Monday, June 30, 2008

GREED-E

Ok, I admit it. WALL-E is a great movie. It operates as a simple love story, as a hero vs. villain melodrama, and as post-apocalyptic science fiction, and it succeeds at all three.

However, if only to maintain my curmudgeonly reputation, I have to find a few things to pick on. For now, I'll limit myself to two.

Behind the closing credits, there's a wonderful sequence of graphics essentially mimicking the history of art in the course of a few minutes. There are prehistoric-looking drawings, graphics that resemble the work of ancient scribes and Medieval illuminations. There are also references to specific artists such as J.M.W. Turner, Georges Seurat and Vincent van Gogh. I'll have to see it again to put my finger on it, but there's something about these stylistic allusions that suggests the Pixar artists are not simply paying homage to these great artists. They are smugly boasting, as if to say "Ha! With our digital tools, we can do anything any other artist has ever done."

The more egregious fault, of course, is that although the entire movie is a heavy-handed screed against consumer culture, it's preceded by an ad for the WALL-E video game, due out next month. The discreet BnL ad hidden near the end is tongue-in-cheek, but the WALL-E video game ad is certainly not. Moreover, a quick Web search reveals that the Disney/Pixar folks are zealously pursuing every possible licensing opportunity for WALL-E toys, games, bed clothes, etc., just as with every other Disney property. It's as if the message is: "Humankind is doomed if we don't change our acquisitive ways, but meanwhile, buy some more junk from us!"

2 comments:

Scott said...

Well, congratulations, on all the world wide web you seem to be the only blogger who actually recognized the Seurat, Van Gogh and JMW Turner allusions (or rather, facsimiles) on the screen. So for the most part perhaps the boasting fell on blind eyes. Perhaps the art history profs from Columbia don't want to admit they've been to see the film.

Yes, environmentalism is big business. The cap and trade system, for example, is a bonanza for snake oil salesmen of all types, and the ethanol boom, sold as green, is a burgeoning environmental disaster. By contrast, the Wall-E marketing machine is small potatoes. In any case, I suspect some of the film's anti-consumer message will register and affect attitudes, just as Al Gore's film did.

Peter Davis said...

Thanks. I wasn't sure if I missed a few other artists in the hubbub of people leaving the theater.

Anyway, it was a great and, I hope, influential film. I was just amused by the tinge of hypocrisy.