Saturday, July 12, 2008

WALL*E (2008, Andrew Stanton)

(Originally written for a work newsletter)

Disney and Pixar Animation Studios have made another winner with the new computer-animated film WALL*E. Set in the distant future, the movie tells the story of a little robot, the Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class (or WALL*E). WALL*E spends his days roaming the abandoned landscape, cleaning up the trash left by the people who’ve abandoned the Earth. Centuries of sifting through human garbage have made WALL*E intensely curious about the planet’s former residents, and he keeps a collection of “treasures” in order to study them. Then one day, a ship descends from space bringing another robot, the sleek, ultra-modern EVE, whose mission is as mysterious as her origins, and who eventually becomes WALL*E’s friend. But when the ship returns to take EVE away, WALL*E sneaks aboard as well, and goes on a journey beyond anything he could have possibly imagined.

As you might guess from the plot synopsis above, WALL*E is not your standard-issue kids’ movie. Since their founding in the 1980s, Pixar has always been committed to expanding the possibilities of animation, and WALL*E continues their almost unprecedented winning streak. In many ways, WALL*E may be their boldest and most experimental movie to date. To begin with, the story doesn’t rely on a comfortable plot so much as it tells a story, seeing its hero’s experiences almost entirely through his eyes as we follow him on his travels. The effect is disorienting at first- the movie doesn’t give us any more information to work with than WALL*E himself would get. Likewise, the story features surprisingly little dialogue, especially from WALL*E and EVE, who have few words at their disposal. But if you’re willing to pay attention and give the movie a chance, your patience will be richly rewarded.

Like all of Pixar’s movies, WALL*E is a feast for the eyes. The early scenes on Earth are wonderful- I could have watched another half-hour or so of WALL*E going about his daily routine- and the animators pack them with all sorts of perfect little sight gags. But the movie’s cleverest visual surprises occur once WALL*E travels into space. I won’t spoil any of them here, except to say that the world WALL*E encounters is a far cry than most movies’ speculations on the future. WALL*E is above all a work of true vision and imagination, one that’s sure to captivate children and adults alike.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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