directed by Andrew Stanton
Robots have never been so adorable.
This has to be the most creative thing Pixar may have done yet. "Warm-hearted" is an overused cliche but this time the description could not be more accurate. WALL-E is a witty, whimsical and flat-out fun movie that mixes humor, sci-fi and action together to form a very enjoyable ride for people of any age. Yes, it seems to be composed of many films, like Short Circuit and Cars, yet it stands out from them as a work unto itself, whose message is very timely to boot.
It's the year 2700. Earth is deserted because garbage has taken over the entire world. Humanity literally jumped ship and lit out for the stars when people could no longer safely coexist with the mountains of waste they created, while tidal-wave-sized dust storms wreak havoc across landscapes that are actually more like landfills. Humans live on a giant cruiser ship, owned by the megaconglomerate Buy N'Large, where they have effectively evolved into gigantic babies, vastly overweight, lazy, unable to care for themselves as they drift along in a robot-assisted hypnotic state while never taking their eyes off the computer screens constantly floating in front of them.
As for Earth, well, there's not a bit of life left on the whole whirling ball of dirt. Left behind are the sturdy little WALL-E's -- Waste Allocation Load Lifters/Earth Class -- who toil day in and day out packing, racking and stacking the skyscraper-high mounds of crap left behind when people threw in the towel. Our particular WALL-E (voiced by Ben Burtt) gathers treasure troves from the vast hordes of refuse, trinkets that he uses to build his own little home. He fills his lonely days by hanging out with his best buddy, an extremely cute cockroach, and watching his favorite film, Hello, Dolly!
One day the routine is broken when a high-tech ship deposits another robot, this one very advanced, on a secret mission to locate an item of great importance. It's love at first sight for WALL-E and Eva the Extraterrestrial Vegetation Searcher (voice of Elissa Knight), the robot with the highly classified directive.
There are few actual words in the movie but a ton of "dialogue." Moods, emotions and even actions are conveyed through almost pure sound. It's the whirrs and clicks and beeps that express the characters' thoughts as much as words. Somehow the nuances are captured more clearly. Very clever move, taking verbal language out of what is probably one of the most emotionally expressive films Pixar has made.
No sooner have the two begun to make friends when Eva's directive is suddenly, unexpectedly completed and she is whisked away by the Big Giant Spaceship that deposited her there. WALL-E, determined not to lose his new friend, stows away on the ship until they dock at the giant cruiser filled with the descendants of the humans who left Earth. From there, both WALL-E and Eva end up leading an accidental mutiny, inadvertently finding themselves at the head of a renegade mutant robot army composed of broken units that had been deemed unfit for service. It's as if the Island of Misfit Toys finally gets to have its moment in the sun when they take control of the ship and, by extension, help wake up the half-comatose humans to the fact that their lives need some direction.
The messages, large and small, about mass consumption, lazy morality and environmental abuse, are all over the film. WALL-E is clever without being heavy-handed, funny while conveying a serious message, and very good keeping that same message in the forefront while never compromising the intricacies of its characters and their all-too human interactions. Certainly the movie belongs in the higher reaches of its genre. It's more topical than most Pixar films but never in a pandering way. For a kid's film there's a surprising amount of darkness and moodiness in the beginning, carefully balanced with scenes that are light, colorful and action-packed. Indeed, lovers of Mad Max, Blade Runner and The Fifth Element will feel right at home with the dystopian world that director Andrew Stanton brings to the scene with such deftness that WALL-E could almost be construed as a homage to movies that predicted a world that really could be just around the corner. And if you look carefully at the cruiser's autopilot robot you'll see a visual tribute to 2001, A Space Odyssey (it's actually one of several references to Kubrick's film; look carefully and you'll see two more, including a "My God, it's full of stars!" moment that's just dead hysterical).
There are so many wonderful little scenes-within-scenes that watching WALL-E over and over again won't be a problem. Whether you're a lover of gizmo-intensive films or not, WALL-E knocks it out of the park.
22 August 2009
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