Below is my review of WALL-E. Yes, I know I have been promising many reviews of films that have opened well before WALL-E, but I reserve the right to post reviews in any order I want, and there is no more important film for you to know about than this one...
WALL-E is an extraordinary masterpiece. It is one of the most perfect films I have ever seen, which is in many ways different than simply calling it a “great” film. I analyze films constantly, and make films when the time and money come along, so even in the greatest of films, I can usually spot something I would do differently, however slight. But in 2007, we have seen not just one, but two shining examples of filmmaking perfection. The first is Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor (review forthcoming), and the second is WALL-E. I would change nothing about WALL-E, from the beautiful opening shot to the miraculous, heart-rending closing image of the film’s end credits. Yes, a credits sequence can be heart-rending; this film is capable of unthinkable wonders.
The film is the latest from the brilliant minds at Pixar, for whose minds there are apparently no bounds. And now, after last year’s wonderful, sophisticated Ratatouille announced itself as the best Pixar release ever, now we have WALL-E, which is an even bigger step forward in Pixar’s sophistication ascent, and which is an even greater cinematic accomplishment. Here is a film that is about 80% silent by traditional standards and a film in which two lead characters barely speak ANY words at all apart from each other’s names, and yet this is one of the purest, most heartfelt and emotionally honest films I’ve ever seen…and one of the greatest modern love stories of our time. Yes, that’s right.
WALL-E is set over 700 years in the future, and tells the story of, well, WALL-E, or “Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class,” a futuristic trash compactor who is the sole survivor of an unseen apocalypse that rendered the earth’s surface unlivable and obliterated all organic life, with the exception of a select group who boarded a ship called the Axiom and have been living a fully automated life (in more ways than one) in outer space. WALL-E lives among the wreckage, and has spent the last several centuries fulfilling his “directive”—a word that takes on very diverse and unexpectedly powerful meanings throughout the film—which is to rid the earth’s surface of all refuse. The curious robot has, as his memory chip has processed so much of earth’s spoiled remains, formed a personality of sorts, and has compiled a vast collection of interesting trinkets during his journey. He has especially taken a liking to the film version of Hello, Dolly, which speaks to the lonely, undying romantic inside WALL-E.
WALL-E’s world changes when the Axiom sends a probe-droid named EVE (“Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator”) to search for any sign of organic life. The very sleek, very modern EVE instantly attracts the clunky WALL-E, and so begins the most unlikely but most breathtaking love story of recent years.
To describe the details of how the plot unfolds would be to spoil the sheer joy of moment-to-moment unknown. The cinema has the power to hold us in its grasp as we stare in wonder, waiting breathlessly for what will happen next. WALL-E does just that; it is one of the most creative, surprising, and stunningly complex films to be released all year. Its script is easily the most layered and tender of the year, and will most likely be one of the film’s most underappreciated assets. After all, there are very few words of dialogue in the film…but the story this film weaves is one of the benchmarks of modern screenplay writing. Explaining the film’s inner workings would be downright cruel, but individual moments are important to note: moments like WALL-E’s selfless care for EVE while she sits in a computerized hibernation; the moment where the humans on the Axiom awaken to the reality of their life in space; and the film’s most brilliant sequence, a dazzling and absolutely beautiful dance through the stars that WALL-E and EVE share.
The film also packs a powerful and unsparing vision of the future, one that holds humanity accountable for its actions. While the robots WALL-E and EVE share an emotionally honest love story, the humans lay on floating orbs drinking soda. They are the fat, lazy destroyers of the planet who now have no initiative and who have no clue as to the ramifications of their past actions, nor the inevitable path they are headed on (again, I am tip-toeing around spoilers). But in WALL-E, the emotional depth and unwavering resolve of the inorganic proves that somewhere, the same emotion and the same resolve must still exist in humanity. That underlying message makes WALL-E not only brilliant and subtle in its sub-textual storytelling, but also uncommonly poignant and intimately moving.
Many filmgoers and even many critics very often draw a clear line between “real films” and “family films/animation.” Yes, WALL-E is a G-rated animated film, but it is more mature in its message, more sophisticated in its storytelling, more accomplished in its visual style, and more complex in its underlying themes than any “adult film” I have seen all year. This is a film that will shake your soul and move you to tears if only you open your mind...and especially your heart. This is a film that will stand as a classic for years to come. This is a film you need to see. Now.