I’m home from work today taking care of dual ear infectioned Lily and I passed the morning watching Wall-E. I’d just talked to a few friend who had seen it recently and they were all mostly underwhelmed. Then just last night I read that it had been nominated for best picture, not best animated picture, by the LA Film Critics. Just before writing this post I did a quick scan of some movie blogs I frequent and found that apparently Walll-E has generated quite a bit of controversy. Especially for a movie ostensibly made for children. I could drone on about these–whether its a liberal polemic on environmentalisma and anti-capitalism or a conservative appeal to self-reliance and think-for-yourselfedness– but I don’t have the energy and besides, most of them are overreactions based on assumptions made on the filmmakers. I’m not saying they, the filmmakers, didn’t have something to say about unbridled consummerism or environmental stewardship (or lack there of), but to boil Wall-E down to that is to miss out on what I thought was a really sweet love story and a flat out great movie.
That’s what Wall-E is, a love story told within a cauntionary tale. When the B n’ L (Buy n’ Large) Corporation-run earth is trashed to the point of uninhabitibility, an army of trash compacting robots is left to clean it up while the humans left on a five year space cruise…700 years ago. For one reason or another Wall-E appears to be the only one of these robots to have survived. With his cockroach companion by his side, he goes about doing what he was programmed to do but also collects all sorts of interesting knick knacks the humans left behind; Rubix cubes, bobble head dolls, and light bulbs. One day he discovers something he’s never seen before on planet earth, a plant, sprouting inside an old refrigerator. Little does he know, this discovery will change the very course of not only his existence but mankinds as well. Soon after the discover a probe called the Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, or EVE, arrives on earth and the two lonely robotic souls form an unlikely bond. That is until it is interupted when EVE discovers the plant and her prime directive programming takes over. The rest is a perilous and visually stunning adventure for Wall-E and EVE to reconnect and complete EVE’s mission, goals that were destined to become intertwined.
Film is a visual medium and a truly great film can be recognized by its ability to tell its story using only images. While Wall-E doesn’t use only images–the sound design is incredible and a character all its own–there is very little proper dialogue in the movie as a whole and none to speak of through the films first act. Yet the story is clear, and we’re compelled to feel for these two little robots trapped in their distopian world. That’s where the movie really succeeds. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its share of brevity, hyjinx, and adventure, because it does in scads, and as I mentioned earlier it is visually stunning. There is the underlying warning message of the dangers of rampant consummerism, a message that is clear but also appropriate and not at all preachy. Its really just the backdrop for the real story of Wall-E and EVE. (In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I watched it on my brand new HDTV. And it looked AWESOME.)
Maybe the fact that its a bit of a departure, philosophically anyway, for a Pixar cartoon threw some folks, but in my humble opinion its at least in the top three Pixar movies (maybe the best) and is definitely one of the best movies of 2008 I have seen so far. Here’s a trailer.