“WALL-E,” quite simply, is the animated work of genius we have all been waiting for.
The art is beautiful, the landscapes breathtaking, the characters unquestionably loveable, the breadth of the plot awe-inspiring and the message eerie. The trailers were only a hint at the story that lay behind the binocular eyes of one lonely robot with a developed personality, but the final piece lived up to the expectations.
The first half of the movie takes place on Earth, or what is left of it, as WALL-E continues to do the job that his class of robot, Waste Allocation Load Lifters, Earth-class, and clean up the mess we humans left behind. This monotonous daily routine is broken by the arrival of EVE, an Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, and the first company WALL-E has had in a very, very long time.
We see through advertisements and signs as WALL-E traverses his way around the garbage dump Earth has become that seemingly everything is owned by a company called “BnL”, be it the all-you-can-buy superstore or the ocean-liners sitting in the empty basin that was once the sea.
After Earth became uninhabitable for humans to live on, BnL created a gigantic cruise spaceship that was equipped with everything that Earth’s population would need for their five-year sojourn into space while a massive team of WALL-Es cleaned up the Earth. Well, it’s 700 years after the launch of the cruise ship and WALL-E is the last functioning clean-up robot on Earth.
The plot shoots off into space once WALL-E presents EVE with a plant he found as a gift to try to win her affections. As it turns out, this is the first sign of life on Earth that has been detected in the 700 years since the humans left Earth.
The giant BnL spacecraft that had brought EVE to Earth reappears to take her back to the cruise ship, and WALL-E tags along in an attempt to save EVE from her apparent abduction. Enter here gorgeously choreographed animation sequences that involve WALL-E wave-surfing around the rings of Saturn and gazing dog-eyedly into a nebula.
The sight that awaits WALL-E as the spaceship returns to the cruise ship is far more horrifying for the adult viewer than it is comical. Commercials for the cruise back on Earth depicted it being a fun place for the whole family; you can even bring Granny, because no one needs to walk! The hover-chairs shown in the commercial to help Granny have been adopted by every human being in the ship as the only way of transportation. Babies are taught by robots as they sit in bouncer hover-chairs and there is no face-to-face interaction as everyone communicates via a digital screen located in front of their faces that does everything they should have been doing themselves.
Most horrifying of all is what has become of the human figure. Pictures and advertisements show fit men and women standing proudly in their replacement home, but the real humans have degenerated into fat, ungainly creatures that drink their food out of plastic soft-drink cups and use robots to do everything they should. A flow-chart of the progression of the human body (picture from apes to humans) shows that while our bodies kept getting rounder and rounder, we lost more and more of our bone mass due to lack of exercise or even movement at all.
Of course it is WALL-E who unwittingly sheds some light onto this situation. As he zooms around the BnL cruise ship after EVE, he shuts down one woman’s do-it-all screen and asks her if he can get by her so he can stand next to EVE. She politely lets him by; she hadn’t even realized he was there before. Then she looks around her in horror as though it was the first time she had really seen what they had become. Even though she had lived on the ship her entire life, she whispers softly, “I didn’t know we had a pool.”
The story is kid-safe, as far as it goes. They will laugh as WALL-E falls all over himself and as a group of dysfunctional robots wreak havoc around the ship. But WALL-E is far from being just another kid’s movie. It has a cautionary message of where our dependence upon mass culture and technology with no attention paid to the mess we left behind will lead.
In ways it is a modern day “1984” with a touch of comedy, hidden under the guise of a kiddie movie. Pixar made a daring leap with this movie, and they made a safe landing. WALL-E is a work of art in every way, even as the BnL CEO (Fred Willard) chillingly orders the robotic auto-pilot Auto to “stay the course” after those left on Earth realize there is no chance of recolonization.
If you are looking for mindless comedy, go take the kids to “Kung Fu Panda”. But if you are looking for intelligence, wit, and an important warning about what we are drawing out world closer to each day, take your kids to WALL-E, the greatest movie of the year by far.