Rating: **** (and five tissues)
Release Date: 6/27/08
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
Apart from some heavy-handed and overplayed social commentary, this film is sheer creative brilliance. Two robots discover sentience and companionship against the bleak backdrop of Man's annihilation. One of the robots is an eccentric terran trash collector named WALL-E, and the other is a decidedly feminine probe droid named EVE, sent to Earth to determine if it's habitable after the human race destroyed the environment in the late 21st century. < insert cautionary theme of ecological horror here > When EVE discovers a growing plant, it sparks a chain of events that shift the course of human history.
Of course, WALL-E could care less about the fate of mankind. All he cares about is garnering EVE's attention and affection, while EVE, having determined that WALL-E isn't a threat, simply ignores his desperate courtship and goes about her business. The innocence and sincerity of WALL-E's actions, and EVE's cold indifference to them, are brutally heartbreaking. After realizing the importance of the plant, WALL-E and EVE team up to bring what's left of human civilization back to Earth, and EVE slowly warms up to WALL-E's heroic bravery and tender charms. I was almost surprised that it had a happy ending, even though I knew that Disney would never allow Pixar to release something that dark and tragic.
Naturally, the animation is superb, and the scenes on Earth contain some truly shocking focus pulling effects. It's by far the dirtiest looking film Pixar has ever made, and the textures and lighting strike an extremely oppressive tone. The music score is hit-and-miss, but when it hits, it's incredible. Amongst all of its achievements, what stands out the most is that so much of the story is told without any dialog at all. WALL-E communicates entirely with anthropomorphic body language, while EVE expresses herself through tones and a set of large digital "eyes." It's really quite amazing how evocative they are, and their interactions are heartachingly sweet and touching. The only thing that drags the film down are the humans, adrift in space for 700 years on a luxury liner that caters to their every needs. Whenever they show up, it jerks the audience out of the robot fantasy and back into reality. I understand how it's necessary for the narrative, but honestly, I would have been much happier had there only been robots in the film. Or perhaps an alien race instead of humans. Another niggle that left a slightly bad taste in my mouth was the blatant use of Apple technology (which isn't surprising given Steve Jobs' relationship to Pixar). One Macintosh in-joke is cute, but multiple Apple references become annoying and disruptive.
With a movie as engrossing as "WALL-E" it's easy to nit-pick details of personal taste, but that in no way diminishes its impact and importance. Pixar has created something quite wonderful with this film, and it moved me in ways I didn't think possible. Well done.