"I don't want to survive! I want to live!" – Captain McCrea
I just got back from seeing this movie, and I can easily say without hyperbole that WALL•E is my favorite Pixar movie yet.
The year is 2815 A.D. What's left of the Human Race no longer inhabits the Earth. Only one being now wanders the vast wasteland of our home-world: a little robot classified as “Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class” or WALL-E, for short. His job is to gather, crush and stack cubes of our garbage into piles that rival the abandoned sky-scrapers that are now the ruins of some ancient American city. (But is it even America anymore? We’re not sure. Only a giant company looms as the dominating identity – “Buy-N-Large” or “BNL” – an obvious statement about our country’s vast consumerist identity, and based on the Costcos and Wal-Marts of our time.)
WALL-E and his only friend, a chipper little cockroach, scour the Earth’s rubbish all day long, digging through our discarded treasures and trash, and saving the most interesting bits for his own collection. But when the whistle blows, and the daily sandstorms come blasting through, WALL-E and his trusty cockroach take refuge in his little storage space, where he watches video tapes of old movies (“Hello Dolly” to be specific) that teach WALL-E about love and romance.
But soon, his whole world is turned upside-down.
A spaceship lands and deploys a much newer model robot. Her name is EVE, and she’s here looking for something. WALL-E is instantly smitten – she’s sleek and shiny, she can fly at the speed of sound, and once provoked, can blast a hole through a huge boulder in a flash! (What a woman!)
When EVE finds what she was looking for (in what is arguably the sweetest parable for a “love scene” in cinematic history), she automatically goes into sleep-mode. (Usually, that’s the guy’s role, isn’t it?) WALL-E is beside himself with worry for EVE and he takes very loving care of her until her spaceship reacquires her. WALL-E, madly in love, refuses to let EVE be taken away, and gives chase. Hanging on to the side of the giant craft as it rockets out of Earth’s satellite-covered atmosphere, WALL-E’s adventures are only about to begin.
Pixar’s animators and technicians have - in the process of telling a great story - inadvertently bested themselves once again. Even the film’s pre-show short – a brilliant little piece called Presto – demonstrates the leaps and bounds that the studio has made in the field of animation. There are scenes in WALL-E that look too real. The lighting, texture and “camera movement,” (complete with realistic imperfections like inaccurate focus pulling and shaky hand-held motion,) gives the film a strange sense of reality that our logical minds tell us shouldn’t even exist here.
Thomas Newman’s score compliments the entire mood of the story perfectly from beginning to end, especially with bits like the “BNL theme song” and WALL*E and EVE’s “First Date” – perhaps an homage to the Burt Bacharach score from Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969). His compositions soar, serenade, and summit supremely everywhere else.
The sound design is amazing as the voices of all the various little machines and robots, all digital bleeps and boops that we can’t help but mistake for English words, create an atmosphere of anthropomorphism essential for a Pixar film. (When EVE first encounters WALL-E, for example, we hear only a simple “BEEP BOP BOOP” that sounds almost exactly like “WHO ARE YOU?”) Special thanks go to the original “voice” of R2D2 – Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt – who voiced all the little creatures in this film, as well.
But the biggest star on the screen here is the story. WALL-E is not only a great science-fiction movie, but also a timeless love story. WALL-E’s emotions are palpable on-screen. He’s truly a robot that wears his heart on his sleeve. You can always see in his “eyes” – a pair of stereoscopic electronic binoculars that flex and bend (he has no nose or mouth) – and hear in his voice everything he’s feeling. “Feeling,” mind you. Not thinking. This little mechanical automated bio-engineer may not have a mind, but he has a soul.
And, although director Andrew Stanton, who already celebrated great success with his first film, Finding Nemo in 2003, will tell you that he’s not trying to make a social commentary film -- that he’s just out to tell a great story -- it’s impossible to ignore the eco-conscious message in this film. The paradigm shift experienced by Captain McCrea (who helms The Axiom – the mega-ship that houses the entire living human race – and is voiced by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin), is the big shift in consciousness that our current human race is in dire need of having itself. This is our planet and it’s our job to take care of it.
There are obvious nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in the form of AUTO, the ship's mutinous AutoPilot, and Alien (1979) in the form of Sigourney Weaver as the ship's computer's voice. And the film's cinematography is heavily influenced from the look of many sci-fi films of the 60's and 70's, giving it a certain visual motif that no animated film has ever had.
WALL-E is Pixar’s most original, heartfelt and accomplished film to date. It will be quite a feat if it is outdone by any of their upcoming projects, which include several sequels to hit films. If you have enjoyed any Pixar film to any degree, or if you enjoy sci-fi, animation, or just a damned good story – you must see this film.