Wall*E (****)

Posted on June 2nd, 2008 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

WallE Wall-E Rubik's CubeWall*E is the story of a little robot who does a big job – cleaning up the Earth and saving humanity.  He’s the last of his kind, left behind by the entire human race who have gone to live in the stars, at least for a while.  It seems that man had finally filled up the Earth with so much trash that it wasn’t fit to live on any more, so they built an army of Waste Allocation Load Lifters – Earth-class, or WALL*Es, and set them to gathering and stacking all the garbage.  Meanwhile, the humans blasted off to live in luxurious, automated, sterile, giant space stations while the robots put the Earth back into a livable state.

Unfortunately, the job was too big even for an army of robots, and over hundreds of years all the machines started breaking/dying/shutting down, until only one is left.  Wall*E spends his days gathering trash, compacting it into cubes in his belly, and stacking it in gigantic, skyscraper sized rows of refuse.  Wall*E is happy in his work, sentient, romantic, and a collector of stuff.  When he finds interesting things he takes them back to his house, and watches old movie musicals to pass the time.  Think “The Omega Man”, only with a plucky robot instead of Charlton Heston, and no mutants.  Oh, but there is at least one cockroach, and he and Wall*E share a symbiotic relationship.

Then, one day, out of the sky comes a huge rocket, which lands just long enough to leave behind a little egg-shaped robot to search for plant life.  She is Eve (Environmental Vegetation Evaluator, I think), and her sleek whiteness and technological advancement make Wall*E look like broken-down Tonka truck compared to the latest iPod/iPhone/iBot/iPhaser/iBrain.  She relentlessly combs the area for some sign of plant life, and blasts any perceived threats with what appears to be a phased-plasma flipper.  Wall*E is, of course, smitten, and manages to survive Eve’s defenses long enough for her to figure out that he’s not a threat.

And just as soon as Wall*E starts working his romantic mojo on Eve, she discovers a plant that he has been nurturing and then things get weird.  Eve goes into some kind of extended hibernation until the rocket returns and takes her away again.  Wall*E stows aboard and gets taken with Eve up to one of the human spacecraft, and that’s when the story really gets started.

Suffice it to say that both true love and the fate of humanity hang in the balance of the story, and the tale is funny, exciting, heartbreaking, and ultimately…well…happy.  What else would you expect from Pixar?

The animation of the film is flawless – not that it’s faking reality or anything.  You know that it’s animated, but it is achingly well done.  You don’t notice that it’s animated, and are quickly immersed in the reality of Wall*E.  It also takes quite a while to realize that Wall*E doesn’t really talk – he can sort of squeak and squeal in an electronic fashion, and kiiiind of form some simple words, but he sounds kind of like what I imagine R2D2 would sound like after a poorly taught crash course in English.  Coincidentally, Wall*E’s “voice” is done by Ben Burtt, who also did the beeping and booping for R2D2.

The story in the film is nearly epic – one pure soul’s quest for love, with the saving of an entire species as the mere backdrop.  My emotions ran the gamut, from happiness and laughter to awe and wonder to tension and excitement to…yes…even a sniffle or two.  And poor Mynagirl, about 15 minutes in I looked over at her and she was already sobbing at the mere anticipation of the perilous quest that Wall*E would surely soon be facing.  After the movie, Mynagirl chatted with her sister who had also just seen Wall*E and who had also sobbed through nearly the entire thing. 

It’s not that the film is maudlin, or anything, but it is emotionally powerful.  Wall*E is loveable and diligent, curious and intelligent, romantic and brave, and so pure of heart that he makes sure his pet cockroach gets a daily Twinkie (which you may never eat again after seeing this movie).  If you replaced the animated characters with human actors, Wall*E could easily be considered one of the greatest space operas ever filmed.  It probably should be considered as such, but the animated nature may make it so that the film establishment only sees this is a kid’s film, which would be a shame.  It could (and should) rank up there with Star Wars, Blade Runner, Galaxy Quest, Alien/Aliens, Idiocracy, and 2001: A Space Odyssey in the pantheon of great sci-fi.  Picture a stew of those films, with a dash of Charlie Chaplin and a pinch of E.T. and you’ll get the ingredients that Wall*E combines and even sometimes transcends.

But it will also still work for your kids, too.  The movie is hilarious and a sight to behold even if the young’uns don’t quite understand why the adults start laughing when “Thus Spake Zarathustra” plays during a key dramatic sequence, or when they figure out that the voice of the ship’s computer is none other than Sigourney Weaver.  Pixar has managed to walk the tightrope between the profound, witty, and poignant adult elements and the funny, loveable, scary kid elements, without doing a disservice to either.  However, know that if you were to change the right 30 seconds of this film, it would become one of the most tragic stories ever told. 

The bottom line is that Pixar has topped themselves yet again.  This is, by far, my new favorite Pixar film.  Take someone you love and I personally guarantee that by the end you’ll be smiling, you’ll be clapping, your eyes will not be dry…and you’ll be holding hands. 

Wallleeee!

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