A dirty, rusty little robot trundles along a dusty path. Gathering a small pile of rubbish into his stomach cavity, he squeezes himself together to compact it into a neat square brick, and places it on top of one of many skyscrapers built entirely of these bricks. He does this task over and over again, day after day, year after year; and without a word of complaint yet with quiet dedication. At the end of the day he goes home, hangs up his tyre treads, watches Michael Crawford and Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly!, and takes care of his only friend: a cockroach.
This is WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class), the last robot on Earth. Due to over-pollution the planet has become inhabitable, and all the humans now reside in a giant space-ship that is nothing less than a luxury resort governed by the McDonald’s of the future: Buy N Large.
Yet WALL-E continues to do his job, until one day a space ship lands on Earth and deposits a modern, sleek, gleaming new robot called EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), who begins scanning the ground. WALL-E is instantly smitten, although introductions are postponed a little while as she attempts to commit robocide on him with her fire-arm.
He takes her to his place to show her some of the items he has hoarded, among them a small plant tendril. On learning what it is she takes it and stores it in her chest cavity, goes into standby and sends a signal, and the space ship finally comes back to collect her, for she has found evidence that the Earth is once again habitable. WALL-E, although bemused by her shutting down, takes care of her, and hitches a ride on the ship that threatened to take her from him.
When they arrive on the resort, the ship’s captain faces mutiny by his auto-pilot (one of many homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey), and he, WALL-E and EVE have to fight to take the ship back to Earth.
While the environmental message is clear, it is not overwhelming, and does make a valid point. I soon felt guilty for getting a medium popcorn and Pepsi before the movie. All of the humans on board the resort ship are obese, and American. Everything is done for them, they do not even have to walk. They are so cocooned in their world of fast food and television diets that they do not even notice that there is a lido on board, and most of them sit beside it every day.
Who would think that a pair of binoculars on wheels could arouse such affection? WALL-E does. His eyes are cuter than those of Puss in Boots, his character more innocent than Babe, and his reactions to strange things more adorable than E.T.. His childlike playfulness and inquisitive nature shine through in his collection of various human memorabilia, and when he shows EVE the joys of bubble wrap and dances for her to “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”.
Initially EVE seems a no-nonsense, all work and no play kind of robot, but no sooner has her space ship left Earth than she abandons her task and soars freely and elegantly through the air, throwing off the manacles of the strict, strait-laced, severe regime that she was built to serve. Elissa Knight gives EVE the widest range of emotions ever seen in a robot simply with her voice.
There are plenty references to sci-fi movies to keep the fans and adults amused – such as Sigourney Weaver providing the voice of the space resort computer -, and the quality of the animation is exceptional. WALL-E’s journey through space simply has to be seen on the big screen.
However, endearing as WALL-E is, some of the youngest viewers, unless they are particularly precocious, may find the movie a tad boring, especially considering the amount of action and humour they have been inundated with in movies such as Shrek, Cars and Finding Nemo.
Yet it is guaranteed to be far more satisfying and involved than the upcoming High School Musical 33- sorry, 3 -, the trailer of which preceded the main picture, and all it did was to make me understand why guns are and should remain legal in America.