Wall-E is a completely original work of staggering, visionary genius. The film also possesses so many brilliant nuances and human insights, and has such a pure and gentle heart that it truly has no filmic antecedent.
Wall-E is a robot, living alone (almost) on earth, cleaning up the trillions of pounds of trash left behind when humanity departed its uninhabitable planet. Wall-E’s earth wasn’t ravaged by either a war or a meteor. No, it was decimated by consumerism, greed, gluttony and environmental neglect. Wall-E isn’t living on a post-apocalyptic planet. He’s living on a post-stupidity planet.
At night, Wall-E, whose only companion is (of course) a cockroach, seeks refuge inside a metal transport where he collects human memorabilia. His most prized possession is the same, ancient VHS video that he watches every night. What does the only robot on earth watch? Terminator? Armageddon? Robocop? Of course not. He swoons every night to a love scene from the 1969 film musical Hello Dolly. Watching the on-screen lovers hold hands sends Wall-E into a reverie of love and longing that matches any comparable human scene ever put on screen.
One day, a spaceship lands, depositing a newer, sleeker robot. Wall-E is at first frightened, but then becomes utterly smitten. That new robot just must be female. He doesn’t know why. He just knows. After some wonderfully touching and comedic moments, the robots find a way to communicate. Sure enough, her name is Eve and Wall-E is a goner.
When, however, he shows her a tiny living plant that he has found, she immediately grabs it and shuts down. Just as quickly, her ship returns, whisks her inside and takes off. Not to be abandoned by his true love, Wall-E attaches himself to the ship and takes an interstellar journey that culminates on one of the huge spaceships on which humanity now resides.
As to the humans aboard, well, folks, the good news is that we are pampered from morning to night by every automated convenience that we could possibly imagine. We don’t work. We don’t need money. We have no conflicts. We have everything we want to eat and drink at any time we want it and are whisked everywhere on cushy recliners. The bad news? We have all become so fat that we literally can’t even walk!
It is on that ship that the rest of the film plays out as Wall-E and Eve strive to rouse humanity from its hedonistic trance and encourage us to take our first steps (literal and metaphoric) towards the renewal of our species.
Wall-E is beyond dazzling to watch. To say that it’s an animated film is somewhat like saying redwoods are just trees. That oceans are just bodies of water. Or that the sky is just, well, whatever. I have never seen or even imagined that computer-generated images could look or feel like this. As I marveled at the visual wonders of each frame of film, it occurred to me that the images were not really computer-generated. They were born of the human artists who program the images. In a strange, beautiful way, both Wall-E’s story and technology wrap us in the warmth of knowing that our humanity can indeed surpass and transcend our technology.
The film also shows us how self-indulgent we have become as a species and how we can, and must, reverse that trend.
For those reasons alone, it is an inspiring, uplifting experience and a bracing and beautiful change from so many of the films of the past several years.
And, as we experience the film’s wisdom and wonder, we never forget that Wall-E is also a poignant, warmhearted, and endearing romantic comedy. It’s not just "take a seat, R2D2/ C3PO." It’s "Move over, Romeo and Juliet!"
Wall-E (the latest film from the inestimably brilliant Pixar Studios) has so much on its mind, in its heart and in its vision that you truly need to experience the film for yourself. No, not yourself. Take your whole family. Your whole neighborhood. Everyone you know. Everyone you don’t know. Just go!! It just may reinvigorate your hope not only for movies, but also for our own humanity.