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Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

Postby d_art » Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:30 am

Something I wrote from my blog... it's not so much of a review as much as my thoughts on the themes of the movie.

Below this paragraph is generally the review I wrote on IMDB, but I'm sure I could've gone on and written a more thorough review on it, but really, it's one of those movies I'd rather have people just go see it first. After this review, I'll move onto more details about concepts I noticed and so forth, and may give some spoilers.

This is a movie, in a nutshell, about death vs. life, young vs. old, personal status vs. personal relationships, inner vs. outer journey, friends vs. enemies. Oh, and it was very good too.

Pixar has now made their tenth movie, and still going strong.. and boy, are they! That's 10 for 10, which is an amazing feat. Each of their stories are original, different, and shows us that these guys were not out to merely settle for retreads of the same lessons, formulas, stories, and jokes. Pixar films have the danger of being timeless. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion they already are! For those who don't know the general story, it's about an old man (who sold balloons) who is about to be evicted, decides that he is better off away, ties tons of balloons to his house and off he goes toward a place in South America called Paradise Falls, to fulfill a promise he made to his late wife. Along comes a kid who hitches along for the ride. To say more would be a disservice to the viewers, as the story unfolds to many great moments, adventures, dangers, and humor.

"Up," as mentioned, is yet another classic, and personally, I felt this movie went boldly beyond what one may categorize as merely kids' entertainment. In fact, there were moments of great emotion that only adults will fully appreciate. Among the Pixar movies, this movie probably moved me the most at a deep, emotional level, which is saying a lot given that it's an animation. They manage to do things with their skillful use of music, imagery, and story, that is both subtle and powerful. There are many things I can say about this movie and how it has many layers and themes and such, but those will be left for discussion boards and essays and talks over coffee. (**** out of ****)

Now, since I've shown the review, I'll add some general thoughts on it, with some possible spoilers along the way. This is certainly among Pixar's best work and I felt it probably was the most meaningful, layered, mature, and most emotionally resonant among their work. My favorite Pixar film, however, is still Ratatouille, but not because Up is any less of a great piece of work--in fact, if I had to recommend one film among those two to a good friend, it would be Up. My enjoyment of Ratatouille was certainly a more personal one and more particular to myself, as it appealed to my love of wine, food, cooking, art, humor, architecture, culture, and great attention to detail. The characters were beautifully designed, action was exciting, and I never could predict where the plot was going, and at every surprising turn, I was at the edge of my seat, yet it wasn't because it was about saving the world or getting killed.

With Up, it takes its time setting up the story, the characters, and situations in such a way that it was not the events that surprised me, but the effectiveness of what the makers were trying to convey. Never had some of the characters (especially being animated) seemed as true to life as it did now. I've also noticed that it was mostly men that I've talked to that seemed to have been so moved by this film. Certainly, much of what Carl goes thought in the film are things most guys will understand. When I was watching this film in 3-D (I had seen it before in 2-D), I went with a buddy of mine who came with his 4 year old son. He asked me, "Is this movie sad?" I said, "Yes, very. But, only sad for adults. Kids just won't get it." Interestingly enough, it was his son who was asking him, "Why are you crying, Dad?"

As mentioned, this movie tackled many interesting concepts... so I'll go over some of them. There were various uses of contrasts in the film. Certainly a film, particularly animation, can be appreciated at face value, however, it is always great when one finds little layers of themes beyond the surface. I should note that people who haven't seen the movie yet might get lost.

Life vs. Death. First 10 minutes of the film perhaps brings this idea to the forefront in the most obvious way, especially with Carl's wife, who started off so full of life, passing on in the montage sequence. Carl, now a widower, must now cope with his own life... alone. It is rare for Pixar to deal with death in such a significant way as it was here. In the later parts of the movie, life and death contrast is further displayed between Carl and his enemy. Through two different life choices made by Carl and Charles Muntz, one lived, while the other died. One eventually lived as he chose a path beyond himself and one lived for selfish ambition. It is interesting that Carl, much like the ambitious Muntz, at an earlier point in the movie, says something to the effect of "I'll reach my [destination] even if it kills me!" Of course, his priorities change later on, while Muntz's remain the same (to get the bird), which led to his doom.

Young vs. Old. Carl is an old man. Russel is a boy. Even in the 10 minute montage early on, you get to see a transition from "Young Carl" and the "Old Carl." As a young kid, Carl had grand dreams of adventure. As an old man, he got pretty cynical after all the pains of life. Russel's enthusiasm for such dreams annoyed Carl because he probably knew those dreams probably wouldn't come true or was fleeting. Russel, in a sense, is like a mirror to his younger self. I believe once Carl realized he hadn't really failed miserably as he felt he had, he was able to embrace his younger self (Russel, if you will) for all the grand dreams he had. More importantly, though, he, as an older, and wiser, person, had something to offer that would be invaluable to someone like Russel, a boy who was lacking a father figure.

Personal Status vs. Personal Relationships. Muntz chose the way of life for personal gain and status. Except for his dogs, he probably killed some people to get what he wanted. In the end, his social life and relationships were probably very shallow and/or nonexistent, as his life goal was to be famous or respected. While Carl, not liked by society, started off on a personal, ambitious mission of his own (to get his house to Paradise Falls), he goes through a change near the end. In other words, his realization was that it was "relationships" with his wife (or Russel) that had more value in the grand scheme of things compared to ambitious dreams that may wind up being hollow. Russel tells Carl at one point, "[What I'm talking about] may be boring to you, but those are the moments I remember the most [that had meaning]." It's often said people won't remember the achievements as much as the relationships they had with the person.

Inner Journey vs. Outer Journey. This idea is most poignantly realized near the end. When his wife, through the book, showed him that the true "adventure" wasn't going out there and doing stuff, but personal relationships, inner journey, or a life of quality that is lived. As often said, it takes more to change a person or their behavior than change things outside of themselves. Carl in the end goes through that inner change and decides that his next "adventure" isn't about him finding something new, but to pass on something that is of value to Russel--a good father figure.

Friends vs. Enemies. In this movie, the relationships become quite complicated. What one may consider annoying becomes a friend. What one considers a friend, such as Muntz, became an enemy. Certain dogs were good guys, some were not. Some became good guys...temporarily. I remember one dog saying, "I like you...temporarily" to Carl at one point. Muntz is probably one of the most sinister bad guys in Pixar history. Perhaps his ambition got the better of him...as he was considered a "hero" in the beginning. A path Carl may have taken if he had gone the wrong way. Not all "so-called" friends are trustworthy especially if their actions prove otherwise. Many times, you will have to face your enemies head-on to protect your friends. Doug the Dog was an interesting character. I can't say if it was his integrity or or his lack of intellect that made him consistently loyal to Carl, Russel, and the bird, Kevin. One must however, admire the fact that, unlike the other dogs, he didn't switch sides so quickly at one command from Muntz. One can make an argument that this was because he knew Muntz just wasn't a good (although "smart") person, thus his loyalty may have been based on higher ideals.

Now, as I make these points, it is not to point out whether the intentions of the filmmakers had these things in mind. It is more like appreciation of an art (like enjoyment of good wine) to show that it has many different things going on in it that I found interesting. Ultimately, what I love about Pixar is that much of the "lesson" that I find in their movies, aren't particularly something kids will necessarily get--in fact, some of them probably apply more for adults. Like Toy Story 2, which dealt with issues of mortality, the final lesson seems to be something more suitable for adults-- that it is what you do with the time you have that's more important. Finding Nemo was about allowing your kids to take risks, or not be overprotective. Cars was about pride vs. humbleness. Incredibles was about the importance of different gifts and the family unit. They certainly aren't more simple lessons like "don't take candy from strangers" or "be nice to people." The movie Up, in the end, was able to give a universal lesson that applies to old people (who may feel useless in terms of what they can offer), as well as young people who are overly ambitious over shallow stuff, as well as a new appreciation and importance of human interaction (esp. in this increasingly digital age) as an adventure in itself.

Oh, and the movie was very good, too.
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Postby ffdude1906 » Fri Jul 03, 2009 8:22 am

A very excellent analyzation sir. I agree with about 99% of what you have to say here.

The strongest point I get from the movie is [spoil]the growing father-son relationship that develops between Carl and Russell. The strongest emotional points in the movie definitely branch from the personal interactions between them. Russell asking Carl to cross his heart, "It might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most", and Carl's eventual invitation under his wing by presenting the Ellie badge, were all very understandable, powerful, and moving gestures that spark a beautiful relationship between 2 very broken individuals. They complete eachother's missing halves, and it's incredibly heartwarming to see them begin to thrive together at the end of the movie. It's because of this that I want to see so much more of Up.

These powerful themes and emotions are so universally desirable and well displayed that it creates a very visceral emotional experience, at least to me. To sit in the theater and experience so much beauty, change, character, moving plot, and desire to BE IN the movie or be a particular character (in my case, Russell, I never really had a great male role model in my life) is something that only Pixar is capable of in my eyes. I think I watch Up so much because I try to be affected vicariously through the characters, and try to feel what they feel, because it's all so beautiful. Pixar is the master of emotional storytelling for all ages, and all walks of life.[/spoil]

Absolutely breathtaking moments are all over the place, and I'm happy to say that I get the most I can out of each one, every time. :)
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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

Postby Rodman » Sat Dec 28, 2019 12:56 pm

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

Postby Sien » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:17 am

Now, as I make these points, it is not to point out whether the intentions of the filmmakers had these things in mind. It is more like appreciation of an art (like enjoyment of good wine) to show that it has many different things going on in it that I found interesting. Ultimately, what I love about Pixar is that much of the "lesson" that I find in their movies, aren't particularly something kids will necessarily get--in fact, some of them probably apply more for adults. Like Toy Story 2, which dealt with issues of mortality, the final lesson seems to be something more suitable for adults-- that it is what you do with the time you have that's more important. Finding Nemo was about allowing your kids to take risks, or not be overprotective. Cars was about pride vs. humbleness. Incredibles was about the importance of different gifts and the family unit. They certainly aren't more simple lessons like "don't take candy from strangers" or "be nice to people." The movie Up, in the end, was able to give a universal lesson that applies to old people (who may feel useless in terms of what they can offer), as well as young people who are overly ambitious over shallow stuff, as well as a new appreciation and importance of human interaction (esp. in this increasingly digital age) as an adventure in itself


I agree with your assessment of the film. It was very difficult for me to choose the time to watch several times. I'm not even talking about a movie theater now. I have a great home theater but absolutely no time to enjoy the full viewing experience. Sometimes I'm sorry that I have such a busy working life. How do you deal with this?
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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

Postby SimonSmith » Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:17 am

I call this the problem of an adult guy)) I also have to use tricks all the time to find time for movies and anime. I can recommend this service to you - https://showbox.zone/ Everything is pretty simple. You install the application on your phone and look for new series on the torrent with its help. Modern mobile Internet has good speed for downloading large files. Although I most often use the wi-fi point in the workplace. It is more economical. Watching movies on the subway is my best life hack!
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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

Postby mariocerone » Thu Aug 27, 2020 8:40 am

Up is by far, one of Pixar's heart touching and greatest film of all time.
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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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Re: Movie Thoughts: Pixar's Up (and its themes)

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