Wall-E

Wall-ESynopsis: The highly acclaimed director of Finding Nemo and the creative storytellers behind Cars and Ratatouille transport you to a galaxy not so far away for a new cosmic comedy adventure about a determined robot named WALL-E.

After hundreds of lonely years of doing what he was built for, the curious and lovable WALL-E discovers a new purpose in life when he meets a sleek search robot named EVE. Join them and a hilarious cast of characters on a fantastic journey across the universe.
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Wall-E 8.25

eyelights: Wall-E. the social commentary.
eyesores: the human characters.

I had been looking forward to seeing ‘Wall-E’ for a looong time. At first, when it was first released, I dismissed it. I had found ‘Finding Nemo’ way over-rated, and I really couldn’t be bothered with a cartoon about cars – Pixar had lost some of its luster in my eyes.

But reviews for ‘wall-E’ were consistently excellent, and all the word-of-mouth was full of praise.

So I reconsidered it – enough so that I steered clear of reading any details about it, to keep its surprises intact. But it wasn’t enough that I went to see it in the final throes of its many weeks at the big screen. And it took one heck of a while before I got my hands on the blu-ray.

Still, it was on my radar. I was constantly on the lookout for a second-hand copy. It appears as though it was a popular title, though, because no one was parting with it. But I finally got my grubby little hands on it! And the moment that I could watch it I did.

And you know what? It’s certainly worthy of the praise that it received. Despite the possibility of having unmeetable expectations after all this anticipation, ‘Wall-E’ delivered on its promise – it’s my favourite Disney-related film in many, many years.

I think that what I liked the most is that they made a non-humanoid protagonist who doesn’t speak much the central figure and managed to make him endearing, funny, relatable and articulate all at once. It was a bold move to make the movie almost dialogue-less, but Pixar pulled it off.

What they did is that they filled in the blanks with a rich tapestry of sound effects and visual gags that made the world Wall-E lives in incredibly vibrant despite its desolation – because, for those not already in the know, Wall-E inhabits a garbage-strewn, now-abandoned Earth. His job is to help clean it up.

That’s another thing that I loved about the picture – it was its timely social commentary. With the environment taking a nose-dive (the causes can perhaps be argued in some fashion, but the facts can’t), our consumer-culture cannibalizing itself and the health of North Americans going on a steady decline, ‘Wall-E’ hits the nail on the head.

It’s not too preachy either. It makes its point that the world is our home and that we are being negligent of it in our constant quest for bigger and newer, in our desire for instant gratification, but without talking down too much. I think that it does it intelligently enough and with enough conviction to speak to many generations.

Hopefully it will serve as a wake-up call to the younger ones, instead of serving as a blueprint for things to come. Sometimes I wonder if showing us dystopic futures only helps to ease into them by virtue of making the notions commonplace, or if they help shake us out of our stupor. Do they shape the future? Do they predict the future? Or do they warn us about possible futures?

Anyway, all this to say that ‘Wall-E’ gives much to reflect upon and discuss. Not bad for a “kiddies” picture!

It doesn’t mean that ‘Wall-E’ is a dismal film, though (unlike its bleak doppelgänger, ‘9‘). Hardly. Anyone who thinks that it’s too political or too heavy in its delivery would be completely mistaken: the filmmakers managed to balance things quite well, offering us plenty of touching moments, amusing bits, and outrageously hilarious ones as well; they were able to fill the picture with many layers.

Of course, this is helped along by our little protagonist, alone in the world with his only friend, a cockroach. He is so cute, dutifully going about his daily routine which includes his work, but also the salvaging of humanity’s refuse in his home. He’s created his own little world of oddities and unusual experiences for him to enjoy. And, in so doing, he manages to warm the picture up and its audience.

That was the first third of the picture – after this we are taken off-world, where we visit humanity, now 700 years after having left Earth. If there’s anything I found tedious about ‘Wall-E’, it was his interactions with humans. Or, rather, humanity’s interactions with him. He is always wide-eyed with wonder and in awe of new experiences. But humanity has really devolved here.

In ‘Wall-E’, we discover a plausible, but incredibly depressing vision of the future of the human race. It has become an exaggeration of what we are seeing in recent years: a pathetic, lazy, complacent, consumer-culture that only knows connection through the intangible, through silicon, wires and waves.

These people are obscenely obese and incapable of anything. They’ve become sheep ready for the slaughter – and there’s nothing funny or remotely virtuous about that. I just couldn’t watch this part without cringing. It felt all-too-true and I couldn’t shake the notion that this was actually our future, as we become more and more prone to instant gratification.

But this off-world environment is populated with other non-human, and this is another way in which the filmmakers manage to make up for their grim vision: they created a bevy of neurotic robots with various programming peculiarities that rapidly infect the viewer with glee. Unsurprisingly, it’s easier to relate to these odd ‘bots than the humans.

The people at Pixar likely knew this and they gave us a lot to work with. Much like in ‘Monsters Inc.’, they gave us the most humanity in their least human characters. In some ways it makes it easier to absorb the message when we are connected to the non-humans, because we don’t feel as judged as we would otherwise feel. Had the humans been more relatable, it would be difficult to not feel judged, to not feel the accusations.

The ending is pretty standard fare, though, with a villain to defeat and a typically satisfying happy ending, but it doesn’t deter from one’s enjoyment too much – thankfully, it’s not too sappy and it doesn’t seem too unrealistic. It wraps up the film with some sense of hope and also with our lead character, Wall-E, now revitalized and with a brighter future ahead. By this point, we wouldn’t want anything less for him.

All in all, ‘Wall-E’ is a terrific little film. It’s populated with many appealing characters, it’s filled with loads of enjoyable moments, its animation is the best of its kind, and it actually had something substantial to say. You could hardly do worse with respect to family-oriented features, and I would heartily recommend it to kids and dreamers of all ages.

Date of viewing: Dec 27, 2012 + Jan 6,2013

One response to “Wall-E

  1. Pingback: Pixar Short Films Collection, vol. 1 | thecriticaleye·

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