Robots falling in love. There is a lot to like about the new Pixar film Wall-E. The animation goes without saying—better than anything out there. The glares, the environments, everything is rendered spectacularly, right down to the flame of a Zippo lighter. As for the story, leave it to these wizards for creating a tale that hits on a gut level, letting our simplest emotions come to the surface in order speak to our hearts and souls. With fewer words than Arnold Schwarzenegger had to speak in Terminator 2, this movie relies on its visuals and on the movements and actions of the characters. It is appropriate that we are shown clips from older musicals to show humanity before Earth was abandoned. If we harken back to them for the joys of people, why not go to silent era style in order to portray communication between beings that cannot speak? Wall-E, his crush EVE, and all the other robots involved can say little than their name, however, we understand exactly what they mean throughout. The entire film speaks on a level that most people might have forgotten. In an age of Hollywood spoon-feeding the masses by having actors preach the obvious, Pixar has shown their originality again by getting an audience to partake in a film that makes them pay attention and work a little; something that the message of the piece is trying to have come across for humanity in general.
I credit the filmmakers for showcasing a world that has been left unlivable due to pollution and excess, yet never stooping to the level of liberal propaganda to soapbox an environmental agenda. No, the idea of “going green” or “stop global warming” never comes out blatantly, but instead we are shown the message of how technology is making us gluttons and sloths, reliant for everything and unable to even see what is going on right in front of our faces. Humanity, drifting on a space station for 700 years being waited on hand and foot, has become a giant mass of inactive waste. Watching their awakening at the hands of a little waste removal machine, seeing love, life, and beauty as if for the first time ever is a wonderful thing. Sure the homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey is fantastic, but these moments work on another level altogether—that of truth. Consumer culture and materialism has destroyed our society to the point that social status depends on the car you drive and the trinkets you can collect rather than the job you do and the work you put in. To see the Captain of the vessel, housing what has become of the human race, slowly open his eyes to what could be is mind-blowingly simple, yet also so necessary for children these days to see what burying their heads in the computer and cell phone is doing to the societal structure of the world. We need to stop being lemmings, droning along without purpose. There is a reason for life, things to strive for and love is one of them, something very prevalent here.
I’ve gotten ahead of myself, though. I started praising the message and underlying theme of the tale without speaking of those cute little robots that take center stage, saving the human race to try and live again. The film does focus on these adorable beings as they fall in love with each other despite their protocol. The robots themselves become more human than the humans, showing the emotion and compassion that people have left by the wayside. Curiosity takes center stage as Wall-E finds treasures amongst the trash he has been programmed to clean up for a return of life to Earth. Stacking his compacted boxes of refuse into skyscrapers taller than those left behind, he finds shelter in an abandoned tractor where he keeps spare parts and objects to play with during his solitude. Never expecting a visitor, or the impact that finding a small sapling of greenery could cause, a sophisticated robot named EVE arrives and changes his world forever. Not only does she become the woman of his dreams, but she also causes him to leave Earth and discover the spaceship, which has been trying to find his home for way too long.
Maybe it is funny to say, but the chemistry between these two machines is quite palpable and real, as they discover feelings that they shouldn’t have due to programming and such, but they have evolved into sentient creatures. They fight for freedom against the spaceship’s auto-pilot and take a stand to end the tyranny that has been subtly and effectively beating the humans into submission. Of course they may not be doing it for the humans per se, there is a matter of needing to go back for spare parts, but you’ll understand once you see. Sure the Captain does his part to see the hero that Wall-E becomes to his stagnant race and being voiced by the hilarious Jeff Garlin definitely helps. When he starts viewing the history of Earth and just exudes wonderment and joy, you really enjoy the ride as he attempts to reverse his sloth and actually stand on his two legs for possibly the first time ever.
Where I do have a problem with the film is the pacing. Yes, I know there is very little dialogue—and I whole-heartedly praise the film for it—but the beginning does have a tendency to drag. Maybe some of that has to do with it being an extended version of the trailer, but it just gets a little tedious as we wait for EVE to arrive and end the cute monotony of Wall-E playing with his finds in ways they aren’t supposed to be used for, we’ve seen it before in The Little Mermaid. Even once they are on the ship, the cat and mouse game gets a little prolonged to pad the runtime a bit. The story here isn’t very complex and I just wish there had been more to it, or at least a bit faster paced of a plot progression. Otherwise, though, this is another solid film from Pixar, showing that they definitely have the creativity and storytelling ability to infuse heart back into cinema and try new things rather than regurgitate for a big paycheck.