Sunday, November 30, 2008

My fluctuating regard for Pixar

There's something about Pixar that vaguely disturbs me. To put my finger on it, I would have to say it is this: of their entire ouvre they have not come up with one palpable, memorable villain.

When I say 'memorable' I mean a villain that is one of those incarnate reminders of the reality of evil; evil showing itself in someone's character - as opposed to just 'the bad guy'. One of those villains whose wickedness jumps out of the lines (or pixels) that forms them in the moving frame. Like the wicked step-mother in Disney's Cinderella. Recall those eyes:

The one exception to this would perhaps be Syndrome in The Incredibles, which is in my personal opinion, Pixar's best flick so far. But even Syndrome is strangely lacking. And Monsters Inc.'s Randall Bogg? Please. Pyromaniac boys, freeloading grasshoppers, sleazy but weak lizards, corporations, sharks and crazy girls with braces, dick-head automobiles, food critics (food critic as main villain? C'mon you guys), midget french chefs, and galactic computer systems that can simply be shut down with the press of a button...these do not make good villains.

So why are Pixar's films completely taken with being cleverly and cutely subversive? The french food critic is the villain! Haha! Isn't that clever? The boy with braces is too! Haha! Clever! The rat does the cooking and he's the best chef in the kitchen! That's so...reversed! Haha!

This gets tiresome after a while. I do not like all this glowing feeling surrounding Pixar, as if their original conceptions were just too wonderful and awe-inspiring to check. As if their imaginative premises automatically equalled their actual stories.

As if they were above the task of coming up with a real palpable villain.

Pixar: your animation is absolutely brilliant, but look, you guys aren't the freaking Shrine of Perpetual Wisdom and Derivers of Life Lessons from the Most Unlikely Contexts (Pixar really wants you to know: FROM THE MOST UNLIKELY CONTEXTS! Aren't we geniuses?) that you pretend to be. Grow up. Step down from your cloud nine. Come up with some real villains.

That way your films will also be more geared toward children as well.

Oh yes, I was going to say something about WALL*E, which I watched last night, and which was the reason for this post. What I wanted to say was...meh.

That's my review. No just kidding. I learned that word from Tim Jones. And apparently we have The Simpsons to thank for it. I won't say feh because I don't hold the movie in contempt, but it is meh. Anyhow, yes, my first complaint you already know. Villains. Totally and utterly lacking. Oh yes, yes, of course; I get it...the REAL villain is waste itself! Or ingratitude for life! Meh.

The character WALL*E (does anyone know how to type in the period so that it shows at mid-height between 'L' and 'E'?) gives one of the best moments in the movie when he discovers a spork - and after some debate places it between his collection of forks and spoons. There's some other stuff too where he gets into outer space going after his robot babe and sees earth and the great, fantastic, Spielbergian wonder of it all is...well, almost as exciting as the part where he discovers the spork.

They board a kind of hermetically sealed planetary space ship. What you discover I'll leave to you. Let's say it's sort of: Down home farm boy with enlightened veggie girl galactic road trip dynamo meets Pigs in Space.

There we come to my other favourite part of the movie: the life of the ones on board the ship. It's quite hilarious, if heavy-handed (pun intended).

Oh yes, I kind of liked the little clean-up robot. These foreign contaminant robots and their crew made me think of...Japan. Even though I've never been to Japan. Strange. was good I guess. Maybe a little better than Ratatouille. Hard to say. No point in comparing, because I didn't think much of Ratatouille either. Their stories are sorts of flat (if continually clever) expenditures of original premises that gave the artists too much glee in the conception stage, who in the process of their creative euphoria forgot to come up with real villains.

You see, without vivid villains a story doesn't get far past the stage of self-consciousness. The life lessons it has to give, while perhaps endearing in some way, do not get imparted in any visceral level. They sort of remain on cloud nine.

Oh yes. They need real villains.


Sarah said...

I think a good Disney film that shows a good Villain, is the old Fantasia film (the new one to an extent). The second to last scene: "Night on Bald Mountain" The villain is absolutely frightening. Which is then followed with the new day rising and "Ave Maria." A figurative death?
Other than that, I cannot recall any other (Pixar/ Disney) film with a villain more frightening than Gaston from "Beauty and the Beast." Which is not a great villain.

Paul Stilwell said...

Yeah, Fantasia has the goods in that one. The bad characters and whale in Pinnnochio, the witch from Snow White, the Queen from Sleeping Beauty...vivid villains...and what do they all have in common? They're all old school.

Cruela Deville ain't no villain, and Disney almost, maybe, made something of a come-back with Octopus woman, or whatever her name is, in The Little Mermaid. It's just too bad that The Little Mermaid was a cop-out feminist tract. The only thing good about it was 'Under the Sea'.

It's not just failure in coming up with villains though. It's a failure at story. But that's coming in another post.