Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wall•E (& A Word On “Rocktimism”)

Thanks to The Sunday Times, we managed to see this for free on the Saturday before it was fully released. At 10.30am. In a cinema full of toddlers. Some of whom made noise all the way through. So perhaps not ideal, and certainly not tinged with cultural excitement and reverence in the way that our first viewing of The Dark Knight was. But, y'know… first, and for free.

I think I WANTED to like Wall•E more than I actually did. Parts of it are absolutely astonishing. Other parts, not so much. The much-lauded near-silent opening thirty minutes or so are photo-realistic in their animated detail and rendering, the use of fake lens flare and traditional cinematographic virtual camera work taking the level of Pixar’s achievements in animation up yet another spectacular notch. More than technically terrific, they were also lovely – Wall•E himself imbued with enormous charm and humanity, far more than his predecessor Johnny Five from the Short Circuitfilms. But 00s animation is always going to trump 80s robotics for that.

Even though I found EVE a little too… pristine, and slick… and, to be brutal, Mac-like (he types, on a Mac), their relationship was also disarmingly sweet. Andrew Gaerig, former colleague at Stylus, summed up Wall•E’s charm with a beautiful deconstruction of the scene where he takes EVE back to his trailer, an observation which sadly until now has been trapped in private webspace;

There's never been a purer distillation of a boy taking a girl into his room for the first time:

“I have some things! I hope you like at least a few of my things. Please don't break my favorite things though.”

The use of real human actors as the archive footage explaining humanity’s flight away from a polluted Earth was jarring, though, especially when juxtaposed with the chubby, detail-lacking forms that humankind is meant to have evolved into over the course of 700 years of hover-chairs and robot slaves. The final frontier of CGI is presumably the ability to make believable people; the Final Fantasy film certainly failed. Interestingly, I didn’t mind the use of Hello Dolly! footage, and didn’t find the Axiom sequences as heavy-handed or off-putting as I know many others did.

Aside from EVE’s disinfected aesthetic and Fred Willard’s non-animated presence though, Wall•E ticks almost all the boxes: it looks amazing; the sound design is terrific; the socio-ecological message of the film is one so powerful as to be primal (and it is happening now – every single thing illustrated as leading to humanity’s downfall is already in place or else developing fast); it also says brave things about mental health care as an aside; the jokes and visual humour are cross-generational in appeal. But it still leaves me a little cold. Perhaps it was the context of the screening, early morning, surrounded by kids. Perhaps I just wanted Wall•E the film to be 70 minutes of Wall•E the robot exploring a deserted Earth, Terence Malick or Godfrey Reggio style, all slow upwards pans through trees and repetitive soundtrack. I need to see it again to judge fully, but at the moment my feeling is that it lags a long way behind The Incredibles in my affections.


I feel like I should explain what Rocktimism is. It’s certainly not an affront to Poptimism, firstly. Secondly, this blog arose from a tossed aside comment by Paul during a round of emails between him, Henry and myself, about how “I feel like there's a bunch of us who, for various reasons including picking pointless fights, went along with a certain early noughties pop philosophy but then got off the bus.” I joked that we should start a blog called Rocktimists. Henry and Paul said it was stupid. I’d been thinking about starting a collaborative writing forum for a while, so I started it anyway.

At the moment, clearly, it’s not much – a handful of potential contributors and a vague idea that, actually, there’s nothing wrong with preferring Elbow to Rachel Stevens, or The Dark Knight to Mamma Mia (on one hand, or Goodfellas on the other. Or The Piano Teacher on some kind of weird third hand.) But maybe this will go somewhere. Maybe not, obviously, but let’s have some blue skies thinking. For now, if one of us has something we want to write down and throw out there to the infinite wilderness that is the internet, this might be where we do it.


SwissToni said...

Eve not only looked like an apple product, did you notice that when she powered back on, she made the Apple Mac rebooting "BONG" noise?

Oh, those crazy cartoonists....

I thought this film was actually a bit dull and stuck between two stools: too childish for adults and too adult for kids.


Steve Mannion said...

I'm a little intrigued by why you 'got off the bus' re 00s pop philosophy. Go into this more some time.

Sick Mouthy said...

I'll aim to do so, Mister Mannion.

Marcello Carlin said...

See, this is where your wheels have already fallen off.

You've put me off forever with the "nothing wrong with preferring Elbow to Rachel Stevens" tag rather than offering cogent, well-argued reasons why this should be the case. It screams "reactionary," it hisses "fear of the future," it cringes "either/or" which is the cancer which music writing can't cure itself of at the moment.

I want seriousness in my music writing, not childish wargames.

Sick Mouthy said...

Marcello, this is our first week - we're still ruminating ideas, practicing our voices; cogent arguments will all come in time.