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WALL-E 

How seriously can you take an environmental theme from the studio that made Cars?

It's easy to see the great movie in WALL-E, but it's dispiriting how fast it lets it go. Though it hits at a level above less-ambitious summer fare (The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Happening), the awareness of the film's potential hurts it. For the first half hour, it's at its peak. The basically speechless robot WALL-E is the most expressive, empathetic character in any Pixar movie. Working as a trash compactor robot on post-apocalyptic Earth, there's a silent film draw to the visual humour and sadness of his programmed tasks. When the more advanced robot Eve drops in on his planet, there's beauty in a scene where he introduces her to the joy of Hollywood musicals in a VHS tape of Hello Dolly. It's once WALL-E leaves Earth on a spacecraft that the focus shifts to two-dimensional humans, and the magic dries up; big images supplant for beautiful ones. The future satire of humankind succumbing to the slavery of corporate rule and consumerism is taken nowhere fresh. In its concepts used by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World, and in films from Brazil to Idiocracy, WALL-E fails to make its human story compelling. The movie becomes about the captain trying to retrieve a plant that will guide the ship home (in the comedic low point, he also gets to try walking on his own to the monolith theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey). Robot WALL-E's simple robotic humanity, and his love story with Eve, delivers more. Since the movie's best when it's about robots on a desolate planet, who cares if stale human characters get there? And how seriously should I take an environmental theme from the studio who made Cars?

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Vol 25, No 25
November 16, 2017

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