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Likely to be included on many 2008 Top-Ten lists for both films and Blu-rays.

Blu-Ray Review: WALL·E (Three-Disc Special Edition)

WALL·E finds the gang at Pixar, led by director and co-writer Andrew Stanton, continuing their high level of quality, animated filmmaking with a multi-layered futuristic tale about life and love.

The film opens on an Earth of the future, where the human population has left because the planet has become inhabitable due to all the garbage created by mass consumption. Our robot hero, WALL·E, is a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class. It has been working for about 700 years collecting, compacting, and storing garbage. WALL·E has a companion, Hal the Roach, and spends downtime watching a videotape of Hello, Dolly!

One day, a giant spaceship lands and leaves behind EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). WALL·E falls in love and tries to get EVE’s attention but EVE remains focused on the mission. WALL·E’s charm wins over EVE, but one evening at WALL·E’s home, WALL·E shows EVE a plant he found, which triggers EVE’s programming. EVE takes the plant and powers down except for what is needed for a homing beacon. Ever the gentle-robot, WALL·E takes care of EVE. When the ship arrives for EVE, WALL·E hitches a ride.

Once on board the Axiom, where the remainder of humanity currently resides in floating chairs, the plant is brought to the Captain, who like all the other humans has become obese and barely mobile due to over-reliance on robots and technology. The plant is proof that life can once again exist on Earth and it needs to placed into a machine that will trigger the ship’s return. However, the ship’s autopilot, Auto, has other plans and tries to destroy the plant.

WALL·E is a grand adventure, enjoyable on its surface alone but becomes much more interesting when the deeper themes are examined. It’s also a lot of fun, owing a debt to many films that came before, from silent comedies (it’s 22 minutes before the first dialogue between WALL·E and EVE takes place) to sci-fi classics (Auto has a number of similarities to HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey).

The look of the film is amazing, due in part to award-winning director of photography Roger Deakins who was brought in as a visual consultant. It looks like nothing was lost in the transfer to Blu-ray, which is presented in 1080p High Definition and 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There is amazing detail consistently throughout the film. Highlights include the rust on WALL·E’s body, the dust kicking up from WALL·E’s treads, the reflections coming off WALL·E’s lenses, the material shooting from fire extinguisher, and the texture of space ship. Space also looked flawless with its pockets of blackness and violet nebulas. The colors are brilliant from the drab earth tones on Earth to the bright, vibrant spectrum used within the Axiom. They even added sun flare as if there was a camera lens filming everything. There was some digital artifacting during very bright sequences when there was another element in the air to diffuse the light, such as dust, smoke, or clouds. One scene it was noticeable was when the ship dropping EVE off arrived.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio made very good use of the surround, immersing the viewer in the effects and music. Even the robotic dialogue was consistently clear throughout. When the story moves to the Axiom, the sound design of the action sequences rivals Hollywood blockbusters and it’s no surprise the legendary Ben Burtt was at the picture’s helm for this aspect.

The Blu-ray is chock full of extras. Exclusives to the format are noted.

Disc 1 offers two animated shorts: the magical “Presto,” which had shades of Tex Avery’s take on Bugs Bunny and accompanied the film in theaters, and the all-new “BURN·E,” a hysterical short that revealed what this robot was going through during a portion of the film. On the Blu-ray, the latter can be viewed with a Picture in Picture of the storyboards.

Two very different commentary tracks accompany the movie. Director Stanton offers a very interesting and insightful look at WALL·E’s creation with a PiP accentuation on Blu-ray. An excruciatingly annoying foursome known as Pixar’s Geek Squad offers their own take on the film from their work on it, but I couldn’t last for more than six minutes, which was five minutes past when I had decided I couldn’t stand them. Blu-ray viewers get to see them rip off MST3K as their silhouettes in theater seats pop up in the lower right corner. Hopefully, they gave credit at some later point in the proceeding.

Disc 2 is divided into two sections: Robots and Humans. In Robots, “WALL·E Treasures & Trinkets” offers short bits with the gang, “Lots Of Bots” combines games and puzzles in a storybook adventure, and Blu-ray users get “The Axiom Arcade” which puts the characters in old-school video games. Eve’s Bot Blaster is a variation on Asteroids. “Bot Files” runs through the different mechanical characters.

In Humans, there is over 22 minutes of deleted scenes that can be accompanied by introductions by Stanton intro; over 109 minutes of behind the scenes that cover areas, such as the look, the sound, Burtt’s work, Thomas Newman’s score; BnL shorts; and Blu-ray users get a stunning 3D Set Fly-Through that covers the Axiom, the refinery, WALL·E’s truck. There is also the feature-length documentary The Pixar Story. Directed by Leslie Iwerks, the film is a must-see for Pixar fans as it charts the company’s history. Thankfully, it doesn’t shy away from turbulent relationship with the Disney Company, which it could have easily done.

Disc 3 is a digital copy of the WALL·E. I didn’t try it or the BD-Live features.

WALL·E is likely to be included on many 2008 Top-Ten lists for both films and Blu-rays. If animation fans want to see where the bar is currently set, go no further.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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