Sunday, July 13, 2008

double-feature: wall-e and get smart

On Thursday night, my friend Danni and I went into a double feature, and it was the first time I'd done that since high school. We went to see WALL-E and Get Smart and I, of course, loved the former (the one we actually paid for) and was surprised at enjoying the latter.

WALL-E: It was even more brilliant the second time around. I was able to push past the visual awe of Pixar's animation and really focus on the grander themes of Pixar's storytelling. And it was strange because, even though I (spoiler alert!) knew WALL-E doesn't die, I teared up when EVE was sad over WALL-E's shutdown. Pixar did such an amazing job making WALL-E human. Not through anthropomorphism or mere personification. WALL-E is a child filled with curiosity and wonder. I'm certain that each viewing will bring something new to my eyes and heart. The first time was the consumerist/capitalistic/environmentalist warnings and the 2001 references, but this second time reminded me of the simple joys of learning something new. And what is WALL-E about if not progress? My favorite moments this time around were:
WALL-E "waking up" in the morning. His solar powering is equivalent to coffee, and the idea that his eyes haven't focused yet (which causes him to pat at a bar that used to hold his roving tracks) is a true two-second gem. It's entirely relatable and perfectly understandable that a conscious robot being would need time to adjust to a new day.

When EVE sends WALL-E into the pod heading towards earth, he boosts himself up on the chair (he's too short, much like a child, to properly reach the seat) and knocks his feet together. He looks like a child going on a ride at Disney for the first time. A little bit of fear, a little bit of excitement. And it's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen.

What I think is the geekiest moment of the movie still did not receive a laugh. There's a robot that pushes buttons that are all 1s and 0s. It's a keyboard. With a lot of keys. They are all 1s and 0s. How is that not the funniest thing you've ever seen? It just needs two keys!

After WALL-E has been deprogrammed/electrocuted/executed by a fellow robot, he is sent down into the trash compactor where the more advanced WALL-Rs are putting trash out the airlock. After EVE saves WALL-E from the vast void that is space, there is a long shot of the WALL-Rs surrounding WALL-E as he fails to move. The moment conveys sadness, and the shot is reminiscent (at least it reminded me) of one of the last scenes in Spielberg's/Kubrick's A.I. where David sits in his pod looking up/waiting for the Blue Fairy. It's a heartbreaking shot, really, with a soft focus and only limited dim lighting illuminating the character. Either Stanton or Spielberg could have done close-ups to convey this heartbreak, but both chose to isolate a moment -- not just a character -- in an empty space, forcing us to distance ourselves from a moment that is universal. In A.I., it was a sense of lost identity, and in WALL-E, it's a sense of lost hope. It's such a striking shot.

Get Smart: First of all, I loved James Caan playing President Bush. Where is the president during a time of crisis? In an elementary school reading, quite poorly, the book Goodnight, Moon. I clapped when Alan Arkin's character corrected the president's pronunciation of "nuclear." I thought Steve Carell was fantastic as Maxwell Smart, and his character was well written in the respect that the things that went wrong were not necessarily his fault. He's not a bad field agent (except during the whole hands-are-tied-and-should've-used-the-actual-pocket-knife-rather-than-a-miniature-harpoon-that-shoots-him-in-the-face-twenty-times scene), and he delivered his lines with perfect comedic timing. He really can do no wrong. (I'm forgetting that Evan Almighty even exists.) Anne Hathaway was such a throw-away character. She was supposedly emotionally damaged, but I didn't feel that from her, and I'm sorry but she looks like she's twenty and Carell looks like he's forty-five. That's a twenty-five year age difference, and I didn't appreciate any of the scenes explaining that Hathaway's character got years shaved off during her facial reconstruction. That's lazy self-mocking. I thought some of the actions scenes were silly (does it really take ten minutes to fall to the ground from an airplane?), and the script was entirely predictable. There are three, maybe four, "twists" at the end, but I figured them all out within the first fifteen minutes. I knew who was the bad guy, I knew how Carell was going to get rid of the bad guy (but that's because the press wouldn't stop talking about it), what dual purpose Dwayne Johnson's agent character played, and how the bomb was going to go off. But still, there were enough jokes (political, sexual -- which I didn't care for -- and sophomoric) that I didn't care. Besides, does it matter that I wasn't surprised? No. People shouldn't expect to be surprised at the movies (because then endings will ring false if forced or out of left field); they should be entertained. And I was, indeed, entertained.

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