To say that WALL•E is solely a sweet and/or cute, kiddy picture is a gross understatement; the film is smart, visionary, touching, and revolutionary. It appeals to every sci-fi, art house, animation, and romance aficionado. To boot, while WALL•E is marketed more toward the little ones, it is geared toward humans of all shapes and sizes.
Earth – now a barren wasteland filled with garbage – is left to the last remaining trash-compacting robot, a Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class, or WALL•E for short. While WALL•E’s (Ben Burtt) other robotic likenesses have ceased functioning, he continues to gather, compact, and stack trash like clockwork.
Throughout his workday, WALL•E finds treasures (like a Rubik’s cube, Zippo lighter, spork, jewelry box – but not the jewelry – and a seedling growing out of a work boot) and stores them in a tattered, old lunch cooler. As he returns home, WALL•E files his findings on a shelf full of collectibles. A cute moment occurs when WALL•E attempts to categorize the spork with a spoon or a fork, but then settles for somewhere in between.
One day, after WALL•E discovers a red laser beam shining on the Earth’s floor, he is greeted by EVE (Elissa Knight), a futuristic-looking, flying robot sent to Earth to follow a “classified” directive. While WALL•E instantly falls in love with EVE, EVE meets WALL•E with hostility and later apathy. However, when WALL•E tries to impress EVE by showing her the seedling he found, EVE sucks up the plant and goes into hibernation mode—triggering the spacecraft’s return to Earth. As EVE boards the spaceship, WALL•E refuses to let her go and hangs on for one wild ride.
The spaceship soon lands aboard a much larger spacecraft called the Axiom. The Axiom houses humans and provides them both food through “sippy” cups and hovercraft “La-Z Boy” chairs. Since humans left Earth and followed the Buy-N-Large (BnL) Corporation’s CEO, Shelby Forthright (Fred Willard), onto the Axiom 700 years ago, mobility has been limited and exercise unnecessary. Thus, obesity has run rampant and humans have reverted back to a childlike dependency. Additionally, even though a human (Jeff Garlin) is given the title of “Captain,” the ship is masterminded by a computer system (Sigourney Weaver).
In grabbing Short Circuit, E.T., I Am Legend, I-Robot, 2001: A Space Odyssey, An Inconvenient Truth, and Hello Dolly! (quite literally), writer/director Andrew Stanton compacts his muses and molds them all into a perfect animated cube — not of refuse but of bliss. After penning Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo and directing A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo, Stanton has yet again achieved Toy Story/Finding Nemo stature and quite possibly eclipsed the pair. Yes, WALL•E is that good.
What made Finding Nemo great was its father/son bond, and what elevates WALL•E in the same respect is its male/female robot bond. The two mechanical leads of the opposite sex possess a connection that most human rom-com characters do not. Not through electrical wiring, but through electric chemistry, a spark exists between the two.
Considering the pair are restricted to a minuscule vocabulary (mostly comprised of each other’s names), both robots dictate emotion through eye movement and voice infliction. In moments of delight, WALL•E and EVE show calm eyes and coo, and in times of fear or frustration, they become wide-eyed and shriek. WALL•E’s expression goes a step further in physically shaking with trepidation or hiding like a frightened turtle in its shell, while EVE fires her weapon without remorse in the face of danger. It is apparent that WALL•E possesses more human qualities than EVE, but that is what makes audiences sympathize more with his urge to get the girl who is playing hard to get.
Against other Pixar animated features, WALL•E is different. With WALL•E, Pixar throws talking animals and fairy tale characters out the window. Furthermore, Pixar risks unsettling crowds with a “silent” production appeal. Yet, when the unlikely, tiny, and dirty protagonist and his love interest share a dance among the stars, crowds are more likely to remain captivated rather than unsettled. Even if WALL•E may be too “different,” that’s part of the reward.
WALL•E is more than bleeps and blings; it is about liberating the naive to live more than survive and think freely. It is about overcoming obstacles, finding companionship, and cherishing bonds. It’s a post apocalyptic tale, a homage to science-fiction and Apple computers, an environmentalist warning, and a genuine romance. Newspaper headlines should read: Pixar has done it again; WALL•E has everything including heart.
In terms of ranking WALL•E among other animated endeavors, it very well could be the best. Remember, Beauty and the Beast is the only animated picture ever nominated for Best Picture. This theatrical fun fact could change after the 2008 Academy Awards.
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