WALL-E isn’t just another animated family film, or even just another Pixar movie for that matter. Andrew Stanton has created a masterpiece on the same level as recent classics like There Will Be Blood, The Departed, Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men. It is a universal film with timeless appeal. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film gets a nomination for Best Picture. And I’m not talking about the Best Animated Feature category, I’m talking Best Picture. The fact that I’m not the first person to suggest this possibility must tell you something.
When the film was first announced, a lot of people were skeptical that a modern day (virtually) silent film could play in contemporary times. The exclusion of dialogue has forced Pixar to tell the most visual story yet. There are moments like in Alfanso Curon’s Children of Men, where this film requires the audience to make a connection between a series of visual cues. The result is a more rewarding and involving cinematic experience. I see a lot of the press screenings for family films in auditoriums packed with little children. WALL-E was no different. I’m still not sure where I stand on children at the movies. I can assure you, it usually results in a horrible moviegoing experience. But not once during WALL-E did any of the kids say a word. Not once did they get bored.
WALL-E might be the cutest robot to ever grace the silver screen, but beyond that he is a fully functional droid. He’s a robot, but he’s alive. It’s amazing how much emotion the Pixar animators are able to display with a slight tilt of his binocular like eyes. There is a moment late in the film where they play against form, and you really see all the work that must have went into animating this little guy.
A environmentally destroyed and abandoned Earth is the setting for this film. The humans consumers who have escaped Earth, now live as technologically-pampered blob creatures on a super space starliner. Are there messages? Yes, but they are storytelling devices and nothing more. Why did the humans leave earth? This is why. And WALL-E’s newfound love for Eve mirrors humanity’s loss of intimacy in a technologically connected and networked world. A live-action Fred Willard is integrated into the computer generated world using projected taped images on a holoscreen. He is a reminder of what the human race use to look like.
If I have any complaint about WALL-E it would be the needed and expected change of focus between WALL-E’s story and the story of the humans late into the film. You identify with WALL-E so much that when he is off screen it becomes harder to identify with the stupid remains of humanity (not to say you don’t…). But this is a problem of any traveling angel type story.
Thomas Newman’s score captures the magic and creepiness of the best science fiction films. The juxtaposition of Hello Dolly’s Put On Your Sunday Clothes and the introduction of a post apocalyptic Earth in the opening of the film is so very perfect. There is subtle and not so subtle homages to the classic science fiction films of yesteryear. WALL-E is the anti Shrek, devoid of modern pop culture references. WALL-E enjoys watching the musical Hello Dolly, and at one point is seen playing Pong on an old monitor. And I’m sure if this had been a Dreamworks Animated film, the video game would have been a modern XBox 360 game. This is the difference between the two animation studios. In fifty years, WALL-E will still play flawlessly to new audiences, all the comedic and story beats in tact.
/Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10