(Long Island, NY) I love WALL-E. There, I said it, and I certainly feel better getting that out of the way early on. And I could really just stop here with my review, because…what else needs to be said? It’s a movie created by Pixar, the premiere computer graphics animation studio responsible for mammoth hits such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Their track record in the industry is nearly flawless, their movies are all critic-proof, so everyone will see WALL-E anyway, regardless of what I say. And they’d be right for doing so, because WALL-E is more deserving of your money than possibly any feature Pixar has produced to date.
Pixar Animation Studios is a CGI animation studio founded in 1986 by Apple Inc. co-founder, Chairman, CEO, and all-around filthy rich guy Steve
Jobs. Initially a computer
hardware manufacturer whose initial ventures fell flat and almost bankrupted the company, Pixar eventually moved into graphics and animation and found far greater success. Partnered with and eventually purchased by the Walt Disney company (who distributed and marketed their movies for them), Pixar began releasing a series of feature-length motion pictures and short films which not only showcased their technical merits, but their ability to tell soulful, emotional tales flawlessly intertwined with humor. Following the unfortunate death
of hand drawn feature film animation in favor of 3D polygons and texture maps, Pixar has obtained distinction as one of the few practitioners of this new style capable of instilling life and personality into their films that rivals and at times surpasses their two-dimensional forefathers.
Which brings up to Pixar’s latest creation…a clunky, rusty little robot named WALL-E. WALL-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, and it’s his job to clean up a toxic and garbage-infused Earth (very much resembling the South Bronx at any time of the day or night) while humanity waits patiently in the stars for the time the planet is once again inhabitable. Originally WALL-E was one of thousands of similar models, all working together to compact the trash into a more easily disposed-of form, but the clean-up has taken far longer than anticipated (oh, only about 700 years) and WALL-E is the lone robot still functioning when the movie begins. Befriended only by a cockroach (if you think they’re impossible to kill now, just imagine another 700 years of evolution on top of that), the centuries have had an odd effect on WALL-E: he has developed an actual personality and a penchant for collecting random knick-knacks found in the trash. With little else to do but trying to finish his job, feeding his cockroach stale Twinkies, and watching an old VHS tape of Hello Dolly, our robotic hero is getting a little lonely.
That is, until a surprise visit from a strange spacecraft that deposits a sleek, futuristic robot in WALL-E’s backyard before rocketing back to space. Dispatched by the humans in the hopes of proving that their home world can once again sustain life (after foolishly rendering it incapable of such centures before), EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), starts carrying out her directive by searching for plants, but to no avail. Unlike the back of my refrigerator, here’s just nothing growing in the virtual toilet that Earth has become.
Meanwhile, WALL-E is enthralled by the very sight
of EVE, and with the romanticism of Hello Dolly going through his head, attempts to woo the shiny robot, who at first very nearly blows him to scrap. But soon
she begins to trust the odd little guy, and he invites her back to his place, impressing her with his collection of rubber duckies, sporks, light bulbs, and singing mechanical fish. I sure wish I were as smooth with the ladies as WALL-E…
Looking to deliver the knockout blow, he presents EVE his coup de grace: a plant he found while out working one day. True to her programming, EVE automatically stores the plant inside herself, shuts down, and begins transmitting a homing beacon. Despondent that his new friend no longer ambulatory or responsive, WALL-E tries to keep her safe until the spaceship returns for her. Stowing aboard the vessel, WALL-E eventually encounters what humanity has become after 700 years in space, makes friends with some screwball malfunctioning robots, and uncovers a conspiracy to prevent mankind from reclaiming the Earth, all while pursuing the love of EVE. Doesn’t that sound sweet?
I LOVED THIS MOVIE. Words cannot convey how totally endearing Wall-E as a character is- he’s far more loveable and human than most characters who…well, actually ARE human. And he manages to pull this off despite his quirky personality and beat-up, time-worn exterior, not at all appearing callously designed by studio marketing types to be specifically loveable, unlike most animated characters these days. Eve, the renegade robots…hell, even WALL-E’s cockroach was touching and funny. I will punch anyone in the face who talks badly about this film. Well, maybe not a child, but they always love flashy, pretty, and cute things anyway, so there’s little chance I’ll be running into any kids I’d have to beat up. But fair warning to all you grown-ups out there…
An especially unique aspect of WALL-E as a film is that there is only a minimal amount of actual dialogue throughout. The only characters that actually talk are the humans, but since they don’t get a lot of screen-time, we’re left with large stretches populated solely by robots who don’t speak so much as they make sounds effects. Sound designer Ben Burtt is responsible for generating the robots “voices” by taking various mechanical/computer sounds and combining them to resemble dialogue. This might seem strange to an inflexible mainstream audience, but I found it to be absolutely brilliant, and a strong point of the film.
I think what makes Wall-E as a film so amazing is that it manages to involve you in the plight of the characters without the benefit of Hollywood A-List actors emoting and/or spitting out cheesy lines and lame pop-culture references that will be woefully dated in 3 months. Mostly removing speech from the characters’ repertoire, Pixar instead relied on their body language, actions, and some wonderful animation to convey their personality and emotional states, which in my opinion is a much harder road to travel as far as storytelling goes. But somehow Pixar and director Andrew Stanton (who also helmed Finding Nemo) managed to pull it off. Plus, the love story EVE and WALL-E managed to walk the (very) fine line between being heartwarming and overbearing. That’s not easy, either. In an age of ever-increasing graphical technology and a race to top everyone in terms of pretty visuals, it’s nice to know that in the end Pixar
still manages to tell an excellent and touching story first and foremost.
By the way, my theater was showing the digital version of WALL-E, and it was absolutely beautiful. The increased picture resolution provided by means of digital projection really brought out all the mind-numbingly blissful detail present in the film, especially the scenes set on the garbage-strewn Earth of the future. The detail was truly amazing. But after watching a second showing of the film via standard film projection, it was like a layer of sticky, sweaty gauze was suddenly draped over the screen- it’s that big a difference. It’s worth hunting down a theater showing the digital version of WALL-E, as it truly gives you insight a just how much work the artists and programmers at Pixar put into this film.
I honestly have no complaints whatsoever about this film. Go and watch it 200 times. NOW.
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