able to bring their kids, it'll work on all levels.

And who else but pixar could throw star wars, et and etta james (ETTA JAMES!) into the same blender and come out with something tasty? Plus - Peter Gabriel was my musical GOD when I was growing up.


Anonymous said...

On the other hand (watching it a second time - and don't get me wrong, I'm going to go see it), it sort of reminds me of the Apatow comedies - shlubby guy, sleek and attractive woman. (of course, that's an old formula in the movies anyway. But still.)

There was that element in Ratatouille as well - nerdy guy, smart and attractive female, they fall in love, blah blah blah. At least in the Pixar versions however, the women are smart and capable as well as attractive.