Forty years ago, as a teenager I was mesmerized by Stanley Kubrick’s
landmark 2001: A Space Odyssesy. I knew I’d never
seen anything like his visionary film, with its futuristic vision, minimal
use of dialogue, stunning special effects, and even an evil computer. I
had a similar feeling when I left the theatre after seeing WALL-E from
the amazing Pixar studio, which revolutionized animation with Toy
Story in 1995, under the Disney umbrella. It’s a true
original, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
WALL-E takes place 700 years in the future. Earth has
been deserted, and is devoid of all life, with the exception of a cockroach
which seems to have 900 lives. WALL-E is a trash compacting robot,
which continues on its never-ending mission long after every other activity
has ceased. When WALL-E finds something of interest, he takes it and
stores it in his personal stash in a deserted storage unit, where he
finds shelter from the frequent storms that ravage the planet. His
greatest find has been a videocassette of the 1969 film Hello Dolly!,which
he plays over and over. WALL-E is fascinated by the dancing, and,
especially by the touch he sees displayed, although he has never felt. Evidently,
even robots experience loneliness after centuries alone.
WALL-E’s desolate world is shattered one day when a space ship
deploys an Extra-Terrestrial Vegetation Device (EVE) to search for signs
of life on Earth. WALL-E is smitten with EVE and tries to win her
favor, showing her his various collections. When they stumble across
a small green plant, EVE summons her ship to take her back. Distraught
at the thought of remaining without her, WALL-E stows away to be with
EVE and WALL-E disembark on something resembling a huge, intergalactic
cruise ship, filled with enormously obese humans who dart about on moving
chairs, so that no one needs to expend any physical energy at all. As
the plot develops, including a HAL-like power-mad computer, WALL-E and
EVE remind the humans that life is more than mindlessly cruising around
space. Life is about intimacy, and the surprising joy of human
touch. WALL-E and EVE even lead the lost humans back home to reclaim
planet Earth. Yes, this is a pretty big agenda for an animated
film. However it accomplishes all of this without ever feeling
preachy or forced.
The first thirty minutes of WALL-E include virtually no dialogue
at all, as we follow WALL-E along his daily trash collecting routine,
until he meets EVE. Yet the amazing thing is that we feel for him. His
efforts to win over EVE are truly charming, and bring to mind silent
Charlie Chaplin comedies. As with all Pixar films, the animation
is truly amazing, depicting the remains of a once-vibrant planet. After
a few minutes, I was so transfixed that I forgot I was watching an animated
film. After this long, haunting sequence, I admit that the shift
to the cruise ship is a bit of a letdown. Even the cruise ship
has a great deal of humor, and lovely sequences, such as WALL-E and EVE
dancing through space while captivated humans, who haven’t danced
in centuries, look on in amazement.
For all its animated wizardry with robots, WALL-E works so well because
it is grounded. Unlike the other summer superheroes, WALL-E doesn’t
seek to work miracles or defeat evil empires or find that he possesses
superhuman powers. He just wants to connect to another like himself. He
finds that the amazing power of touch, as Jesus did. EVE, as her
Biblical name implies, is the mother of a new Earth, finding life, bringing
people back home.
WALL-E is certainly a big risk for Pixar. At the same
time it is simple, yet profound, touching, yet prophetic. It is
cognizant of present issues, from the environment to rampant consumerism
(the universe seems to be run by a conglomerate called BNL, standing
for “Big and Large”), to obesity, to alienation. Yet
there is a timeless quality about WALL-E, as with the Chaplin
classics, 2001, ET, and other films to which it is being compared. Writer-director
Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) and the entire creative Pixar
team, has given us a modern-day classic. I think it will be enjoyed
and discussed for years to come.
I hope you all see it and are as captivated by it as I was. I
know I’ll be back to see it again soon.
Tom Condon, OP
"WALL-E" is preceded by a delicious animated short, "Presto," a five-minute
gem about a magician and his rebellious rabbit, also from Pixar.
WALL-E is an acronym for Waste
Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class.
For viewers of any age, this is an instant classic.
The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.
All ages admitted.