The first twenty-five minutes of Wall-E are some of the most perfect I’ve ever seen in a film. When Wall-E is literally clinging on to a massive spaceship hurtling through space and metaphorically clinging on to a new love that he just wants to share the world with, I wanted to weep. I felt like I was watching something magical, beautiful and daring all at the same time. I didn’t really feel that way again for the rest of the film, which turns into a more straight-forward, plot-driven cartoon with social commentary, action sequences and tidy resolutions. Should I have expected anything less from a kids film? Probably not going in, but how can you blame me for wanting more after receiving it in spades for the first third of the film? I felt much the same way about The Incredibles, which became less and less interesting the longer it went on.
Still, Wall-E is a fantastic film and a brilliant screenplay. It’s just that, to me, brilliant screenplays don’t often make brilliant films because it’s a whole separate art form, just as great books can’t always be made into great films. A reader looking at a script can’t imagine nuance or behavior so they have to look for callbacks and character arcs. They need to see where act one closes and the stakes get raised or else they can’t imagine the movie in their heads. And movies in our headsa are much different than movies on a screen. Pixar writes scripts with conventions like that and somehow manages to make their movies like that as well, but they’re so charming, so funny and so warm that I simply can’t begrudge them for it. It’s not difficult to guess that Remy will win over his father and friends in Ratatouille or that Marlin will find his son and learn to be less overprotective in the process in Finding Nemo, but the films are so well executed that it makes me appreciate the aspects of screenwriting that I usually despise. All of a sudden, I remember why it’s sometimes great to love the same movie as everyone else. All that is to say that Wall-E teased me with something along the lines of what my truly, favorite movies might offer, but then drifted back towards what I expect from Pixar and it’s equal parts satisfying and disappointing.
For me, here’s how I would rank their output so far, keeping in mind that I haven’t seen Cars and have zero interest in ever changing that.
1. Toy Story 2
2. Finding Nemo
3. Monsters, Inc.
6. Toy Story
7. A Bug’s Life
8. The Incredibles