What an achievement: Pixar’s WALL·E, directed by Andrew Stanton, is the second straight rousing success from the company (following last year’s Ratatouille), a captivating animated film that manages to tell its story (mostly) without dialogue.
It’s also a wonderful physical comedy that recalls Chaplin and Keaton and Jacques Tati. And a disarmingly affecting romance about love between two robots. And a pretty good piece of sci-fi that both kids and adults can enjoy, to boot, thoughtful and charming from beginning to end.
WALL·E is a trash-compacting droid robot living on a desolate post-apocalyptic future Earth (the year, if my math is accurate, is somewhere around 2800 A.D.) Something happened 700 years ago, and the planet is devoid of any traces of life save for a friendly cockroach that accompanies WALL·E (I wonder how the cockroach managed to survive when all traces of plant life are gone, but I’ll grant the film this one).
WALL·E doesn’t seem to have much of a game plan; he wanders around compacting trash into small cubes, which he then stacks into huge, looming skyscrapers. If he comes across any interesting garbage, like a light bulb or an eggbeater, he saves it. At night he comes home to his trailer full of collected oddities and watches an old VHS tape of Hello, Dolly!. One day he finds a lone plant growing inside a fridge.
Enter EVE, a sleek new bot sent to Earth to find signs of life; at first WALL·E is apprehensive of her raw power, but he soon becomes smitten with her. Slowly, the two robots seem to, I suppose, fall in love. However, when WALL·E shows her the plant he’s found, she immediately shuts down and awaits to be transported to back to the cruise ship that has been floating around space for 700 years.
There live (presumably) the last remnants of humanity, who have been waiting around for Earth to become inhabitable again: they’re now fat automatons that have suffered “bone loss” from generations of travelling around on hovering chairs. WALL·E, of course, follows EVE back to the ship. And causes all sorts of trouble once he gets there.
If there’s one negative about the film, it’s the presence of the humans, who provide unnecessary reaction shots and feel a bit too ‘human’ than their depiction might otherwise suggest.
And what about the infants? I presume they’re bred artificially and raised by machines, but perhaps I’m putting too much thought into this. Key scenes revolve around the fate of humanity, but frankly, I didn’t really care, as long as the robots were OK.
The robots are delightful; I would have never imagined feeling so much compassion for artificial creatures – let alone animated ones – but here they are, tugging at my heart. WALL·E is ‘voiced’ by sound design whiz Ben Burtt, who performed similar duties on Star Wars with R2D2. Fittingly, the voice of Auto, the film’s equivalent of HAL-9000, is provided by MacInTalk.
It’s difficult to put into words how magical this film is; like classic silent comedy, it transcends borders of age and language and anything else you might imagine would hinder one’s enjoyment of a movie. Here’s a film, I think I can safely say, that everyone will like.