Wall-E: Pixar... Well, Pixar!

Right from the inception of fully computerized animation in Toy Story (1995), Pixar has been the best in their domain, by and large (no puns intended, hope none taken!). Time and again, I have been swept away by each one of their films. How I wish every time that some other animation company in USA made such a good film. Dreamworks came close with Madagascar (2005), but posed no threat whatsoever to the throne held by Pixar. Here they are with WALL•E, coming to the country after creating waves in the US box office. Before the film started, how I wished Pixar would falter, just a bit for just one time, to at least testify the theory that even the mightiest are not infallible. But no, not yet.

It is 29th century. Amidst the exanimate garbage wastelands, happily compacting the dump is WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), a rusty little robot with notably large eyes. There are no traces of life in the whole area. Yes, there is earth, there is fire, there is wind and there is water, but not life. WALL•E’s only source of connection comes in the form of his friend the cockroach and the only place of warmth being his home, which he carefully assembles from the scrap materials he gathers. He examines every bit of junk with his reflective yet assimilative eyes, in search of excitement. He spends his nights watching romantic numbers from the (19)60’s and trying to imitate them. The sheer silence adds to the comic intensity, proving once again that neither comedy nor animation needs dialogue for success. One wishes that this spectacular act never ends.

One great day, WALL•E notices an elegant robot dislodging from a large spaceship that has landed. It is the Eve of this defunct Garden of Eden, the angel of death floating in air, the femme fatale from the future, EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). She’s like nothing he has ever seen and definitely better than him – Faster, stronger and smarter – but unaware of life. Instantly smitten, WALL•E tries to get closer to his subject of interest, only to find out that she has been sent by the humans residing in the spaceship Axiom, which had been installed 700 years ago to temporarily hold humans till the ecological problem on earth was solved. EVE is immediately called back to Axiom when she discovers that there is vegetation on earth again, after so many centuries. WALL•E decides to go after her and leaves earth.

WALL•E is introduced to a whole new species called humans. Though comically executed, it is with some solemnity that the humans are handled in the film. WALL•E notices that man has been pampered and made back into infants, refusing to even walk and eat on their own, ignorant of all the small joys of life. This is when its gets a bit dramatic and things seem to become a bit conventional. WALL•E, unintentionally, induces life into everyone there and they start realizing the vitality of life. It seems like the second dawn of man. Man learns to walk, again. He gets independent of all his machines. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. As the ship’s captain decides to return back to earth, he faces stern opposition. Can humanity be brought back to earth? Can man re-learn everything? Can earth feel the Fifth Element once more?

In a film about robots, it is difficult to make the audience empathize with the rigid geometrically built characters. But WALL•E’s large eyes are so full of life that one does not feel that he is a lifeless being right from the first glimpse. One is reminded of Scrat’s eyes from Ice Age (2002), but this is only better. So are EVE’s two dimensional eyes. The creators have generated so much emotion from just changing their shapes. And so has a lot of effort gone into the fabrication of the wasteland. The damp roads, the disposed plastics and the occasional gust of wind – everything here is a lunge forward for CG animation. Pixar regular Tom Newman has done a good job by introducing some 60’s and 70’s feel into the score that is, ironically, very suitable for such a futuristic film.

In A Bug’s Life (1998), there’s this scene where Manny the mantis performs his routine trick called the Chinese Cabinet of Metamorphosis and Molt the bumbling hopper is shocked and cries out “How did he do that!!!”. That is exactly what I ask myself every time Pixar churns out one of their creations. Producing around five minutes of animation every week, Pixar has once again proved all those clichéd maxims about hard work. Here they are now, with WALL•E, clearly another winner. May not be their best, but it does get the credit of being the best film of the year so far.

P.S: Stick till the quirky end credits which roll over as WALL•E and EVE dance over paintings ranging from the early man’s pagan art to Van Gogh.

P.P.S: Check out the Pixar short Presto that comes along with this film. It is up there with the likes of Geri’s Game and For The Birds. Absolutely hilarious.


Metropolis (1927)
Fritz Lang

“There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”



When cinema was in its infancy during the teens and the twenties, many pioneers sought to provide it a definite shape and even assemble various tools and benchmarks for the decades of filmmakers to come. This led to the formation of various cinematic and narrative techniques, characteristic to their country of origin, which were later used by tens of directors from that country. One such trait, expressionism, was extensively used by the filmmakers of Germany such as F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. The latter’s magnum opus, Metropolis (1927), is a grand marriage of the expressionist method and unimaginably high ambitions for its time.

Joh Fredersen is a huge industrialist and the owner of the high-tech city of Metropolis. The workers of Metropolis are overworked and are exploited in exchange for small amounts of wages. This pains Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of Fredersen who seeks to get justice for the workers from his father. The workers are on the verge of a revolution, but are held back by the hopes given by Maria (Brigitte Helm). Knowing this, Fredersen plans to use the evil genius of the city, Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), and build a humanoid that resembles Maria in order to disorient the workers. However, Rotwang has his own plans and decides to double-cross Fredersen , in the process endangering everyone’s life.

To get an idea of the film’s influence on cinema it is enough to consider that it was the pioneer of the Sci-Fi genre – the one that Hollywood has never grown tired of. Its ideas of science and future have tricked down to every science fiction film made after it – both great and disastrous. Right from the struggle to create a whole new world (Minority Report, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow etc.) to the debate of humanity versus artificiality (Blade Runner, A. I. etc.), the impact of the film is omnipresent in the genre. The film’s special effects, needless to mention, were groundbreaking for their time (The Tower of Babel sequence retains its potency to amaze).

Going hand in hand with expressionism, the film is full of black and white characters and only aids the film’s heightened take on fantasy. Its consistent message of compassion for the working class may be a tad tasteless for viewers of today who do not expect any propaganda from the medium. However, this was, perhaps, required for Lang to drive home the point of the film which would otherwise have been deemed meaningless. Faith in the face of apocalypse becomes a joint theme, along with importance of humanity over science, which is supported well by biblical references.

Special mention must be made for the 2002 restoration of the epic which happens to coincide with its 75th anniversary of release. With over 25 percent of the film’s footage lost, the techies at the F. W. Murnau Foundation have done a staggering job of gathering the remaining material, removing the blemishes from each and every frame and providing intertitles summarizing the missing sections. The conventional score by Gottfried Huppertz for the version majestically supports the grandeur of the film.

Metropolis invariably takes the second place when the works of Fritz Lang are discussed and is overpowered by the dynamism and adrenaline of M (1931), immensely influential by itself and unbound by time. When watched today, Metropolis may look very amateurish in the execution of its themes and dated in its techniques, but placing oneself in its age and assessing its influence on future of the medium and the massiveness of its strides, it is ineluctable to call it a classic.