I’ve been meaning to post something about WALL•E for a while now — and I will post something, I hope, in the near future — but life has been busy and the mountain of WALL•E commentary to sift through has grown impossibly large.
In the meantime, however, I commend to you this piece by Noah Millman, who lists many of the flaws with this film that had occurred to me already as well as many that hadn’t, before concluding:
I may be grading WALL•E too hard, measuring it by the apparent scale of its ambitions rather than rating it against other kiddie flicks of the season, but that’s what higher ambitions will get you: more serious critical attention. And WALL•E, while it has wonderful things about it – just for having brought back the silent movie, it deserves high praise – just didn’t impress me as the work of art it’s being praised as.
There is some interesting discussion in the comments, too.
I am also somewhat relieved to find that as esteemed an animation expert as Jerry Beck seems to share my mild reaction to the film, acknowledging that there is much to “admire” in the film, as there usually is in a Pixar movie, but that it also left him “a little cold” and “a little disappointed”.
Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.
Cruising Bar 2 — CDN $1,150,000 — N.AM $1,150,000 — 100%
The Love Guru CDN $3,410,000 — N.AM $29,331,000 — 11.6%
Sex and the City — CDN $15,450,000 — N.AM $144,864,000 — 10.7%
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — CDN $26,360,000 — N.AM $306,590,000 — 8.6%
Wanted — CDN $7,300,000 — N.AM $90,775,000 — 8.0%
Get Smart — CDN $7,850,000 — N.AM $98,115,000 — 8.0%
Kung Fu Panda — CDN $14,480,000 — N.AM $193,395,000 — 7.5%
The Incredible Hulk — CDN $9,070,000 — N.AM $124,917,000 — 7.3%
Hancock — CDN $6,830,000 — N.AM $107,321,000 — 6.4%
WALL*E — CDN $7,860,000 — N.AM $128,132,000 — 6.1%
A couple of discrepancies: The Love Guru and Cruising Bar 2 were #9 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (the former film was #11 in North America as a whole, and the latter film does not appear on the North American chart at all), while Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan were #8 and #10 on the North American chart, respectively (they were #13 and #11 in Canada).
Right off the bat, they talk about Gort, the robot who was at one point rumoured to be missing from the film but can now be seen clearly, if briefly, at the end of the new trailer:
The last shot in the trailer is a hero shot, although strangely not of Keanu Reeve’s character Klaatu, but of his trusty robot Gort. The look of the character deliberately recalls his look in the 1951 original.
“It was intentional,” Derrickson said. “I certainly took a lot of time to explore other possibilities. It wasn’t just a foregone conclusion in my mind that we would be sticking to the original. I tried looking at a lot of different possibilities, worked on a lot of different ideas with artists and just always a nagging sense that there was something right about the way the original, that there was something about this alien entity choosing a human form or being in a human form that had value even by modern standards, not by 1950 standards. I also am such a fan of the original film. You have to also just have some respect for Gort. Gort is Gort. There’s no question what we designed pays homage to the original.”
They also discuss the new film’s environmental theme:
In an interview with MTV News in March, Reeves told us that Klaatu’s message to Earth was very different from the one in the original, that he was bringing with him a warning to stop destroying the environment. Here it looks like the environment is destroying us (or Giants Stadium, at any rate) — which is it?
“It’s both and even more,” Derrickson explained. “I think that this film in some ways is an attempt to address a number of issues that are amongst the most pressing issues for the human race. The original being a Cold War film was addressing what was clearly the greatest threat for the human race at that time, mutual nuclear destruction, and that’s not the most pressing threat that we face now. It’s also man vs. man. We are destroying each other as well. Our country’s at war right now. There is certainly the issue being addressed in the movie of our treatment of one another on the planet. I think it’s a movie about human nature as much as anything else and how human nature is acting itself out in the world right now.”
Finally, they ask him about the possible religious allegory — and while they don’t mention it here, Derrickson happens to be a Christian whose previous directorial effort was The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), so his answer on this point is particularly interesting:
The original was a not-so-subtle allegory for Christ (the alien’s human name is Carpenter, he calls for peace, he is resurrected at the end, etc.). Is Derrickson’s version as overt?
“I don’t think you can really escape that metaphor,” Derrickson said. “I think the Christ-myth stories make great stories, whether it’s ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Braveheart,’ they all are tapping into some kind of deep myth in our DNA, and by myth I don’t necessarily mean false. I mean something that has mythological power and that’s definitely part of the story and part of what attracts me to it. My approach to that was to not discard that, but to be not quite as direct as the original.”
One fascinating thing about this is that Robert Wise, who directed the original film in 1951 (my comments), claimed he had no idea about the Christological elements in his film until other people pointed them out to him after the film was finished. So he was unintentionally overt about them, whereas Derrickson, from the sound of it, will be intentionally subtler about them.
Glad to have these out of my system, at last!
1. MTV Movies Blog notes that Pixar may run into some difficulties on Cars 2, due to the rumoured health problems that may or may not be plaguing Paul Newman, who provided the voice of Doc Hudson in the original film.
The blog doesn’t mention it, but the series may also be affected, one way or another, by the recent death of George Carlin, who provided the voice of Fillmore, and the rumoured suicide attempt last year of Owen Wilson, who provided the voice of Lightning McQueen.
This would not be the first time a Pixar franchise has had to press on without some of its original members. Jim Varney, who provided the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story movies (1995-1999), died eight years ago. I have no idea whether the character will appear in Toy Story 3, which is currently in production, but the actor certainly won’t.
2. The New York Times takes a look at Terminator Salvation and the producers’ determination to keep filming even though there is the possibility that an actors’ strike could start at any moment. The story includes a couple nice photos of the film’s post-apocalyptic exterior sets in New Mexico, including a ruined 7-Eleven sign.
3. The Dark Knight is such a highly anticipated film, it’s kind of nice to hear at least one person, i.e. Devin Faraci, express the view that the film isn’t as “revolutionary” as some people have been saying it is — though he says it is still very good, etc. By all means, let us keep our expectations realistic.
Meanwhile, Variety looks at the age-old issue of how the makers of the Batman films need to toe a fine line between edginess and family-friendliness, while the MTV Movies Blog asks whether any future film in the Chris Nolan – Christian Bale series of Batman films should even think about bringing Robin the Boy Wonder into the storyline. Reportedly, Bale himself has said that he will refuse to be involved with any film that features the character.
4. Cinematical reports that Mark Millar, author of the comic-book mini-series that inspired Wanted, has said that he and an anonymous “very well known American action director” are pitching a reboot of the Superman franchise to Warner Brothers. This is interesting, as Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh have both been talking as though they were still working on a sequel to Superman Returns (2006). Paul Christian Glenn ponders what should and shouldn’t be salvaged from Singer’s previous film, regardless of who makes the next one.
5. Variety reports that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is moving from New Zealand to Mexico, to take advantage of the water tanks there that were used for Titanic (1997) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003).
But it is the second movie that is the treasure trove of possibilities. I believe the second movie will be present as an opportunity of enthusiasm and creation. I frankly look forward to that one so much. I really want us to prove that we have a solid concept for that, but the promise of that land is absolutely mind-boggling! I can’t wait to mount on the horse and ride, and I hate horses!
Meanwhile, he tells Defamer:
“We believe there is a second movie,” del Toro said during a discussion at the Majestic Crest. “If there isn’t, there will not be. If we find it, we will shoot it, but by God, if we do not find it, we will not shoot it. I am anxious to shoot the book, and I’m willing and able to dedicate myself to shooting the [second film].”
Not very reassuring, we don’t think — especially for MGM, which needs the prestige and profit of a Hobbit two-fer, like, yesterday. It’s trickier than it sounds, though; the second film, which would apparently bridge the gap between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, can only draw on the novels to which Jackson holds the rights. The rest of the background or ancillary literature (and there’s a lot) is off-limits. “In the four books that are in the domain of the copyright, there are appendices and ideas and things that can be traced without risk,” del Toro said. “But I have to be careful not to overstep. We believe there is a way to create this film and make it interesting, but it’s too early.”
So, does it sound like the second film will happen, or won’t happen? Who knows. But don’t count on the Tolkien estate making it even remotely easy for the filmmakers to use any of that other ancillary literature. The Los Angeles Times has an update on the Tolkien estate’s lawsuit against the filmmakers, which isn’t scheduled to be heard in court until October 2009.
Speaking of George Lucas’s ongoing milking of this franchise, a few weeks ago my priest referred me to Michael Kaminski’s The Secret History of Star Wars, an in-depth, 532-page PDF file on the creation of the franchise and Lucas’s almost Stalinist efforts to revise the history of how the franchise came to be.
Example: Lucas likes to give the impression nowadays that he had the prequels in mind all along, but Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s father were two different people until Lucas wrote the second draft of The Empire Strikes Back, which was then known as Episode II and not as Episode V, in March or April 1978.
I’ve only had time to read bits and pieces of Kaminski’s book, so far, but much of it seems plausible and fits with my own memory of how the original trilogy was promoted back in the day. Check it out.
8. Eddie Murphy tells the MTV Movies Blog that Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) was “a crock of sh-t” and he wants the currently-in-development Beverly Hills Cop IV to be “special”. Meanwhile, director Brett Ratner tells Latino Review that the rumours of the new film being PG-13 are false: “Believe me, this is going to be a hard core ‘R’ Beverly Hills Cop.”
9. Variety reported last week that Robert Rodriguez was going to remake Red Sonja (1985) with his current main squeeze Rose McGowan, who he met on the set of Grindhouse (2007). Then reports surfaced that they had broken up. Now People assures us that they are still together and their plans for making this movie are ticking along just nicely. Thank goodness for that.
10. Variety says Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) star Ian McKellen will play Number Two and Passion of the Christ (2004) star Jim Caviezel will play Number Six in a new series based on The Prisoner (1967-1968).
Number Six was originally played by Patrick McGoohan, who reportedly turned down the part of James Bond for moral reasons related to his Catholicism, and Caviezel is a well-known Catholic who has also refused to do love scenes — coincidence?
McGoohan was also reportedly offered the part of Gandalf, but turned it down for health reasons; in the end it went to McKellen, of course.
McKellen, for his part, is an atheist, so I wonder what kind of conversations he and Caviezel might have on the set? Could be interesting. At any rate, they have both played prophetic wonder-workers who died and came back to life!