WALL·E

WALL·E

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

WALL·E is a charming love story set among the detritus of the end of human civilisation. At it's heart is an affirming little tale of joy, but it takes place in one of the most melancholy settings ever committed to film.

WALL·E is a robot designed for tidying, part of an effort to clear up an Earth choked into ecological disaster by economic excess. The first chunk of the film is free of dialogue, following WALL·E as he goes about his duties; picking up stuff, making it into cubes, stacking the cubes. It doesn't sound like much of an existence, and it isn't. What keeps WALL·E going is his love of musicals, the friendship of a hyper-stylised future-cockroach, and a collection of interesting trinkets.

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This is a triumph of character and environment design. The ruined earth is a treat, full of clues as to the fate of humanity and of WALL·E's former colleagues. Trash towers high into the sky, from horizon to horizon, and through it little WALL·E trundles. From time to time it's clear to see the influence of Apple on Pixar, though the presence of a video iPod and the use of the "power on" noise feel more like a shared joke than crude product placement. What's more persistent is the presence of the Buy'N'Large logo, a corporate monolith that seems to have created a way of life and in the process ended human occupation of Earth.

Into WALL·E's 'life' comes EVE, on a trail of fire and thunder. Her "directive" is "classified", but as she goes about her work WALL·E's courtship of her is genuinely endearing. When her mission is fulfilled and she lapses into silence it becomes even sweeter. This is a genuinely touching film. Pixar have, as usual, managed to squeeze expression out of the most unlikely things thanks to their computer magics, and WALL·E is a triumph of design. He might look like a shoebox with some binoculars stuck on, but he's got more range than a quantity of Hollywood's leading men.

The action moves off Earth, without giving too much away, and we see the fate of the humans who got off Earth. On a massive star-liner, the Axiom, cosseted (and somewhat bulky) folk float about on hover chairs drinking burger flavoured milk-shakes. With more than a few nods to 2001, the ship is controlled by AUTO, a tyrannical monocle on the bridge. There's also a succession of other robots, each of which is a small triumph of design. The little cleaning robot, the crazy painting robot, even a brief part for Sigourney Weaver as a Ship's Computer, all work and are amusing.

Other parts of WALL·E are outwith the ordinary Pixar pattern too. There's a smattering of live action for a start. Veteran actor Fred Willard appears as Shelby Forthright, CEO of Buy'N'Large and accidental planet-killer in a succession of video briefings. Special mention should go to to AUTOs voice, generated using the program MacInTalk. As with HAL, this is the struggle of a computer trying to satisfy two conflicting goals, and as in 2001 nobody quite understands that special burden of command. Certainly not Captain McCrea, latest in a long line of Captains of the Axiom, who after Eve's return starts to ask a lot of questions about life on 'Earth that was'. There can't be many films that have motivated rebellion with the answer to the query "Define 'hoe-down'".

On top of the film itself are the credits, a combination of artistic development from hieroglyphs through to pointillism and beyond and pixel portraits that interact with each other and the credits like a classic computer game. The one concern is that WALL·E is perhaps more adult than other Pixar fare. The animation is a triumph, at times verging on photorealistic, but that doesn't hide a story that is darker than the usual tales of friendship. It's touching though, genuinely romantic, and a hugely entertaining diversion.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2008
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WALL·E packshot
A robot - Wall·E, left alone on Earth begins to explore the cosmos with a companion, the sleek and sultry EVE.
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Read more WALL·E reviews:

Katy Carter *****
Anton Bitel ****

Director: Andrew Stanton

Writer: Andrew Stanton, Jim Capobianco

Starring: Voices of: Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimy, John Ratzenberger, Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Paul Eiding, Ben Burtt, Garrett Palmer, Kim Kopf

Year: 2008

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: USA

Festivals:

EIFF 2008
Glasgow 2020

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