The plot is basic: in the not-too-distant future, the human race has polluted and destroyed the world so much that life has become unsustainable, and the only hope lies in the Axiom, a titanic spaceship resplendent with every luxurious convenience to fulfil any desire. Earth has been abandoned and left to the robots, who spend the next few hundred years tidying the place up. Wall-E, our intrepid hero, is the last surviving ‘bot, and he spends his days making and stacking little cubes of garbage into towering skyscrapers of trash, accompanied by his only friend, a cockroach. One day, a ship descends from the heavens, carrying EVE, a futuristic, high tech reconnaissance droid, and Wall-E is instantly smitten.
The tale of a schlubby, down-on-his-luck guy falling in love with an out-of-his-league wonder girl is hardly new, but as far as I know this is the first time it’s been told almost entirely wordlessly, and about mechanical beings. A certain amount of disbelief needs to be suspended to watch the film – the robots seem to have far more personality than they should have been implanted with in the factory – but this results in one of the most well-rounded characters in all of Pixar’s history. Wall-E (which stands for Waste Allocated Load Lifter – Earth Class, something I know from memory) has a love for all things quirky, unusual or fascinating, be it a Rubik’s cube, egg whisk or an old VHS of Hello Dolly!, and watching him investigate the functions of each item – wearing a bra like sunglasses, accidentally erupting a fire extinguisher – are a joy to behold. As are his attempts to woo the evidently disinterest EVE (whose acronym would be a spoiler). The couple’s dates are more moving and say far more than any scene of dialogue could.
It’s almost impossible to narrow the film down to my favourite scene, but I’d probably say EVE and Wall-E’s space flight. It’s nothing short of a work of art, as the two bots fly a merry courtship dance around one another, set to Thomas Newman’s beautiful score. In fact, every scene between just those two, all almost entirely devoid of dialogue, are so very easily lost in. Their relationship feels natural and real, and if anything the films is at a detriment as the plot moves away from Earth, and the story looks past our central couple.
There’s a few messages hidden not too deeply in the film – stop fucking up the Earth, grow your own food, get off your arse and exercise – but to be fair these are all fairly good messages, when compared to the standard Disney fare of wait for a handsome prince to come and rescue you. Wall-E’s messages are ones I personally agree with (“even if I don’t necessarily live by them,” he says, patting the spare tyre around his midriff) so I don’t really mind such unsubtle preaching in a film, especially one as entertaining as this.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d have loved nothing more than to have been part of the character design team on this film. Wall-E himself has been so carefully thought out with regard to how he works and fits together. I may have appreciated this more than most, being a mechanical engineer by trade, but I think everyone should be impressed by the level of detail. Apparently the design team at Pixar meticulously analysed various machines, working out which ones were ‘male’ and which were ‘female’, and what characteristics defined these genders. Wall-E has clearly been inspired by more clunkier, mechanical machinery, as seen in factories and assembly lines, whilst the sleek, white plastic of EVE is straight out of an Apple store.
As you’ve probably realised, I love this film. The Wall-E poster, a giant pair of his eyes looking inquisitively out of the frame, justifiably hangs in in my lounge, yet I think it almost qualifies as one of the ‘other’ Pixar films that isn’t about toys, fish or superheroes. From the small details – sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver voicing the Axiom’s tannoy – to the fully realised plot and the brilliance of casting Ben Burtt, the voice of R2D2, as Wall-E, I cannot fault this film in the least, and nor would I want to. And I’d still be trying to get Randy Newman’s closing credits song out of my head if it wasn’t so bloody good.
Choose film 10/10