Wall-E makes me happy

Pixar, Pixar, Pixar.

Make no mistake about it, it is all Pixar and whatever magical aqua vitae they brew throughout their production process. And I know it's not all perfection in moviemaking with no cracks or flaws, but it is a hell of a diamond they crank out, leagues beyond the competition. This was made overwhelmingly apparent by the dreck I was forced to sit through for the preview trailers, each a sad offering in the 3D animated genre that Pixar itself created.

For Wall-E, it's just another reason to gush and laud over an unequalled level of art and creativity that never seems to stop coming from the parties involved. Some people like to talk about the solidarity of the story, others the characters, and others the technical proficiency of the animation and environments. Me, I tend to lean towards the art itself, and the design therein. Wall-E is a gorgeous film, finding an abstract beauty in the opening of Earth's sad legacy and evolving into a razor sharp Asimovian futurist paradise. The forced warmth of Wall-E's existence on a bleak Earth is told not only by character but by color, flawless in execution and full of endless lessons in mood and emotion told through palettes, lighting, and composition. Transitioning to the stark setting of deep space among the falsely active dormancy of the human society we are shown the cold but cool precision of an automated lifestyle; a design sense as detailed and coordinated as the robots that run it. God damn is it pretty.

The story is one that moves along at a steady pace and grows on you stronger and stronger, eventually moving into the trademark, frantic energy of a Pixar finale. The story is completely character driven, focused solely on the titular Wall-E and his appeal. This despite that fact that there is no dialogue for what might be the first hour of the film, such is the strength of Wall-E's personality, which I would think in the hands of lesser men would have come across as schmaltzy and cliché. Yet, man if that Wall-E isn't a cute little bugger.

Lastly I would hope-- hope with all my heart-- that the real message of the film sinks its teeth into the younger generations that watch it, keeping a death grip on their precious little psyches long enough to change The Way We Do Things. If that can be achieved, I will gladly accept the world of Wall-E as fanciful fiction instead of distinct probability.


On a supplementary note to Wall-E, the opening short, Presto, may be one of the flat-out best cartoon shorts I've seen in my adult life. While drinking in the pure fun and comedy that is Presto, it really is a shame to think of what passes as children's entertainment these days. What with executive and marketing driven network fare that has sucked all the awe and joy out of the average, contemporary cartoon. Presto calls back to the days of Warner Bros. gold, where we must remember that cartoons were made for the primarily adult movie going audience, it's just that they were so good it was impossible for children not to enjoy them, too. Sadly it was all downhill from there (as John K. likes to say, "the hippies ruined everything"). Thankfully with Presto we see that the true cartoon is alive and well, and in very good hands. I can only look forward to more.


Incredible Hulk: Smashy, Smashy

What is weird about The Incredible Hulk is that it's not a relaunch, reboot, or a "requel" as it's been called, in suspect to "make up for" Ang Lee's 2003 version (which has its own batch of weirdness). What we got here is just another in a long line of Hollywood trends: turning and old TV show into a movie. This latest version of the Hulk doesn't even try to hide its roots in the Bixby series of days past, it's a flat out continuation. In some ways it's disappointing, namely the origin. I always thought the Hulk had a great origin for film, but that's yet to be adapted at all. As has been noted in other reviews such as The Beat's, the Hulk's origin is told in an opening montage that likens to a flashback, for a movie that never existed.

But going in with low expectations, as I did, has its advantages. The movie isn't that bad-- I was fairly entertained. I don't think it has the impact of Iron Man, but there is plenty for any action film aficionado or comics reader to like. Almost too much, I can't imagine someone who knows nothing of the Hulk following more than the broadness of the story. What I felt was that the fanboys finally got everything they could want from a comic book movie, but at the expense of having it be anything more than a by-the-numbers adaptation.

There is tons of "Hulk Smash." It's close to Transformers in the wanton destruction of property department. And you know, it's fun to watch the Hulk go all aggro and rip cars in half and throw tanks around. A nitpick of mine is that this movie had the Hulk use shrapnel as weapons more often than not, which to me is a transparent translation of things to make into toys, but whatever. Hulk doesn't need accessories, Hulk has fists!

So while it's neat to watch the ridiculous CG money pit Hulk against Abomination, what I missed was any attempt to actually define what the Hulk is and its relation to Banner. A huge part of the comics, when it was at its best, was the turmoil of Banner dealing with the Hulk actually being a part of himself, a gamma-born psyche that fights to be set free without limits. The movie treats the Hulk more as an unwanted super power that Banner is afraid to unleash not because of what it represents, but for the superficial damage it does. Maybe I am asking too much from the new wave of comic book films.

As for the Hulk itself, he's just a big, nice, expensive CG animation that bounces around and hits things. He doesn't have the pathos of Gollum nor the subtlety of Yoda. Sure they try to hit you over the head with their attempt at that in a couple of scenes, but it's lacking. Strangely Abomination has more personality, due likely to his extra non-human deformities. Though I must say I am extra critical in this department, and for all intents and purposes 'ol Jadejaws is a commanding presence when roaring in full theater surround sound.

Clearly after Iron Man and now The Hulk, movies are the new Marvel. Which makes me wonder why the Fantastic Four movies are so awful. Talk about needing a reboot!

BONUS! Hop over to io9 for a look at some concept art of Hulk and Abomination. "Frankenstein Hulk" would have been awesome!

The Hulks that Almost Were


Stan Winston

I read that Stan Winston passed away over the weekend (Tim Russert's passing did not go unnoticed, either). Because of Star Wars, I grew up devouring everything I could about film special effects, from the classics into the digital age. Winston's name was ever-present with the likes of Harryhausen, Dykstra, and Tippet. The list of groundbreaking and just plain awesome films under Winston's magical touch is simply amazing. Terminator 2 may be my favorite of his, but right up to Iron Man he went out with a hell of a bang. Film and how films are made is due in no small part to much of his work.

Stan Winston was the man. And if he wasn't, he just built one.

Special-Effects Pioneer Stan Winston Dies at 62