I know, I know. I’m really late to the Wall-E love jones. Like many of you I think it’s a masterpiece, a film for the ages. But as I watched the film a couple of weeks back, I wasn’t thinking of the history being made before my eyes, but of something a friend of mine once said.
My dear friend Gregory, a teacher and poet now living in New York, is the very definition of a hard sell. He’s read a mountain of books, has worked as an art critic and has seen nearly every film made between 1888 and last week. (He also has a wicked geek streak, having been raised on Golden Age comics and sci-fi.) He approaches every piece of art completely impartially and very much in a “show me” state of mind.
I am happy to say that Gregory appreciates Pixar. When first we saw Toy Story, he shook his head in admiration — not at the animation, but the script. “They just told the story,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of that these days.” Meaning: No fart jokes, no excess of pop culture references, no moralizing. Other studios, including (recent) Disney, make animated films; Pixar makes animated fables. Their stories are every bit as compelling when told around a campfire.
Just as The Incredibles took the superhero film and distilled it down to Only The Stuff We Wanted to See, so Wall-E refines the dystopian sci-fi epic down to the elements that matter. The story of a lowly trash-compacting robot who falls in love, Wall-E rolls over the ground once trod by Stanley Kubrick, Will Smith and Mad Max, but it makes those references seem coincidental. You’re so caught up in the flow of the story — and cowed by the astonishing visuals — that you hardly notice the landmarks as you pass them by. Like Wall-E himself you are in love, and the world around you is a warm blur.
I’m fairly dying to find out what Gregory thinks of Wall-E. It is rich with elements that Gregory is passionate about — dystopian sci-fi, silent film, visual poetry. And it simply tells the story. May we never become tired of Pixar’s ability to do that.