Pixar have well and truly outdone themselves this time. Wall-E would have to be one of their best films, up there with Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.
The apparent simplicity of the narrative is its single strongest asset. Set far in the future, when the complete human exodus has left Earth a giant rubbish tip, one robot remains clearing up the mess. He’s tiny, yet diligently works every day to clean up the crap we left behind, collecting many curios along the way. Wall-E himself is a mix between E.T. and Number 5 from Short Circuit, and his childlike sincerity is enough to win over any viewer within seconds.
The first portion of Wall-E has been compared to a silent film, and whilst that isn’t entirely true, it certainly lays out the narrative with very little dialogue. When Earth is visited for the first time in who knows how long, everything changes for our solar-powered hero. The film’s themes are powerful without being overwhelming, which is a nice break from the likes of Happy Feet. It’s a science fiction film, a cautionary tale and a hilarious adventure all in one. It’s true that the film’s initially strong start wanes a little once the setting changes, but it’s still one of the best animations of the last decade.
The film isn’t at all original – everything echoes films we’ve seen before, even the score seems reminiscent of A New Hope more than once – and perhaps this is its only flaw. The robots’ facial gestures are minimal in the extreme, yet somehow convey more than words ever could. The voice acting is superb – in the case of the robots they only ever have one or two words to choose from, but the subtleties in intonation are astounding. The casting has a couple of nods to the genre – Wall-E is voiced by Ben Burtt, the man responsible for pretty much all of the science fiction sounds we associate with Star Wars, and Sigourney Weaver plays the space ship’s computer, putting a nice twist on her performance in Alien.
The animation is sublime. I still don’t quite understand how one spends a 180 million dollar budget, but it’s easily the best looking animation in a long time. The Earth scenes and the robots have an ultra-realistic appearance, whilst the filmmakers haven’t been silly enough to try and replicate real humans, and instead present them as extremely cartoonish.
I can’t truly explain how perfectly made this film is. It really puts the other animation studios to shame. Recent examples have been pretty awful, and Kung Fu Panda‘s success shows that there is no accounting for taste. Even at their worst, Pixar are (Buzz) light years ahead of the competition, and as long as they are intent on producing quality films that don’t skimp on the writing stage, they’ll be the leaders for some years to come.Rating: