It goes without saying that Pixar are the greatest animation studio in the world – fact, not opinion. And even though as narratives I find a few of them overrated, as far as pure animation quality goes they simply cannot be faulted. WALL·E is their latest and arguably greatest cinematic outing, a film of such visual wonder and flawless animation that one wonders whether or not the world shall see the very rare event of an animated film making an appearance in the Best Picture category come Oscars 2009.
Hundreds of years in the future mankind has abandoned earth due to the amount of rubbish that has accumulated, which has made it uninhabitable for humans, and robots are left to clean up the mess. As time as has gone on the only robot who has bothered to continue their work properly is WALL·E, or Waste Allocation Load Lifter · Earth Class. While obediently carrying out his instructions, one day another robot known as Eve is sent to earth to look for any life and WALL·E soon follows her back to the space colony where the remainder of mankind has been living ever since they left earth.
A risk that Pixar has taken with their latest offering is having no dialogue for at least the first 20 minutes of it. We follow WALL·E as he goes about his work, searching through the rubbish and keeping things he finds worth in. The only noise comes from the things that our little mechanical protagonist causes such as a fire extinguisher spraying or the rubbish crushing together, accompanied by his beeps and boops that substitute, for the most part, as some sort of voice. It’s in this section of the film that a lot of its charm is conjured from; there’s just something so endearing and cute about watching this little childish looking robot watching his favourite movie (Hello Dolly!, a strange and obscure choice by Pixar if you ask me) or even something as simple as trying to decide into which section of the drawer his sporks should go. I admire Pixar for being as brave as to make the film dialogue-free during its introduction and it certainly pays off.
However a plot is needed to carry the film further than this so in lands Eve, a slicker and certainly more advanced robot that WALL·E instantly is enamoured with. Forget the robot stuff for a second, this is somewhat a basic “guy trying to impress girl” story that provides some hilarious scenes, so we not only have these wonderful visuals and the charm factor but it’s also very, very funny. Multiple factors that work are key in a film like this.
I won’t go into specifics of how we go from earth to space but once we’re there the film takes on a whole other life. Some would say the charm we have gotten from the introductory section is somewhat lost once we get to this space colony and get in amongst the humans and I could say that’s a fair argument. However for me it added a much needed element to the film – interaction. Since all WALL·E and Eve say to each other is, well, WALL·E and Eve (in their own distinctive voices) I think the addition of some human interaction and dialogue takes the film to a more purely enjoyable level. You move from being simply in awe of the visuals and charmed by the title character to being enjoyably overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of this human space colony.
The film does slightly get lost in itself with a quite unnecessary subplot involving the robots on board the ship but it’s not enough to weigh it down by a noticeable amount. Even when you feel the story might not fully have you in its grasp you can still fall back on the technical animation and just begin again to be awe inspired by what you see on screen.
The film has an obvious ecological message but it doesn’t allow that to get in the way of anything else. It simply acts as a catalyst for events, and if you choose to you can look at it from the eco-friendly side of things, but never really hits you over the head with it or points the finger. It also has some references to other space-oriented films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, which should have a lot of the adults in the audience smiling from ear to ear. It’s another example of Pixar having aspects for both kids and adults to take in and appreciate without either of them feeling cheated or left out.
WALL·E works as many things: a flawless example of technical animation, a charming love story, a limitlessly enjoyable adventure film, and a more than decent sci-fi story, amongst many others. It represents arguably Pixar’s greatest achievement since they had the word "toy" in the title and is undoubtedly one of 2008’s best films so far.