Movie Review: ‘WALL-E’

July 17, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
 (Walt Disney)
(Walt Disney)

Purveyors of pretty pictures and solid stories, Pixar have been considered the MVPs of the animation world ever since their first feature, Toy Story, with each subsequent release improving on the last (well, Cars aside). This time they’ve really outdone themselves, eclipsing everything else they’ve ever crafted (yes, even The Incredibles and Ratatouille), because WALL-E is pretty much the perfect picture, animated or otherwise.

Set in a galaxy not so far away, WALL-E is the story of one lovable animated automaton and his search for companionship in a future-scorched and empty earth. Puttering around the desolate and dirty world performing the duty he was built for, WALL-E (pronounced Wally) collects up rubbish, compacts it and then stacks it. Performing this task for 700 lonely years, WALL-E has built up a whole city of scrapscrapers made from his cubed and creatively piled garbage, left by the human race before they abandoned the pooped planet.

This extended isolation has also resulted in a glitch in WALL-E’s workings: he has developed a personality. An inquisitive collector and a lover of classic musical cinema (Hello Dolly! is his single tape), WALL-E is more man than machine. So when he meets the sleek and sexy search bot from space, EVE, it’s unsurprising that he falls head-over-treads for her. But when she inadvertently stumbles upon the answer to earth’s salvation and is whisked away to home base in outer space, WALL-E is thrown into an intergalactic adventure as he chases his crush across the galaxy.

It is, of course, clichéd to say about a Pixar production, but the genius of WALL-E is undoubtedly its storytelling and characterisation. This time it’s especially apt seeing as this is a near-silent movie about a box with eyes that can only communicate through subvocal beeps and peeps. It’s more a pantomime production for the majority of the time rather than the usual wittily dialogue-driven story Pixar is famous for, especially during the captivating opening third where we watch the cute l’il bot trundling around the trash-strewn city simply going about his business.

As expected, Pixar have also raised the animation bar once again. From the intricacies of WALL-E’s workings to the sweeping CGI vistas on the abandoned earth, to the alien outer space environments and the futuristic floating cruise ship, to the magnet-powered transforming of EVE, the level of detail on show is out of this world. There’s also a new level of photo-realness to everything that hasn’t been seen before. Backgrounds are now easily accomplishable (see this month’s DreamWorks release Kung-Fu Panda for evidence), but it’s the technical aspects – the lighting, depth-perception, camera moves and zooms – that have come on light years. In simple terms, imperfection has been added to the usually pristine capturing process, which perversely makes the finished product that more perfect to the trained cinema-going eye.

Equal parts belly-laugh funny and heart-warmingly moving, WALL-E will move you from titters to tears and back again. In between, you’ll fall in love with the cute characters and their quirks (look out for M-O, the cleaner-bot that almost steals the show), experience what is undoubtedly the greatest sound design heard in cinema ever (by Star Wars guru Ben Burtt) and be delivered an unsubtle criticism on lazy consumer culture, a damnation of mega-global corporations and the currently in-vogue eco-message.

This is cinematic perfection, an original, experimental experience like no other (and like no other major studio would dare to do). Pixar we salute you and pray you keep making movies this good.

Five stars