Though there’s a lot of humour wrung from the premise, there’s an undeniably horrifying glimpse at an all-too likely future for our planet in WALL-E. The humour, though, comes from our look at the day to day adventures of the world’s last functioning cleaner robot, part of a workforce that was created generations ago to refresh our planet – which has been filled to the brim with garbage, both on and around the Earth – with humanity leading a slothful and consequence free existence among the stars. Their intention is to return to Earth once the cleanup job is complete; however, the task seems to have gone seriously awry long ago, with broken waste processing units (the WALL-Es – Waste Allocation Load Lifters, Earth Class) littering the surface of our world like rusted metal corpses. Only one still functions, and it’s fair to say that he’s evolved beyond his original programming. Though he still clears and tidies garbage, he seems to have developed a fascination for collecting discarded, esoteric objects that he doesn’t usually understand the function of during his day-to-day duties.
In the midst of this existence, his near-solitude (he has a charmingly animated cockroach friend to keep him company) is interrupted by a single minded, sleek robot – all gleaming curves and minimalist design, in sharp contrast to WALL-E’s more industrial, mechanical look; the Apple Mac to WALL-E’s PC, essentially – who’s been sent to Earth in search of life, in order to signal to the last vestiges of humanity that it’s now safe to return home. Though initially ignored by the new arrival – appropriately named Eve – WALL-E is soon smitten. The discovery of a single living plant on the previously barren Earth is enough for Eve to report back to the mothership – the Axiom – and return, with WALL-E awkwardly towing along.
Reaching the last of Earth’s population on what is essentially an eternal pleasure cruise, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right with humanity, who have to overcome a number of challenges if they want to get back to Earth – and WALL-E’s infatuation with Eve may prove to be the key to helping the last of humankind find their way home.
In basic terms – beyond the sweet, central love story between two very different robots – it’s an ecological warning, a caution against putting too much faith in technology – and an anti-consumerism fable; an incredible thing to emerge from under the wing of Disney, who are almost certainly the largest entertainment merchandise behemoth in the world as of the 21st century.
It’s often been said that the strongest parts of WALL-E feature next to no dialogue and little other than just following WALL-E as he goes about his daily tasks. Though that’s true – and the reintroduction of humans into the mix is awkward, especially given the bizarre and jarring decision to use live action humans at the beginning of the film, before we see the very cartoony population of the Axiom – there’s a bigger story here than just WALL-E’s. It’s a story that he’s not necessarily fully aware of himself, but one in which he’s absolutely pivotal.
Visually, it’s a wonder – even 11 years since it was originally released. There’s an incredible realism to the first, earthbound scenes; WALL-E is a wonderfully expressive character and the environments look almost depressingly realistic. There’s a definite attempt to make the camera movements feel as if they’re real, with deliberately manual-feeling zooms and grain added to give it that extra layer of realism, as if it were filmed and not just created in a vast array of overpowered computers.
A special mention must go to the scene of WALL-E and Eve with a fire extinguisher, dancing in zero gravity, which stood out for me as an absolutely magical scene not short on wonder – made all the more so by Thomas Newman’s gorgeous score. You’d be hard pressed to find a more wondrous fusion of audio and visuals in cinema. There are moments like this littered throughout WALL-E; of beauty even amidst destruction and chaos, moments of wonder that remind us all of the magic of cinema.
It’s an incredible film; though it does lose its way a little from the heady heights of the wonderful opening scenes, WALL-E manages to pack in both a beautifully intimate love story and a big, heartfelt plea for humanity to pay attention to what’s happening around us – not just in terms of what we’re doing to the planet, but to those closest to us too.
Thanks to @MixTape_Vol_1 on Twitter, who asked me to write a WALL-E review. Though I wasn’t sure I’d be able to, hopefully I’ve done it justice!
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