Written by: Andrew Stanton
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Ben Burtt, Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Garlin
Pixar has one again delivered a classic, which really, is not a surprise. This, however, does not mean Wall-E isn’t surprising. The film pushes the boundaries of Western mainstream animation with an admirable amount of gusto. What we have here may be the greatest animated film in American history (I, as a critic, can’t help but remain partial to Ratatouille). I’m not certain that by the end of 2008, Wall-E will stand as the best movie of the year, but I’ll bet it’s the most special, and maybe even most important. This is a family movie that doesn’t know it’s a family movie. Yes, it’s rated “G” in the USA and Canada but so was 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I have no problem naming the two films in the same sentence, which in my opinion, is the largest of compliments. It doesn’t need swearing or adult-only themes to work. We have a science fiction story that has a lot to say about where were going, and please do not just write it off as another global warming movie. Yes, global warming and how we treat our planet is the main concern here, but the film is remarkably effective then when you leave the theater, you will notice the first tree or plant you see and be filled with regret. I believe Wall-E to first and foremost be a science fiction film, but that’s certainly not all.
It is roughly 700 years in the future, we left earth some time ago when it became a barren wasteland. The first time we see Wall-E, the one robot left behind to pick up our trash, he is compressing garbage and making gigantic junk piles that resemble skyscrapers. The first time we are presented with the image of earth in this way, Wall-E working away on one of many piles, the title of the film fills the screen. We quickly realize this isn’t the standard kid’s flick. The image is so unexpectedly haunting, definitely one of the most effective visions of our planet’s future. Wall-E appears to be alone on earth except for a cockroach that tends to follow him around. Wall-E should stick to his task, but he has developed a personality, and a winning one at that. He collects objects that peak his interest, such as a Rubik’s cube and a light bulb. The item that has captured his artificial imagination most effectively is a VHS copy of Hello Dolly which he routinely watches. As he watches, two characters on screen hold hands, Wall-E simultaneously interlocks his own robotic hands. He has developed longing. Soon, his simple life is interrupted by the arrival of a spaceship bearing a female robot, EVE, sent to locate some sign of life. Wall-E is at once obsessed and does not leave EVE alone. The unlikeliest of romances begins, and what a memorable one it is. By the end, the strength of the romance is enough to love the picture. Once EVE finds what she needs, she blasts into orbit, Wall-E tags along.
They end up at Axiom, a space station, our advanced civilization. People, it seems, have changed. Everyone is obese and exerts little to no effort in their daily lives. Computers and robots control everything. Even the human man leading the people ultimately answers to a robot (a robot with an ominous red eye much like HAL from 2001, an homage to a great inspiration but perhaps even an equal) No one walks anymore, they float around in chairs with a projected TV screen. They have forgotten how to live. The poignancy only increases. I could keep going on about the brilliant vision of the future but to be surprised is better.
I mentioned that Wall-E primarily works as Sci-Fi, and secondly as a romance, thirdly comes comedy. I don’t know if I could go as far as to actually call it a comedy, but there are hearty laughs abound. Wall-E’s curiosity is charming and often leads to a pleasantly hard to predict and hilarious result. The gags should please the young, old, and in between alike, but I’m not quite sure how young kids will react to this movie as a whole.
The opening 30 minutes is practically dialog free. We eventually gain some minor human characters who speak a little, but speech is very minimal nonetheless. The visuals are stunning and captivating, and in the right mood, a young child may be engrossed. I wouldn’t be surprised though, if a child might fidget and lose interest, at least for part of it. The more patient, thoughtful viewer will be in paradise the entire time.
Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) has crafted a masterpiece. An animated film that is not afraid to please adults first. Filled with dark undertones as well as a large dose of hope, one can experience a range of emotions during Wall-E. I was moved and haunted to an extent few movies can accomplish. Pixar has really outdone themselves by bringing us an American animated movie as thoughtful as a Miyazaki film (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), to me that is the highest of accolades. Wall-E is, without a doubt, one of the greatest animated films of all time and perhaps one of the best Sci-Fi films as well. Go see Wall-E, it’s flawless.