Down to Earth

WALL·E is easily the best environmental movie to come out of the late 2000’s. A trend that needed the sincere touch of computer animation. After all the non-human characters that Pixar gave emotions, it was only a matter of time before they tackled robots. The idea was pitched at a pivotal lunch near the production end of Toy Story. It was at this lunch that A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo were pitched. The teaser trailer made a point of noting that the last idea would turn out to be WALL·E. WALL·E asks the question, what if the last robot left on Earth developed a personality? Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton thought up the idea, and thought space would be a natural progression after perfecting water.

WALL·E was in low power mode for a decade while the story was struggling to grow. After Ratatouille, 2008 couldn’t have been a better time for the robot love story. I was 13 years old and beginning to develop a greater appreciation for complex themes. My love of science fiction got me in the theater, but I knew Pixar had something deeper to say. Consumerism, corporate domination, reliance on technology, pollution, sedentarism, WALL·E covers it all with very little dialogue. Winning Disney & Pixar’s 4th Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and critics deservedly calling it the best film of 2008…

18. WALL·E

WALL·E dances with EVE

WALL·E is matched up with the Pixar short Presto. A wacky misadventure where a magician’s rabbit uses his master’s hat against him. WALL·E is practically a silent film for most of its first act. A brave decision that was different from anything else Pixar had done up to that point. Pixar has the Best Original Screenplay nominations to prove how great their dialogue is for animation. WALL·E speaks volumes by showing rather than telling. Something most animated films should strive for. The computer animation is so polished and expressive that I’d almost mistake it for live-action. WALL·E takes a bleak dystopian future and gives it infectious optimism. Something that an upbeat song from the 60’s musical Hello, Dolly! perfectly showcases in the opening.

Several centuries in the future, humanity has left Earth behind. Leaving building sized piles of garbage that are eerily plausible. A monopolistic megacorporation known as Buy-N-Large has sent humanity away on a spaceship cruise while Earth is being cleaned up. It’s still a bit jarring to see, but all humans from the past are seen in live-action. Fred Willard physically portrays the friendly face of BnL. A CEO who proposed the 5 year expedition. Obviously something went wrong, because that was 700 years ago. Leaving WALL·E as the last remaining robot cleaning up. All this is shown without forced exposition. Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth·Class (affectionately abbreviated WALL·E) is a trash compacting robot with the directive to clean up the garbage on Earth. WALL·E develops a personality over the years that’s coveyed with limited speech, physical actions, and innocent curiosity.

Like R2-D2 before him, WALL·E says so much with so little. Famed Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt provides the much needed robotic sounds and voice of the titular robot. WALL·E is the most adorable robot you’ll ever see. With binocular eyes and tire treads reminiscent of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. Along with a small yellow compactor body, shovel hands, a laser, tape recorder, and solar panels to recharge his system. The design became instantly iconic. WALL·E has managed to survive thanks to spare parts from powered down WALL·E robots. He passes the time by collecting seemingly useless objects (apart from a plant that catches his attention) and watching a copy of Hello, Dolly! on an iPod in his refueling station home. His only friend is a cockroach, because you know the joke. Yet WALL·E still longs for companionship. Something he gets when a rocket lands on Earth. Leaving behind a sleek egg shaped probe. Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (affectionately abbreviated EVE) is a robot whose directive is to find sustainable life on Earth.

WALL·E immediately falls in love with Eve, sparking an adorable robot romance. WALL·E & EVE are an unlikely Pixar duo thanks to the former being a rusty old robot and the latter being a state of the art robot. Elissa Knight provides the limited speech for EVE. Creating another robot capable of emotion. EVE has expressive LED eyes, anti-gravity flight, and a plasma cannon for an arm. Their meet-cute nearly gets WALL·E blown up, but he tries his best in getting her attention. EVE grows frustrated when she doesn’t find a plant to scan (even checking a run down Pizza Planet truck). WALL·E sees this as an opportunity to comfort her, and the two robots make their introductions. Calling her Eva, WALL·E gets EVE to shelter when a dust storm goes off. He shows her his trinkets in many cute ways, but she goes in standby when presented with the plant. WALL·E protects her anyway he can, until the rocket returns for EVE. He follows her across the breathtaking majesty of outer space and ends up on the Axiom. The ship that holds the Earth’s population.

Robot workers are just as expressive without complete sentences. Micro-Obliterator (affectionately abbreviated M-O) meets WALL·E and can’t help but clean all his foreign contaminant. Other robots tend to every human need. The most shocking thing about WALL·E is the very plausible outcome of people in the future. Humans are so reliant on technology that they’ve become fat, lazy, and blind to the world around them. BnL trains children to essentially worship their corporate overlords at a young age. So everyone gets around in reclinable hoverchairs and only eat out of cups. As WALL·E looks after EVE, his friendliness rubs off on the humans and robots. He inadvertently disconnects John and Mary, who open their eyes for the first time in their lives. As one of the only speaking characters in the movie, John Ratzenberger had to voice John. While Kathy Najimy voices Mary.

The most significant speaking role is Jeff Garlin as the ship’s Captain. A man willing to accept change, but is kept in line by his co-pilot steering wheel AUTO. A villainous A.I. so soulless, a robot literally voices him. The MacinTalk speech synthesizer voices AUTO as a direct reference to HAL 9000. AUTO follows directive A113. The most prominent use of the Pixar number states: life is uninhabitable on Earth. So AUTO and his free moving security robot GO-4, plan to dispose of the plant. The only thing that can return them to Earth. EVE is thought to be defective when the plant is taken. WALL·E stays with her, but makes things worse when they’re put in a ward for malfunctioning robots. So EVE plans to send WALL·E home, until they discover AUTO’s plot. WALL·E recovers the plant out in space and EVE is so grateful, she gives him a kiss. Which is represented by a spark.

The most beautiful moment comes when WALL·E uses a fire extinguisher to dance with EVE in space. Sigourney Weaver essentially voices the ship’s “Mother” computer. Something the Captain uses to learn more about the wonders of Earth. After passing the Basic Utility Repair Nano Engineer (see more in the short BURN·E), the plant is returned to the Captain. The only problem is AUTO mercilessly short circuiting WALL·E and powering EVE down. M-O returns to prevent them from being sucked out an airlock and EVE comes to realize WALL·E is her new directive. They just need to complete her original directive first. The Captain outsmarts AUTO, but he goes so far as to crush a heroic WALL·E who sacrifices himself to keep the Holo-Detector open. Only then does the Captain learn to walk again and deactivate the evil robot for good. The Axiom returns to Earth in an instant, but EVE is only concerned with fixing WALL·E.

In a particularly tear worthy moment, WALL·E has no memory of who he is. It’s heartbreaking, but it gets better when EVE finally holds WALL·E’s hand. In the end, WALL·E & EVE are together and humanity can look forward to a bright future where growth is possible once more. As shown in a retro futuristic new history where robots and humans live side by side. The Oscar nominated Peter Gabriel song “Down to Earth,” really makes the montage. WALL·E is far more complex than most kids movies. Putting heavy themes through the child-like lense of a robot. Leaving plenty of room for analysis that can be seen as either a Christian allegory or a warning about the modern world. Either way, WALL·E uses an innocent robot to help us appreciate our planet the way we should.

19. WALL·E

WALL·E sees the stars

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