Monday, November 5, 2012

WALL-E (2008) - Loneliness, Solved, By Pixar

WALL-E: The Lonely Robot Who Finds Love

"WALL-E" (2008).
Some would call the animated Pixar feature film "WALL-E" (2008), directed by Andrew Stanton, the top animated film of all time. Truly, it is difficult to find fault with this film, but I'm not making that call here. This is a quality animated film that definitely is at the top of the recent pile along with "Beauty and the Beast" and a few others. But virtually all recent animated films are done with exquisite quality and detail, so saying one is "the best" is simply pointless. One will be "the best" if its particular focus and theme speak to you.

WALL-E wandering a barren landscape
WALL-E going about his work.
The plot is fairly original and has a valuable lesson for kids. This is the kind of thing that will stick with them when they grow up, so if you want them to become aware of the ecology and how important it is to not trash planet Earth, this film is a must-see.

WALL-E robot
It is the future. Earth has been abandoned by mankind because it has become covered in trash. The powerful multinational conglomerate "Buy N Large" (personified by CEO Fred Willard) is responsible. WALL-E (Ben Burtt) is a garbage collecting robot who has been left to clean things up.

The captain in WALL-E
Captain and Eve, with Auto in the background.
WALL-E is fascinated with the things that have been left behind. He finds Earth's history and culture fascinating. He is alone except for a pet cockroach.

WALL-E in space

One day, EVE (Elissa Knight), a sleek (and dangerous) reconnaissance robot, arrives. She has been sent to find out if life is once again sustainable. WALL-E rescues EVE from a storm and shows her around. Of course, he falls in love with her, and she likes him.

WALL-E travelling down a dusty street
Earth is a barren wasteland.
However, when WALL-E shows Eve a plant growing amongst the trash, thereby fulfilling her mission, things change. Following her programming, Eve automatically enters a deactivated state, going to sleep until someone comes to retrieve her. All that is left of her consciousness is a blinking green beacon. WALL-E then must try to figure out how to bring his love back to life.

WALL-E holding something in his claw
True Love.
Rather than having just a rote tale designed to showcase its lovable characters (such as, oh, getting kicked out of your simple village by some mean guy and then having to find your way back), this film actually becomes philosophical about loneliness and alienation. It is very sophisticated, but at the same time, very down to earth in its focus on love. Thus, it is suitable for more mature audiences as well as just kids.

WALL-E with large moon in background
Pixar was at the top of its game when it made "WALL-E."  It borrows heavily from the classic Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey," which is undeniable and which is the case with a lot of other films, too. "WALL-E," though, is not a remake, but instead has its own distinct style and themes. Comparing the two is pointless. "2001" was ground-breaking, solidified the careers of people who wound up making "Star Wars" and other classics and dealt with profound philosophical issues in the context of the manned space program and man's glorious future (which, at the time of that film, seemed shaky). "WALL-E," on the other hand, is a wonderful love story, primarily (but certainly not exclusively) aimed at younger viewers that is another in a seemingly endless series of quality products turned out by the Disney/Pixar machine.

WALL-E attendts the premiere
WALL-E walks the walk.
If you enjoy "WALL-E" more than some other film, then it is a better film for you. It certainly is more accessible for a general audience and especially younger viewers, with its cute robots and quirky love story and the overarching theme of loneliness. That doesn't make it "better" in the grand sense unless that is how you, reading this, choose to define quality, which is perfectly fine if that works for you. If you're hungry, a quick crust of bread may be more satisfying to you than a seven-course meal. It seems a clear choice to this critic, however, as to which film is the more "influential," and I don't think that's even debatable: "2001." Be that as it may, this may well be "the Pixar movie for people who don't like Pixar films." My biggest complaint is that it seems too short, but maybe that's just because I enjoyed it so much.

WALL-E looking into the night sky
There are many thoughtful moments in "WALL-E."
"WALL-E" is kind of sad in a way, which makes it a bit difficult for some kids. We are made to sympathy with these robots, but the future inevitably is a dead-end for their kind and they know it. Still, it is a wonderful tale about how love can grow in the strangest places. The film received nominations in several major categories at the 2009 Annie Awards, including Voice Acting (Ben Burtt), Best Feature Film, Animated Effects, Character Animation, Direction, Production Design, and Storyboarding.

WALL-E looking into the night sky

"WALL-E" is well worth giving a shot. Probably the main reason it does not seem to have stayed in the public imagination as much as some other films is that Disney/Pixar hasn't seemed to figure out the right way to market it at theme parks - while the "Frozen" princesses have meet and greets, for instance, that is a bit tougher to do with robots. Perhaps Disney just needs to develop a cool ride for it, and nobody's better at doing that than Disney. In any event, you may wind up enjoying watching "WALL-E" more than you thought you would.

Below is the trailer for "WALL-E."

And here are some cute vignettes of WALL-E doing zany things.


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