The Little Robot with a Big Heart.
*Possible Spoilers *
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: (the voices of) Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Sigourney Weaver.
What’s it about? It’s the year 2700, humans have evacuated planet Earth and poor Wall E (a robot designed to crush waste) is the only robot left; in fact he seems to be totally alone, with only a cockroach as a friend. Things change, however, with the arrival of Eve, a modern robot sent to Earth to check for signs of life. When the time comes for her to return to the space station with her findings, Wall E follows her and finds himself at the centre of many new experiences.
Wall E is a good film for a lot of reasons but, arguably, the most appealing aspect here is the complete innocence which the little robot radiates. At the screening which I attended, the adults in the cinema responded as children might, laughing aloud and then falling silent when our principal character was injured or sad. It is a movie which, I believe, represents a return to innocence, not only as its theme, but also within the field of modern animated movies.
With Wall E, Disney Pixar have resurrected the, at times questionable, innocence of traditional Disney fare. Indeed, DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda recently demonstrated a certain break away from the cynicism and consistent references to modern culture which previous animated movies displayed, a trend which began to diminish with the lukewarm reception that Shrek 3 received. Kung Fu Panda, while sporting one or two swipes at traditional storytelling, followed the age old happy ending formula closely. So much so, in fact, that it actually lacked any surprises, thus resulting in a movie which is not very memorable.
Wall E, on the other hand, is very memorable indeed because, while it keeps the feel good vibe intact, it is a brave film too, taking chances with its set up and storyline. The first half hour or so is devoid of dialogue, focusing instead on Wall E’s daily routines and quirky personality. The CGI animation is top notch as always and here we can see how Wall E comes to life with every movement and expression. Much use is made of his puppy dog eyes, resulting in plenty oohing and awwing from the audience, particularly from the female spectators. However, what could have become a patent tugging of our heartstrings is saved by the robot’s other comic characteristics, such as his reluctance to get up for a job which only he inflicts on himself!
The arrival of Eve, a slick white robot with obvious Apple connotations (Steve Jobs is CEO at Apple..and CEO at Pixar..hmm) turns Wall E’s world upside down and also acts as a catalyst, moving the story forward and away from the dialogue free scenario. The second part of the film, which sees Wall E follow Eve to a ship in outer space, where the humans now reside, is a lot more fast paced and action packed than the beginning: robot chases ensue, human characters are introduced (most notably the Captain) and Wall E struggles to keep up with Eve amidst all the goings on. For a while, it feels like the movie has lost control, too caught up in chases and capers to worry any longer about character development, but in fact, these new sequences are a nice contrast to the opening scenes and it is interesting to see how Wall E deals with his new environment. The chaos is also balanced out with a wonderful dreamlike sequence that sees Wall E and Eve enjoying the weightlessness that space has to offer.
Perhaps the film is not so wholly innocent when you consider that the backdrop to the opening sequence is Earth, devoid of humans, but destroyed by the pollution and waste which we allowed take over. There is a message here about eco friendliness and better living, no doubt setting into the subconsciousness of viewers everywhere. Yet this theme or message, if you like, remains firmly in the background and does not detract from the main storyline. There is a satirical jab at this generation’s rising obesity levels and lazy attitudes, driven as they are by technology. However, this satirical representation of the human race results in a return to innocence, as mentioned earlier, when the grossly overweight humans slowly begin to break free from their monotonous state and start over. The innocence, and hence goodness, for the two seem to be equated, that surround Wall E are unearthed in the human characters too so that by the end of the movie they are at one with the little robot. It’s this innocence, I think, which Pixar hopes to resurrect in audience members and by the looks of things, I think they have succeeded. Wall E is possibly the most magical movie you will see this year!