7.01.2008

WALL-E

Pixar has made some of the most amazing animated movies in recent years, and they continue their tradition of excellence with WALL-E. This film manages to find humor, romance, and wonder among some of the most depressing ideas of the future ever featured in a children's movie.

Sometime in the future, humanity has covered the Earth in so much waste (much with the Buy n Large company logo) that the planet cannot sustain life. So humanity bailed on the planet, boarding a spaceship and taking off for parts unknown. They did decide to clean up in their absence, leaving behind a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class robot; we know him as WALL-E. This little robot has a torso that crushes garbage into square cubes, clamps at the end of its arms that can lift the cubes, and all-terrain caterpillar treads that let him zip around the ground and he makes piles of crushed garbage.

WALL-E also developed a personality. While going about his job, WALL-E brings a cooler to collect items he finds interesting. WALL-E has a pet cockroach (and not a cute anthromorphic critter, but a realistic-looking bug) that he feeds with a Twinkie. WALL-E gets nervous, shows curiosity, and has a morning routine that's the robotic equivalent of that cup of coffee to wake up. WALL-E is lonely, watching a video of Hello, Dolly and holding his clamps together sadly.

Company arrives when a spaceship lands and leaves -- but not dropping off EVE. This robot can fly, has a laser in her arm (and an itchy trigger finger), and keeps scanning the planet on a secret mission. WALL-E is smitten, even if EVE is a reluctant partner. When EVE goes into a hibernation mode after seeing WALL-E's plant, he takes care of her. And when the spaceship returns and picks up EVE, WALL-E follows.

On the starship Axiom, things are... very regulated. All the people float about on hovering beds, eating and watching video screens constantly -- and so fat that virtually no one even walks. Glowing lines direct the traffic of humans and robots alike, setting pre-ordained paths that all follow without question. The B&L company is omnipresent, from branding to announcements. WALL-E's presence changes things, from the small cleaning bot that's perpetually scrubbing his tracks, to releasing a horde of defective robots, to inspiring the Captain (Jeff Garlin) to do more than the same old routine.

WALL-E works on just about every level possible. The special effects are amazing, creating an Earth where piles of garbage tower over skyscrapers and a futuristic "utopia" that's sterile and regulated. Neither WALL-E nor EVE have human features, but both manage to convey very human feelings through their movements and synthetic voices.

The story is also a cautionary tale, where human consumerism has gone berzerk and the humanity has to be reawakened by a mechanical being. And while the dual disasters of a planet laid to waste and a starship of laziness and gluttony are frightening, there is so much humor here that these potentially overwhelming themes don't come across in an overwhelming fashion. Kids will get a kick out of the chases and silliness (though I don't envy parents having to explain why they can't keep any cockroaches that they find in the house) and grown-ups will enjoy the amazing visuals, fun humor, and deeper story than one usually finds in animated fare. WALL-E is a truly spectacular movie, from its deep themes to hysterical comedy. This is easily one of the best movies of the summer, and WALL-E may be one of the best movies of the year.

Overall grade: A+

Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

Jerry said...

When I saw the trailers for WALL-E my expectations ran to something like Short Circuit from 1986, after all the robot was exactly the same. I expected the characters to speak and have a intelligible dialogue. I couldn't have been more wrong. Two robots, a cockroach and no dialogue, all in all a total waste of my $20. What an incredible waste of time