A topic of debate on movie message boards and various digital water coolers is whether Andrew Stanton was a good choice to direct a live action sci-fi epic like Disney’s John Carter, and whether, even if he directs it competently or better, he can make a difference in the box office result. I have contemplated this with all the focus I can muster, and the answer in my view is a resounding “Yes” — he can pull it off, and he will make a difference at the box office.
It seems to me that people have too quickly forgotten, or perhaps never fully understood, the magnitude of Stanton’s accomplishment with Wall-E. A film about a trash compactor with no dialogue in the first 30 minutes is not an easy sell–either at the development stage, or as a completed film. It’s absolutely true that Stanton worked in the superb creative environment at Pixar — but it’s equally true that he deserves credit for the authorship of Wall-E as surely as any of the great visionary directors deserve credit their best work.
To remind myself of the reaction to Wall-E, and I went back to the reviews from the top reviewers around the country. I didn’t cherry pick — there are virtually no bad reviews (it’s got a 96% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
Give these a read, and as you read — contemplate this: What would the guy who generated these review do with four years, great underlying material, and a burning desire to prove himself in the live action arena — as well as a deep sense of responsibility to do justice to the underlying work of Edgar Rice Burroughs which fire his imagination as a boy?
What’s more, I don’t think I’ve quite captured the film’s enchanting storytelling. Directed and co-written by Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed “Finding Nemo,” it involves ideas, not simply mindless scenarios involving characters karate-kicking each other into high-angle shots. It involves a little work on the part of the audience, and a little thought, and might be especially stimulating to younger viewers. This story told in a different style and with a realistic look could have been a great science-fiction film. For that matter, maybe it is.
NEW YORK TIMES
The first 40 minutes or so of “Wall-E” — in which barely any dialogue is spoken, and almost no human figures appear on screen — is a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in. ….. It is, undoubtedly, an earnest (though far from simplistic) ecological parable, but it is also a disarmingly sweet and simple love story, Chaplinesque in its emotional purity. On another level entirely it’s a bit of a sci-fi geek-fest, alluding to everything from “2001” and the “Alien” pictures (via a Sigourney Weaver voice cameo) to “Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out.”
Directed by Pixar stalwart Andrew Stanton, who co-wrote and directed the Oscar-winning “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E” is the latest Pixar film to manage what’s become next door to impossible for anyone else: appealing to the broadest possible audience without insulting anyone’s intelligence.
Adroitly borrowing from many artistic sources and synthesizing innumerable influences, Pixar stalwart Andrew Stanton’s first directorial outing since “Finding Nemo” walks a fine line between the rarefied and the immediately accessible as it explores new territory for animation, yet remains sufficiently crowd-pleasing to indicate celestial B.O. for this G-rated summer offering.
WALL-E, directed with a poet’s eye by Andrew Stanton Finding Nemo) from a whipsmart and shrewdly accessible script he wrote withim Reardon, is some kind of miracle, Talk about daring. It’s Samueleckett’s Waiting for Godot mixed with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, topped with the cherry of George Lucas’ Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s E.T., and wrapped up in a G-rated whipped-ream package. What could have been a mess of influences is instead uniquend unforgettable. Tons of movies promise something for everyone WALL-E actually makes good on that promise.
Director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”) and the Pixar team have created a world so packed with witty visual detail—and filled with movie references that range from “2001” to “Blade Runner” to “Manhattan”—that young kids may have a hard time keeping up with the plot. It’s a movie that demands full attention, and it may prove more popular with adults than children.
Put simply, WALL-E is about as charming as movies get. In an animated marketplace where everything is starting to look and feel the same, WALL-E stands out because it exhibits a unique identity without losing its appeal to viewers of all ages. It’s a romantic comedy where the principals are robots. It doesn’t shy away from long passages without dialogue and it doesn’t throw in catchy tunes and dazzling-but-pointless action sequences just to keep the younger component of the audience from becoming restless. WALL-E has a heart to equal many of the Pixar/Disney releases to precede it, including Toy Story and Finding Nemo (WALL-E’s writer/director, Andrew Stanton, was involved in both), but a sensibility that is more mature. This is one of those recently rare animated films that adults can attend without children in tow. It’s good family fare, to be sure, but it’s more than an activity to spend some time with the kids. WALL-E is the best mainstream animated film since The Incredibles.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
The first half hour of “WALL-E” is essentially wordless, and left me speechless. This magnificent animated feature from Pixar starts on such a high plane of aspiration, and achievement, that you wonder whether the wonder can be sustained. But yes, it can. The director, Andrew Stanton, supported by a special-forces battalion of artists, voice artists and computer wizards, has conjured up a tender, comical love story between two robots whose feelings for each other seem as nuanced and deep as any you’re likely to encounter these days in live-action drama. Better still, their story plays out in two disparate worlds that amount to a unified vision, stunning and hilarious in equal measure, of what we human creatures have been up to and where it could get us.
NEW YORK POST
This is a hugely ambitious theme for a G-rated family flick, and “WALL-E” takes risks that must have given Pixar’s consumer-oriented corporate overlords at Disney pause.
Stanton pulls off a brilliant balancing acting, cutting between these truly scary scenes (that somehow manage to avoid lecturing) and hilarious action sequences of the adorable WALL-E, including an escape from a repair ward full of rogue robots.
There is far too much going on in “WALL-E” to take in during a single sitting; I would have happily watched two or three more times the other night.
Some day, there will be college courses devoted to this movie.
Kids will love “WALL-E,” the robot’s epic adventure and his heart-tugging love story. Some adults may be less comfortable, which is fine with me; most great works of art are inherently subversive.