The future of mankind has never looked as bleak as it does lately. The alarm bell has been ringing for global warming and the encroachment of super viruses and who knows what else, with the water shortages, the spread of disease, and then, of course, the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
But in Pixar’s Wall-E we humans have rendered our lovely Earth uninhabitable and gone to live on a floating cruise ship in space until the planet becomes habitable again. In the meantime, we have left robots behind to clean up our mess. 700 years later, and only one robot remains. A devastatingly cute little trash compactor called Wall-E. In the time he’s spent roaming the earth and sifting through the trash he’s become very human-like. His only pal is a little cockroach that follows him around. He’s made himself a home and in his off time he pines away over an old videotape of Hello Dolly.
The film reminds him that he too needs a hand to hold: he’s lonely. When a space ship lands and a stealthy looking robot is dispatched to seek out living organisms, Wall-E falls madly in love at first sight. With her magnetic body parts and her sleek design, Eve is very difficult to resist. Poor Wall-E is out of his element trying to woo her, but woo her he does. Surprisingly, Eve responds to Wall-E’s gesture.
These moments between Eve and Wall-E, and Wall-E’s alone time on Earth, are the film’s most breathtakingly beautiful, both in terms of the artistic daring (it’s almost completely silent) but also in the heart-melting way these two communicate. Or Wall-E trying to communicate with his new love after Eve shuts down and must be brought back to her superiors. The reason why is what follows in the film’s second half.
All we really knew about Wall-E was the trailers and his image on the billboards. We didn’t see, or weren’t prepared, for the array of oddness in the film’s second half as we discover exactly what has become of humans in all of this time. Their lives are completely controlled by the electronica they constantly ingest. They don’t have to eat any meals because they drink food shakes day and night. They don’t even have to walk because electric carts take them around. In short, they’ve lost every great thing there is about being a human being.
Wall-E, in the meantime, brings humanity back as that’s all he’s been absorbing for 700 years. It is a startling juxtaposition, the rotund and brain-dead humans amid the fluid and versatile robots.
However, there is no way this film is going to end on a bummer note, which it very easily could have. And by the end, the message hits you loud and clear: it’s great to be alive, it’s great to be a human being with all we can do, how we can appreciate art and music, how we love. You might even leave the theater taking a good, long look around at all of this beauty, all of this life. There is so much richness around us, whether our priorities or brainwashing allow us to see it or not. Pixar has made some great films, and it is almost unimaginable to think they could top some of those greats, but Wall-E manages to not only top them but may transcend the genre entirely to become appreciated simply as a good film and not a cartoon.