Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Monday, July 14, 2008

WALL-E and Hancock

Today was a movie day for me. As I mentioned in a previous post, there have been a number of movies that have come out recently that I have wanted to see, but haven’t had the opportunity. So I went to the theater this morning, ate lunch at a nearby restaurant, and returned to the theater for a second movie. I don’t know if it’s normal for people to do that (my guess would be no), but that’s what I did. Considering gas prices these days, it seemed like a wise choice to go ahead and see two while I was there.

(There are spoilers from here on. Continue at your own risk, or choice, or whatever.)

I started out the day with WALL-E. It hadn’t been my first choice, until last night when I ran across this interview with the writer and director of the movie, Andrew Stanton, on the Christianity Today website. (I found the link through the Avenue blog). I haven’t read the whole interview yet, but I read enough to push the movie to the top of the list. It was a good choice. I had had some concerns that the film was just another Hollywood enviro-Nazi film, based on what I knew of the plot. Stanton seems to deny that in the interview, though the “denial” was a bit ambiguous. I was able to see past that, though, to what the film was actually about. The movie turned out to be a beautiful, moving story about the love of life. It was also a beautiful love story between the two robots. There were some cheesy aspects to the film. In particular, the humans rooting for the robots came off a bit corny. But other than that minor point, it was a terrific film.

The interview notes the two most obvious Biblical themes. One is that the ship on which the humans are living resembles Noah’s ark. The other is that of WALL-E being Adam and Eve being, well, Eve. This is the most obvious and was intentional, as Stanton mentioned in the interview. We also see in the behaviour of the two robots the notion of sacrificial love, causing both to serve as Christological figures. There is also the broader theme that the sacrificial love is for the purpose of redeeming the whole Creation, a love that fulfills its purpose, thus bringing an eschatological aspect to the film. In short, we get the whole gospel in story form here. And it isn’t done in a shallow way. It was done in a way that made you love the characters and root for them.

One aspect that I especially loved was something not usually loved, and that was the closing credits. During the first couple of minutes of them, the viewer is watching a series of scenes related to the movie, but done in a variety of art forms. In fact, one is treated to a history of art in miniature. Beginning with cave paintings, the scenes quickly move to Egyptian hieroglyphics, then ancient Greek art, moving quickly to Renaissance art (did I miss some other stages there, or were they left out? It moved too quickly for me to catch it all), then Impressionist painting, then Post-Impressionist, into early Eighties video game graphics, then late eighties and early nineties. It was an amazing and incredibly creative move, and simply the icing on the cake of an all-around terrific movie. Definitely one of the best of the year. I highly, highly recommend it.

After my lunch break, I returned to the theater to see what my be coming on soon. Out of the movies I haven’t seen but wanted to, Hancock was the next up. I wish I could say I enjoyed it as much as I did WALL-E. Hancock was one film that, based on the numerous trailers I had seen, I thought I would love. And it started out well. Hancock was a worthless bum, though a bum with super powers, who Jason Bateman’s character tries to turn into a worthwhile superhero. That was the first half of the film, and pretty much was summed up in all the trailers. The second half, though, was kept well hidden and provided quite a plot twist. I was enjoying the film up until this point, for the most part. It was all downhill from here, however.

As it turns out, Bateman’s wife, played by Charlize Theron, was a superhero like Hancock, and, in a round about way, Hancock’s wife. It turns out they’ve both lived for thousands of years. There were once many others like them, but all the others have died off. Whenever a couple like them gets close to each other, they begin to lose their super powers. This provides the tension for the rest of the film.

It was sort of a clever idea, but it just didn’t work for me. Pretty much everything I just told you was all the back story provided, and it wasn’t enough to make the story interesting. Hancock being “married” to a woman unknowingly who is married to a mortal as well provides all sorts of moral ambiguity, a problem the film was already plagued with. And the moral ambiguity is never resolved in any significant way, in my opinion. In the end, Theron’s character remains married to the mortal, rather than the man she’s actually “married” to, in order that the man she’s actually “married” to can carry on his life of protecting others. Now, it’s easy to understand when watching the film. It just wasn’t enjoyable, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure I can entirely say why yet - I’m still thinking through it.

And while I’m still thinking through it, I can with confidence say that you shouldn’t waste your time on this film. It had the potential of being a great film. It just never materialized.

One last point I would like to make has to do with the age appropriateness of this movie. It is rated PG-13, and for good reason. I wish people would understand these things, like the guy in front of me who brought a boy who looked to be about eight to the film. I have thought this often recently, including when I saw The Incredible Hulk, which had a lot of very intense scenes and plenty of graphic language, as I sat a few seats down from a family with two or three children under ten. And they weren’t the only ones in the theater like that.

And yet people don’t seem to be concerned about what children see or hear anymore. If I were a parent, and had my child with me in the theater today, not knowing what I was getting him into, I would have taken him out of the theater when the first use of @sshole occurred. Sadly, the first use of it in the movie was by a child probably about eight years old. Hollywood is clueless, and the general public is becoming more and more clueless. It is sad.

That’s it for now. I’m hoping to catch a couple more later in the week. We’ll see if the schedule allows for that, and if so, I’ll try to blog my thoughts on them.


Anonymous patrick said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

6:40 PM  

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