Ever since Toy Story in 1995, each new Pixar movie has opened to more and more anticipation and this year’s Wall-E is no exception. Though clever and touching dialogue from unassuming characters thrust into extraordinary situations like Toy Story’s Woody and Ratatouille’s Remy is one of the hallmarks of these films, Wall-E uses a similar scenario but boldly contains very little dialogue.
Wall-E is a robot whose role is that of a glorified trash compactor, tooling around an abandoned and post-apocalyptic earth collecting knick-knacks, compacting trash and watching Hello, Dolly! His existence is simple but futile on the massive planet that has been overrun with garbage. One day, a ship lands near Wall-E’s home and releases another robot – slick, white and focused on one directive: find life on earth. Wall-E is instantly smitten with the new companion, not-so-subtly named Eve, and his pursuit of her eventually finds the pair of them back on the ship, surrounded by humans who have been cruising aimlessly around space, waiting for a time when it is safe to return to earth.
Though the story has few turns that are surprising, the depth of the characters and the sympathy that is elicited for these non-human beings through little more than computerized grunts is truly amazing. Both Wall-E and EVE develop distinct personalities and their friendship blossoms slowly but surely into something that cannot be dismissed as less than human.
It goes without saying that the animation is beautiful, clean and creative. As he did in Finding Nemo, director and co-screenwriter Andrew Stanton uses small characters in big circumstances to tell a simple and sweet story. What was truly surprising was how easy it was to forget that the protagonists that you cared about the most were robots.
The music in the film is appropriate but not overwhelming, despite the lack of dialogue. The character design is slick and the voice-work is really compelling. I’m unsure how award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt created the voice of Wall-E, and the same goes for EVE’s Elissa Knight, but Jeff Garlin is perfectly cast as the hapless ship captain. Fred Willard is the only human that appears in the film (he sure appears in a lot of films) in video clips of a long gone president, but even the animated humans lack a little bit of luster and you never care much whether or not they make it back to earth because you’re too concerned with Wall-E and EVE. After all, they’re the future.