Guaranteed Happiness: Wall-E

Welcome to the first post in my new semi-regular feature, Guaranteed Happiness. I’ve discovered that a lot of the films I’ve watched recently haven’t necessarily dealt with very happy subjects, and this has been getting me down a bit. Now and then, I’d quite like to watch a happy film, or one that’s uplifting and ensures that I’ll have a big stupid grin on my face for at least 80% of it, and definitely at the end. After all, I’d much rather write about a film I’m passionate about, and I tend to have more to say about films that make me smile than those that make me suicidal. Praise should be aimed squarely between the shoulders of my girlfriend then, for sticking on Pixar’s gem Wall-E when I was in a decidedly cranky mood a little while ago. The aim was for me to sit down and write some posts, which to be honest I was in no mood to do after a fairly crappy day at work and having to shell out over a considerable amount of cash to fix my bike, yet as soon as the film began all thoughts of blogging and even glancing at my laptop screen were out the window.So, why do I love Wall-E? The simple answer is robots. It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers that a film featuring robots (or dinosaurs, time travel or Stephen Tobolowsky) will immediately be watched with heightened levels of glee. And the fact that it’s made by Pixar, a company that has made some of my favourite films to date, and is where I’d be willing to sell several members of my immediate family to work at, then so much the better.This is my favourite Pixar film, which is definitely saying something. I adore the Toy Story trilogy (especially, predictably, Rex), but there’s something about Wall-E‘s simplicity, its pared down scope and focus on telling a straightforward story in new, interesting, and above all, beautiful ways.

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

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9 thoughts on “Guaranteed Happiness: Wall-E

  1. Spot on. All Pixar films come with guaranteed happiness and this is definitely my favourite. Good luck completing the 1001 films, I had a look through the list and have seen about 180 of them.

  2. Thanks! I've still yet to see Cars 2 and Brave from Pixar (Brave still isn't out yet in the UK, got another couple of weeks to wait yet), but you're right, they're all pretty damn amazing and I'm sure a few more spots on this Guaranteed Happiness list will be filled by their output.I've seen more of the 1001 list than I've reviewed so far, but many of them were before I started going through the list, and all need to be rewatched anyway (except maybe Eyes Wide Shut, don't really want to watch that one again).Thanks for reading.

  3. Great review. This is one of my favourite films and agree that the scene in space is one of the best, if not the best of the film. I've got a great love for silent film and for me I saw a lot of Chaplin and especially Buster Keaton in Wall-E. This just added to my enjoyment.

  4. Agreed. I thought the same when I saw Ratatouille. A lot of Remy's scampering around the kitchen reminded me of Buster Keaton too. I love how much Pixar is willing to do without dialogue.

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