Reviewed by Emma Hughes
Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), Written by Andrew Stanton, Music by Thomas Newman.
The days when animation films were regarded solely as ‘children’s fare’ are over and this is seldom illustrated more poignantly than in the case of WALL-E. This heart-warming tale of a lonely robot diligently performing his task of cleaning Earth, while searching amongst the stars for something more is one that will resonate with all ages.
The earth has been abandoned. Piles of discarded junk rise from the ground like volcanoes. Humans have relocated thousands of miles upwards to the luxury spaceship, the Axiom. Meanwhile, a little robot known as WALL-E (which stands for Waste Allocation Load-Lifter- Earth class) continues to compress and organise the junk into creative sky-scraper patterns. Once part of an army of similar machines, WALL-E and his only friend, a cockroach, are the only beings left on the forlorn planet.
In a wordless, haunting montage the first 40 minutes of the film show the devastation of the planet, but also the endearing existence of the world’s last inhabitant. Despite a complete absence of accountability WALL-E plugs himself into a charger each night and wakes the next morning ready to do the same task again. As he compresses rubbish so efficiently, he still keeps an eye out for little treasures such as a Rubik’s cube, plastic forks, a light globe, and bubble wrap. Each night he watches the musical ‘Hello Dolly!’ and yearns for the connection that the characters display with each other.
Then he meets Eve, a robotic Extraterrestrial Vegetation Searcher who is dispatched to earth on a mission. Whilst their first encounter is a little volatile due to Eve’s tendency to blast first, enquire later; WALL-E is immediately smitten. He shows her his little house and collection of little treasures and realises he has met his soul mate. Eve is soon recalled to the mother ship, however, so WALL-E tags along for the ride. When he reaches the Axiom he discovers a colony of obese, distracted humans who are fed, controlled and pampered by the corporation Buy N Large.
For a film dealing with controversial issues such as the environment and consumerism Stanton avoids any element of preachiness and for him, the main message is about love. When an interviewer proposed that the film “seemed like a story about fat, lazy, American consumers who don't care about the environment” Stanton strongly repudiated that sentiment saying: “That's your interpretation, but that's not where I was coming from…. The theme that I was trying to tap into was that irrational love defeats life's programming—that it takes a random act of loving kindness to kick us out of our routines and habit. You could blame consumerism as one thing that's happening in this film, but there's a million other things we do that distract us from connecting to the person next to us and from furthering relationships, which is truly the point of living.”
While the humans appear obese in the film, Stanton explains that the “reason I made them look like big babies was because a NASA guy told me that they haven't yet simulated gravity perfectly for long-term residency in space. And if they don't get it just right, atrophy kicks in and you begin to lose your muscle tone—you just turn into a blob of goo.”
Despite portraying the devastation of Earth at the hands of humans, Stanton doesn’t leave it there. His ultimate message is that such damage is reversible, if we can just look outside of ourselves and the distractions our culture relentlessly provides. Age reviewer, Jim Schembri points out that: “bravest of all, however, is how Pixar's future vision of a polluted Earth makes no mention or reference whatsoever to global warming theory. There are no rising sea levels, submerged buildings or pressure cooker temperatures in the film. The planet is simply a victim of prolonged abuse and neglect, all of which is reversible in time. Al Gore would hate Wall-e.”
One of Stanton’s most poignant quotes is this: “Truth isn't always pretty, truth isn't always fair, and truth isn't always inviting. But when you tap into it the right way you can't ignore it, and it touches you to your core.” WALL-E is a perfect example of this. The incredible real-looking characters will draw you in and you will wonder why you are shedding a tear for the plight of a little mechanical robot. Yet the hope and innocence he portrays belies his status as a machine and transcends him into something human and child-like.
The team at Pixar have outdone themselves yet again, artistically and technologically; providing another poignant tale for all generations and cultures.
I give this film 4.8 stars.