I first heard about WALL-E last year in trailers before Ratatouille. I didn’t think that much of the film, but that’s to be expected because that first teaser trailer seemed a little thin.
I really didn’t start to take notice of WALL-E until I sat in on the Pixar roundtable at Comic-Con, and director Andrew Stanton came on to answer our questions. One of the reporters asked him if it was difficult making a movie with a main character that doesn’t talk.
Stanton glared at him from across the table and said with utter, stoic sincerity: “Oh he talks. He just doesn’t speak English.”
Then Stanton went on to explain that he was inspired for the character by the scene in Star Wars when R2-D2 was walking through the canyon just moments before he was captured by Jawas. Stanton said with a huge grin, “I didn’t care about anything else that happened in that movie.”
As a Star Wars baby myself and a self-admitted fanboy of classic 70s science fiction, I was sold. And I hadn’t even seen any footage from the film. The rest of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 was a time of anticipation for me. Like a child counting the days to the end of school, I couldn’t wait to see WALL-E.
When you generate this kind of self hype, it’s really hard to live up to it. But doggone it, this film lived up to every ounce of anticipation I had.
The movie tells the story of the last robot on earth. Seven hundred years ago, the human race left the planet for the stars, and no one bothered to turn off WALL-E. Over the years of isolation, he has developed a personality and a huge level of curiosity. One day, a ship lands, and another robot probe comes out. Instantly, WALL-E is intrigued, and soon, he falls in love with the high-tech, slick Eve.
When Eve is retrieved by her spaceship days later, WALL-E tags along for the ride. While trying to reconnect with his iPod-looking girlfriend, we discover the fate of the human race and WALL-E’s chance to bring them home.
The first half of this movie is as perfect as a movie can be. Where films like I Am Legend and Castaway struggled with a sense of isolation for a chunk of the run time, WALL-E breezes through his story. His only companions are a single cockroach and an old video player, but this first half has more interaction than you will find in any other film.
The animation is breathtaking. Like Ratatouille, it’s no longer a wonder to watch the CGI. Rather, your brain forgets that it’s all created in a computer, and you accept it for real. Stanton and the Pixar team did a flawless job emulating the look of 70s sci-fi and created a dynamic, visceral world that rivals any large scale event movie.
The budding love story between WALL-E and Eve is one of the most sweet and tender things I’ve seen in months. And Stanton is right. Even though they speak very little English, there is no doubt that the robots have complex thoughts and express themselves perfectly.
The middle of the film, which sees WALL-E and Eve shooting into space to reunite with the humans, is a bit of a transition. It’s not necessarily a slow-down, but rather a turning in the plot. For a brief moment, WALL-E is lost in the background information, but soon he re-emerges to take the movie back and become the hero.
Anyone who knows my work knows that I hate messages in movies, and I was a bit nervous at the appearance of a bandwagon green message. But while the overtones are clear and the issues can be gleaned from the film, Stanton does a fine job avoiding any moment of preaching. Ultimately, even for myself who is a confirmed critic of the overblown environmental movement, I didn’t find anything in this film to be out of place.
Pixar has done it again by giving us the best possible film. It’s a great movie for kids, featuring a cute robot and some exciting action. But it’s also a movie for all ages, touching on the very basic elements of human emotion and tenderness. WALL-E is easily one of the best – if not the best – movie you’ll see this year.
THE UPSIDE: Another great Pixar hit that everyone can enjoy.
THE DOWNSIDE: It makes you wonder if the next Pixar movie can top it.
ON THE SIDE: Yes. I’ll admit it. I cried.