Sunday 3 August 2008

Film Review: Wall.E (2008)

The latest film from the minds at Pixar aims at some big, broad, messages, suitably amplified to penetrate young minds and the minds of their possibly denser parents: Don't Trash the Planet! Take Care of Nature and Nature Will Take Care of You! Avoid Junk Food! Teamwork Rocks! Love Conquers All!. It's all very topical, and the audience takes these messages in, nods knowingly, and fails to make the connection that they arrived at the Cineplex in a needlessly oversized SUV, are junking the floor with sticky pop and fake-butter smudged popcorn, while drinking water out of plastic bottles. We cheer the film's message; but we don't necessarily really get it.

The genius of the movie is in its delivery. The story is told with almost no dialogue, and using the latest in computer animation technology. Wall.E is a small trash compacting unit left behind on Earth to clean up the mess after all the humans took refuge on space ships because the planet was overtaken by garbage. The clean-up was supposed to take 5 years; instead, 700 years have passed. The humans have adapted to life on robot-controlled spaceships by taking obesity to new levels. They can't walk anymore, and are transported everywhere on cool looking motorized chairs. They communicate through virtual reality screens, and have their every food and drink need delivered instantaneously by endlessly scurrying robots. In short, "comfortably numb" has finally been defined for the human race.

Back on Earth, Wall.E is one of the last remaining robots getting on with the job, and he's developed some very human, almost nauseatingly cute emotions and intelligence, not to mention a friendship with a fellow-surviving cockroach (they will, apparently, survive anything). Onto Earth descends Eve, a shiny new and powerful robot programmed to look for signs of growing life (but apparently not cockroaches). Wall.E is smitten. Eve finds a growing plant. The humans can come home. But there are evil-doers trying to foil the happy ending, and Wall.E and Eve have to team-up with some rogue robots to save the day.

The ending of this film is telegraphed about half-way through, and except for the very young, the audience has to grin and watch the very expected events unfold for the last 45 minutes. It is not too tedious, but it gets close.

There is no doubting the artistry and talent behind this film, and Pixar deliver another extremely high quality product. But a bit less messaging, and a bit more originality in avoiding the obvious, would have been appreciated.

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