Showing posts with label Andrew Stanton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrew Stanton. Show all posts

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wall-E

Pixar’s 2008 Wall-E is set in the distant future; at a time when the human race has left Earth due to an unmanageable build up of waste. While humanity has grown fat and lazy aboard giant space craft the last remaining Wall-E robot is busy on Earth trying to clean up the mess. Wall-E is dedicated but na├»ve. He takes pride in his work but also has a collection of interesting objects and a passion for the 1969 film Hello Dolly! That film makes him long for company. That company arrives unexpectedly one day in the form of EVE. EVE is a robot sent to earth to search for plant life, something that Wall-E has recently found on the otherwise desolate planet. Wall-E falls instantly in love with EVE and follows her into deep space in an adventure which will impact both them and the remainder of the human race.

I’ll say straight away that I love this film. It is probably my favourite Pixar film which puts it pretty high up my all time list. The animation is extraordinary. In my opinion it is up there with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for the best looking computer animated film ever. The thing that stands out most is the way the film uses focus to such great effect. Backgrounds have the look of being in the background and it gives the film great depth of field. The focus also shifts from the foreground to background to give the film an incredibly realistic feel. This realism is heightened as live action is occasionally dropped in. The characters themselves are beautifully designed and animated. Wall-E looks exactly as you’d expect a trash compacting robot to look and has some lovely little details on him. He even has little scratches which look great. EVE looks much more futuristic than Wall-E but has a beautiful design. The man behind the design of the iPad, iPod and iPhone was consulted on her design and she looks as sleek and stylish as Apple’s products (though her battery lasts longer).

As neither Wall-E nor EVE really speaks much, the animators had to make sure they were able to give their characters expression through the use of body language. They well and truly succeeded with this task and both characters have great expression. Both characters use their eyes and the position of their bodies is very important. At no time was I in any doubt as to what the emotion was that a character was trying to convey and their personalities shone through, despite their lack of dialogue. I read that Wall-E was modelled partly on Buster Keaton who despite his stoic and expressionless face could convey great emotion in the silent era. You can see a lot of Keaton (one of my all time favourite film makers) in Wall-E.

The story has two main strands. The first is a sweet and timeless love story which is very charming. The second part of the story turns the camera on the audience and looks at the lifestyle of the West in the early part of the 21st century. It shows us a glimpse as to where we could be heading. There is only one giant corporation and people have become completely reliant on technology. They have also become so fat and lazy that they can no longer walk. The idea that we don’t appreciate what is around us is also hinted at. These themes fall into line with a lot of the messages from modern day ‘family films’ and can be considered a warning to us all. As well as the traditional Hollywood ‘left wing message’, there are also quite a lot of subtle Biblical messages in the film. EVE could be considered as a partner for the lonely Wall-E (Adam) and her guiding of the Axiom towards Earth has some parallels with the end of the Noah myth, I mean ‘story’. The corporation ‘BnL’ could also be seen as a sort of false prophet.

The whole film is incredibly sweet. It is lovely that all Wall-E wants from EVE is to hold her hand and it is touching to watch him attempt to do so. It almost bought a tear to my eye the first time I watched as Wall-E protected EVE from a storm while on Earth and the scene in which the two dance in space is one of the most magical I’ve seen. As well as being a lovely part of the story, it is also the best animated part and at times one of the funniest.


Wall-E is not the funniest of Pixar’s films but still has its funny moments. The character of a robot that follows Wall-E around, cleaning his track marks is very funny and with all Pixar films there are funny lines and incidents dotted throughout. The addition of the broken robots also created some laughs. It might not be Pixar’s funniest but I think that, with the possible exception of Toy Story 3 it is their most emotional and most endearing film to date. Your heart aches when Wall-E thinks he has lost EVE and again when the opposite is believed to be the case. It is testament to the strength of those two character’s love for one another that the fate of humanity plays second fiddle to their story. Wall-E is an absolutely fantastic film which is too good to be just considered as a children’s film. I believe that an adult would get more out of it than a child. It is touching, funny and sweet. And I love it.

10/10

Monday, 12 March 2012

John Carter


"Good God... I'm on Mars!"


Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitch) is on the run from the law and takes shelter inside a cave in which he discovers gold. Before he can mine it however a man appears as if from nowhere and attacks him. Carter kills the man and repeats his dying words. Suddenly he is transported to a strange world where he has the ability to jump great distances. He is met by a four armed green man and taken back to his city. To cut a very, very long story short, John Carter has been transported to Mars and gets embroiled in another civil war.


The first thing I have to say about the film is that Disney should never have changed the title to John Carter from John Carter of Mars. This was done for the ridiculous reason that Disney executives believed that the Mars part of the title would put people off as not everyone wants to watch Science Fiction. They were obviously unaware that Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time and that 16 of the top 20 top grossing films of all time contain at least some science fiction or fantasy elements, whether it be Orcs, Wizards or Robots beating each other. The decision makes no sense. All one has to do is see the poster or trailer and it is pretty obvious that it is a sci-fi film. The first word spoken is ‘Mars’ for heavens sake!


As for the film itself, it starts with a funny and exciting chase across the Arizona desert when the action is suddenly transported to Mars which looks realistic (although I’ve never been). Carter meets a Thark which are well designed creatures with a well thought out an interesting culture and story. From then on, I kind of lost interest in the story. Carter meets a beautiful princess (Lynn Collins) who is on one side of the war and he decides to help her. The problem is that you learn very little about the two cultures involved in the Civil War. You have no real reason for backing one over the other except one has a beautiful princess while the other has Dominic West in Xena the Warrior Princess’ hand me downs and a blue laser weapon.

The large battle scenes lack the heat, intensity and passion of say Helms Deep in The Lord of the Rings and are over in a matter of seconds. And because you know so little about the protagonists, they just feel like faceless pixels. The entire quest theme of the film is flat and dull. Carter spends much of the film trying to get back to Earth but the character isn’t interesting enough for you to care if he does or not. The costumes the human like character wear feel very Conan the Barbarian and as a result feel a bit dated and cheap. The film isn’t camp enough to pull the look of the costume off. On the plus side, the design of the film as a whole is excellent. The CGI is also excellent. As I mentioned, the non humanoid aliens look terrific, as does their pet, a dog like creature that happens to be the highlight of the film. The cities look detailed and sumptuous and the ships feel mechanical and real. Unfortunately the film reminded me too much of other, better films such as Star Wars and Gladiator and that just made me think “why am I not watching those instead?”


While the film is really just a simple love story intertwined with the search for ones identity, it is complicated quite a bit by the number of names, species and words which the script creates. Some people have complained about this and while it is a bit confusing and off-putting at times people forgave Star Wars its Jedi, Sith and Midiclorians and Harry Potter’s Dementors, Muggles and Horcruxes so perhaps John Carter deserves a break in this respect. Perhaps the reason it has got so much flack for its Tharks, Xavarians and Sab Thans is because the story isn’t compelling enough for the audience to want to take notice of what all of those things are and understand what they mean. The script itself is ok but hardly in Sorkin territory. There is quite a bit of cheesy dialogue. Usually I’d overlook that in an action sci-fi film but when the writer has also been responsible for penning Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall:E its inexcusable. Andrew Stanton is better than that. His scripts are usually funny, flowing and flawless but that is not the case here.

Taylor Kitch is well cast as John Carter. He pulls of the Civil War veteran part of the role well and his confusion on Mars is funny while he is great in the action sequences. Lynn Collins, although beautiful is wooden as Princess Dejah and Dominic West seems to be playing the bad guy with Flash Gordon levels of camp which unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t have. Perhaps it would have benefited from not taking itself so seriously. Willem Defoe is great as Tars the Thark and Samantha Morton equally excels as his daughter Sola. Mark Strong is scary and intimidating as bad guy Matai Shang. Andrew Stanton’s direction is better than his writing. He makes the leap from animation to live action well and has created a believable world populated at least in part with interesting creatures and characters.

In the end, the film didn’t keep my attention for long enough and the characters lacked the depth to make me worry about their fate. It ends very strongly though and I would go back to the world for a sequel.    

5/10
  •  Additional - I have no opinion about the 3D in the film as I've given up with 3D on the whole and saw it in 2D. I'm fed up of paying more for an inferior product.