Review: WALL·E (2008)

If there’s one thing I always expect from robots, it’s love!

Screenplay By: Jim Reardon & Andrew Stanton
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

I remember being glued to the screen the first time I watched WALL·E. The opening moments without any speaking, although they aren’t actually silent, mesmerized me and the rest of the film held me firmly in the state of hypnosis. When I came home I read effusive praise for the film from all corners, and then the negative opinions started to pour in. Some were entirely negative, but others were extremely positive towards the pre-Axiom segment of the film while quite negative towards the post-Axiom portion of the film. I listened to these critiques, I took them to heart and I went to see WALL·E for a second time.

A funny thing happened during that second viewing, I became even more enraptured by Andrew Stanton’s film about the little robot that could. In that second viewing, and each subsequent viewing, I came to deeply appreciate the second half of the film. I know the criticism that the film turns into a rote action fest. I’ve heard the complaint that the supporting characters are never developed and thus the film is not well rounded out. To these two charges levied against the film, I say phooey. Both criticisms can be dealt with on the basis of the core effect that the character of WALL·E has throughout the film. Every person, robot, or place that WALL·E touches is changed or effected in some way. The story of the film is not about how deep the people he touches become, or the freedom that he gives the wayward robots he joins up with. The story of WALL·E is about how one robot who is good to his very core can effect all those around him and through his simply being sentient change them for the better. The supporting characters don’t need to be fleshed out because this is not their film, it is WALL·E’s film and Mr. Stanton does a splendid job of showcasing how a single robot can change lives forever.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the idea of the finale of the film being a rote action fest? The action that takes place at the end of the film is the culmination of WALL·E’s actions throughout the film. With every person or robot he touches and changes the action packed finale of the film comes closer to a reality. There’s really no place for the picture to go but to said action finale, of course it should be mentioned that the action portion of the film is not in actuality the finale. The action portion of WALL·E is a culmination of WALL·E’s effects on those around him and it helps to bring to fruition the films true finale where the little robot that could is finally given his reward for being such a good, uh, being.

Yes, at it’s heart WALL·E is a love story. It’s not a sappy romantic comedy, rather it’s an earned tale of the power of love. It goes back to the effect that WALL·E has on all the characters around him and that for the most part all the changes he brings about are in the service of love. Best of all, the romance in WALL·E is a bit of a role reversal with the male figure of WALL·E playing the role of damsel in distress to EVE’s hero. I know, I know, the robots in WALL·E have no actual gender, but I do believe they take on gender identities because it is important that they do so to the role reversal aspect of the romantic leanings of the film.

The gender identification that WALL·E and EVE take on serves another purpose. Earth is saved through the birth of a woman. It is EVE who takes in the seed of the planet and offers it up again to mankind to allow their culture to once again grow and flourish. For all the romance, the action, and the comedy, WALL·E is also a film with deep themes. The female as savior is just one such theme, and it does play second fiddle to the theme of consumerism that permeates the film. WALL·E is a cautionary tale of the ills of consumerism, but it’s also a cautionary tale of the laziness of humanity. Those two particular themes work hand in hand within the framework of WALL·E’s narrative, yet I never found them to be heavy handed. The themes exist, they are there to see in the visuals of a desecrated Earth and the trappings of an automated ship. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the themes of WALL·E subtle, but they are handled with great aplomb, and they do the science fiction roots of WALL·E proud.

Beyond the themes and the higher leaning aspects of Andrew Stanton’s film, it has a few other factors going for it. WALL·E is a great character, he is easy to root for and he’s a joy to spend time with. The film builds on the character of WALL·E to create a universe around him full of comedy. WALL·E is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It is dramatic when it needs to be, but it’s also laugh out loud funny for a lot of its run time. The visuals are simply stunning, I don’t think I could lavish enough praise on the visuals in WALL·E. I spent a good chunk of my time during this viewing trying to figure out where I was going to get my screen shot from. By the time the film had finished my brain was suffering from gorgeous image overload, that’s how beautiful WALL·E is. In fact, in the debate about whether or not animated films have cinematography WALL·E is the film I turn to when I want to most show people why I do believe animated films not only have cinematography, but they can have gorgeous cinematography.

No matter how many times I watch WALL·E I always leave the experience thrilled with what I have just watched. I know that I have been very effusive in my praise for WALL·E, and fallen into the hyperbole trap a few times. The truth is that I find WALL·E to be one of the best films ever made, and a film that is certainly worthy of effusive praise and hyperbole. WALL·E is a comedy that is funny, a romantic film that has a little something extra to offer, and a film with more than one deep theme at its core. WALL·E is the finest film from the folks at Pixar, and it remains an example of the power of the animated format.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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10 responses to “Review: WALL·E (2008)

  1. WALL-E is among my list of all-time favorite films. Somewhere probably in the top 10-20. I really don’t know. There’s scenes in that film for me where I do become emotional. Hell, I’m becoming emotional right now just writing about it. I don’t think Pixar will ever top itself with that film. It’s a true work of art as well as raising the bar of what animated films can do and more.

  2. While I agree that it is unlikely for Pixar to ever top this film, I wouldn’t rule them out. They, along with Ghibli and present day Disney, I think are capable of outdoing themselves on a consistent basis. Only time will tell if Wall-E can stay at the top of the Pixar catalog.

  3. Really lovely write-up – and I particularly appreciate your discussion of the film’s themes.

    I have yet to re-visit the film like you have, but I never understood the criticisms of the film’s second half either. It all seemed perfectly cohesive to me, especially if you think of it as a love story. Gonna have to take the time to watch it again soon!

  4. I remember being surprised that people had such issues with the films second half. I think the second time I watched Wall-E I expected to have issues with it because of all the guffaw I’d read online over the second half. Luckily my expectations were completely wrong and the second half was just lovely. 🙂

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  6. I don’t have any issues with this film. I liked it quite a bit, but I didn’t love it. The reason is that I couldn’t get beyond seeing WALL-E as a robot instead of a being. I have no idea why. I completely see the toys in the Toy Story movies as “beings”, but for whatever reason I didn’t with WALL-E. Perhaps it’s because it’s closer to reality (a robot built by man for a specific purpose) rather than a frivilous toy that’s designed to stimulate the imagination.

  7. Interesting, I never had that problem. Within minutes of the film starting I had identified Wall-E as a very Chaplin like being, who I was becoming engaged with.

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