Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog


Ouch! Half-a-month since my last post! Well, time flies when you’re having fun time flies. Things have simply been too hectic outside the blogosphere lately but hopefully things will improve from now on. One of the things I did get round to was to catch Andrew Stanton’s Wall-E in the local theatre. Being a huge animation (and Pixar) -fan I had been looking forward to this film ever since it was announced. The panegyric reviews it received upon its stateside release further fueled my excitement. Thankfully the film was well worth the wait.

Look - No Words!

I figure most of the people on the planet have an idea about the plot already so I want reiterate this in any detail. The film centers on the relationship between the two robots Wall-E and Eve. Perhaps more interestingly, it also includes some fairly serious social commentary.

The plot itself doesn’t necessarily redefine the art-form. It is however well structured and tells a concise story with one amazing constraint: For the most part the film is told without any dialogue what so ever. The two main characters don’t speak at all (apart from a few robotic renditions of their names). This is one of my favorite aspects of the movie and a truly brave decision of the filmmakers. It serves as a reminder that storytelling doesn’t necessarily require loads of words to work. (Unlike this blog-post).

Taking its time

Another surprise was the film’s willingness to slow down and «smell the flowers». On several occasions Stanton slows the action down and lets the audience drink from the fountain of amazing visuals. Normally I would be critical of an approach where the progress of the story is sacrificed for the looks. Yet, in the context of this film it works beautifully. Wall-E’s character justifies it. He is in essence a child and we get to share his awe of the wonders of space and futuristic technology.

But the willingness to slow down isn’t used exclusively to show off extra-terestrial visuals. No, the earthbound opening is a particularly interesting part in this respect. Here we are presented with a dystopian future-earth deprived of (almost) all life. If you think this sounds dark for a family-film you’re right. The tone of the film is one of dark melancholy and while it betrays this feeling occasionally the feel of the piece is certainly not the un-compromised positivity you might expect from Disney/Pixar. This might sound like a turn-off to some of you but the film is all the better for it.

Wall-E is simply put a masterpiece. It challenges the genre and treats the subject matter in a way that’s quite uncommon in contemporary Hollywood. In many ways it seems to borrow storytelling elements from asian animation (Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro springs to mind).

If you have any interest in films, storytelling or animation go and see it.