On a spur-of-the-moment whim yesterday, we joined the Postmas and McCoards at the movie theater to catch a viewing of Pixar's latest digital masterpiece, WALL-E. Before I got into this review, you should know that I've been looking forward to this movie since I heard about it from the teaser interviews they released around the time Ratatouille came out. While it was cute, Ratatouille really didn't thrill me. Tease me with a sci-fi movie featuring a quirky Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth class robot and I'm there!
The plot of the movie is a bit more sophisticated than Pixar has dealt with in the past. I really don't know how much of it I should mention, considering that revealing anything past the most basic elements will ruin the plot twists for anyone that hasn't seen it.
WALL-E is a robot left on Earth to repair the damage humanity has wrought in the form of endless mounds of waste. Our little square friend does this by scooping waste into his compression cavity, hunkering down, and popping out a fresh steaming square of crushed garbage. We are treated to a panoramic sweep of Earth at the beginning with immense skyscrapers of these cubes towering over the rest of the buildings in the nameless town WALL-E lives in.
We find out early on that WALL-E is presumably the last of his line still working. Perhaps his survival has something to do with his progression beyond his original programming. WALL-E collects keepsakes from the garbage occasionally. We find that his home, the abandoned shell of a WALL-E unit transport, is decorated with strings of holiday lights, knick-knacks, and other random bits of trash that have become his treasures. Nestled in the midst of the trash are WALL-E's spare parts, scavenged from the rest of his rusting compatriots that lay motionless, in mid waste disposal.
One fateful day, a ship lands on Earth, much to WALL-E's surprise. It's obvious he doesn't know what it is or what to do about it. However, after it deposits its payload, a sleek ovoid robot that is years beyond WALL-E's design, the ship departs. This leaves WALL-E to tentatively establish a relationship with the only other living thing around besides his pet cockroach, the new robot EVE.
What is EVE there for? Will she fall for WALL-E's bumbling attempts to ape the human romance that he's watched on his ancient video iPod for the last few hundred years? What will happen when the ship comes back for EVE?
If you've seen some of the previews for the movie, you can probably guess at some of the answers, but I'm not going to give any more away. The voice cast for WALL-E is mostly unimportant. We get some entertaining glances at Fred Willard as Shelby Forthright, BnL CEO. Buy 'N Large seems to be the corporation that took over Earth before the exodus, more on that later. Only a few humans have more than a couple of lines further into the movie, including John Ratzenberger, naturally. I don't think there has been a Pixar movie without his voice yet. Kathy Najimy also makes a vocal appearance, she's got a good voice. Surprisingly, if only because I really wasn't paying attention, Sigourney Weaver supplied her voice to the movie as well. Jeff Garlin rounds out the human voice cast. And I do mean rounds out. Hah hah. What, you don't get it? Nevermind.
The reason I say the voice cast is largely unimportant is because they have few lines. Most of the lines are left to WALL-E, EVE, and the other robots. And they speak to me, deep down, with synthesized voices. It's that Commodore 128 geek in me. I've always had a soft spot for the old-school synthesized voices from computers. I know that human voices were actually modified to sound like the synthesized voices for many of the robots, but it's close enough. Apparently you can't get a full range of aural emotion from the computer voices. Whodathunkit?
As for the political commentary that the movie makes, I'm not as inflamed about it as some of the movie's critics. Yes, the humans in the movie destroyed the Earth with rampant consumerism and unbridled waste. Yes, their short-sightedness resulted in the entire population fleeing in a mass vacation-like exodus. Yes, the solution they came up with crashed down around their ears. So what? The way I see it, the situation depicted in the movie is plausible. Even down to what would happen to humanity if it came to rely on computers and robots for even the most basic tasks. However, the creators of the movie didn't try to shove any political message down the audience's throats, like Happy Feet, wherein we are told quite firmly that we are destroying the penguins' habitats. It was presented as a framework to tell the story of WALL-E, EVE, and their affects on the future of humanity.
I believe that movies are a perfectly acceptable medium for delivering socio-political messages, even children's movies. If you don't like the message presented, then it's up to you to avoid the movie or explain the situation to your children and indoctrinate them into your world view. Me, I'm a proponent of conservation. We recycle more waste than we throw away every week. We try to minimize our power and gas consumption as much as we can. We teach our children to respect the Earth and preserve it where we can. Having a movie deliver that message softly and gently isn't going to hurt me or my children any.
Wait, wha? How'd I get up here on this soapbox? I didn't know they even made these crates anymore! Hang on, let me get down. There we are. Where was I? Ah yes, WALL-E. I give Pixar's excellent sci-fi outing fifteen out of fifteen reduced-bone-mass fatties. They done good.
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