You just had to go and do it again, didn’t you Pixar? We see you there, perched high on your mighty throne, checking the gaps of your teeth in the golden reflection of your 13th Academy Award. We notice that arrogant little smirk on your face as you glance down upon DreamWorks as they offer up to the Academy that mildly entertaining animation of theirs called Kung Fu Panda. After reminding them who’s boss last year with Ratatouille, you just couldn’t let them get away thinking this would be their year… just this once. Maybe you should stop being so greedy, Pixar, as you’ve already got more Academy Awards than you do films. I don’t think many production studios can boast that one around the water cooler. So why’d you have to go and make Wall-E; easily the most ingenious, heart-warming and visually remarkable film of your career? Oh wait, I think I just answered that for you.
Meet Wall-E, a sensitive little robot whom longs to hold han…er, robotic claws with another. Hell, you’d be lonely too if you we’re left for thousands of years on a desolate Earth, populated only by great seas of rubbish, where your sole duty is to compact it into cubes fit for easy disposal. When a space ship mysteriously lands and deploys a plant life scanner called EVE, Wall-E falls head over tracks (quite frequently, actually) for the ultra advanced robot. After EVE finds evidence of plant life, signalling the robot’s return home, Wall-E isn’t quite ready to say goodbye and decides to secretly tag along for the ride.
It’s questionable whether Wall-E can actually be classified as a kids film, as its social commentary on environmental degradation might go over young heads. That being said, the narrative progression is simple enough for kids to follow, as is the “be active” message that dominates the latter half of the film. The narrative is quite straightforward from thereon-in, but it’s the concepts being presented that keeps us engaged. Also, when you’ve got a character so delightful and heart-warming as Wall-E, a need for a narrative seems almost trivial. In fact, the first half hour before any real plot materialises is where Wall-E truly shines.
Despite barely being able to mutter more than the name of his robotic crush, Wall-E establishes the most heartfelt connection I’ve experienced all year in a film . Time after time, Pixar have proven that they can take the most emotionless of things – toys, fish, rats – and turn them into some of the most memorable and likeable characters on screen. Wall-E is easily their best effort yet, as each adjustment of his lens and every bleep he outputs almost makes you bleed affection. EVE is just as rewarding, regardless of that fact that she (yes, I’m perfectly aware I am personifying a robot) is not as physically expressive without the many joints and cogs that animate Wall-E. Instead, she conveys a great deal of language and sentiment though the subtle changes in her pixelated eyes and in the infinite way’s she manages to digitally pronounce “Wall-E”. Ironically enough, humans are the most expressionless of all the characters, but that’s barley a concern when Pixar provide you with so much else to gawp at during their time on screen. The amount of visual “in” jokes is staggering, ranging from an attempt to categorise a ‘spork’ to the fabled endurance of cockroaches, and that’s prior to the orgy of visuals that is offered on board the spaceship. I surprised myself by frequently laughing aloud during Wall-E, as Pixar present their own comical take on the future landscape in the same vein that cartoonist Matt Groening did with his highly underrated animated sitcom Futurama.
Whilst they are masters of digital animation, Pixar haven’t forgotten the importance of sound. With the distinct absence of any dialogue for a majority of the film, much of the ocular experience comes from the enchanting soundtrack, scored by Pixar regular Thomas Newman (Finding Nemo, American Beauty). Sometimes eerie, but often quirky, Newman’s score merges strings, trumpets and otherworldly ambient noises to bring this robotic adventure to life. Although, the film’s most remarkable scenes are those that feature little more than the buzz of Wall-E’s tracks which, in itself, is a true testament to the sheer brilliance of Pixar’s computerised visuals. They are well ahead of the game, and if DreamWorks want to snatch an Oscar off of Pixar, they are going to have to do a lot more than just teaching a Panda Kung Fu.
You’ve got to be some sort of robot to not love Pixar’s latest feat of animation. Actually, even that’s not an excuse; as Wall-E proves he’s got the biggest heart of all.
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