Gathered together at our house with some friends after the Holy Motors screening/Leos Carax talk we wanted to get into sold out (I WILL see Holy Motors soon, I promise!), it seemed like a nice idea to dig into a familiar favorite. One of Pixar's finest, WALL-E looks towards Earth's bleak future, with humans escaping the environmental destruction and trash build-up by taking a space pleasure cruise, sponsored by globally dominant super-store Buy N Large. The corporation leaves behind a legion of robots programmed to clean up the planet so it will be habitable again, but after centuries have passed only one is still functioning. This "WALL-E" is adorable and idiosyncratic, developing a sweet, romantic personality with hoarder tendencies during his many years alone. When a robot scout called EVE lands near him, he falls in little robot love. But EVE is there on a mission, and upon finding a small plant in WALL-E's collection she is automatically shipped back to the human cruise ship, with WALL-E tagging along. The discovery of plant life on Earth means the planet is habitable again (well, barely) so the long-adrift human population can return.
Pretty much everything about this film is great, and the fact that it somehow blends ominous dystopian portent with kid-friend comedy makes it a true marvel. Though steeped in satire and exaggeration, this future feels incredibly realistic because its developments seem so likely- a Walmart-esque chain taking over the world, an Earth so polluted it's completely untenable, a society so addicted to its glowing screens that little physical human interaction takes place anymore. It's not all gloom and doom of course, but I remember when I first saw it I was honestly a little chilled by some of the ideas presented, especially the apocalyptic videos featuring Fred Willard as the Buy N Large president, relaying centuries-old evidence of an inhabitable planet and the hubris that let it get that far, and the lack of any real plan for the human population aside from shipping them off on a completely automated deep-space pleasure cruise. This film isn't so much about environmentalism, it's really more anti-corporate greed and anti-consumerism.
What keeps everything grounded is the central character of WALL-E, who is just the best. Pixar draws from their ever-maturing stock of dialogue-free shorts to imbue speech-free characters with charm, sympathy, and personality. The first 30 or so minutes of this movie are perfection as our protagonist plays with trash and hangs out with his cockroach buddy and EVE. It's also visually the most impressive part, I think, because I adore how the robots and the metallic structures are handled, it's just beautifully solid and grungy and detailed. The space parts are gorgeous as well, of course. When they get to the ship, it's a whole other world rife with gleaming white surfaces and pudgy floating humans and efficient robot servants, and it's both lovely and terrifying. I love that WALL-E basically rolls around making everyone he meets either his new best friend or his deadly enemy, and it's both hilarious and thrilling.
Obviously my favorite thing about the whole movie, though, is the end credits sequence that visually mimics developments in Western art history up through Post-Impressionism. Art history, you guys!
Pair This Movie With: Well I know it's not a great movie but at times this had us thinking of Idiocracy, because that's one of the most believable dystopian futures ever put on film. Or there's always Hello, Dolly! if you're like me and always get "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" caught in your head after watching WALL-E.