Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Wall-E

After the disappointment of UP, WALL-E has restored my faith in Pixar. The two main characters WALL-E and Eve were superb, both in their animation and their sound design. Neither of them really spoke, apart from their names, so almost all of the communication and emotion was done either by the squeaks and bleeps that they made (all thanks to none other than Ben Burtt) and the body language of the characters; no small feat given that they are both robots!



The film starts on Earth about 700 years in the future. All human life has left earth because the amount of waste that we all produce has swamped the planet and made it inhospitable. Humans have therefore left Earth to go and live aboard an enormous luxury liner space ship called the Axiom. Here humans will never have to walk again as everything is provided for them by droids, and they move about the ship on reclining chairs that hover around.

All that is left on earth are robots (and cockroaches) programmed to clean up all of our mess. WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class) is one of these robots. WALL-E's routine of compressing junk into small cubes and collecting interesting or useful items from piles of rubbish is shattered when a huge space rocket lands. The space rockets deploys a probe droid and then swiftly departs. The probe droid is called Eve, and where WALL-E is square, clunky and grimy, Eve is clean, white, and smooth. Her directive is to catalogue everything she comes across until she finds evidence of life on Earth.

WALL-E is initially terrified of Eve but as the relationship blossoms, he comes to really like her. Then, back at WALL-E's house (a steel storage unit) he shows Eve the plant that he had collected the other day. At this point Eve's directive takes over; she has found life on Earth! She quickly grabs the plant, stores it within her torso, and then promptly shuts down to await collection by the returning space rocket.

WALL-E of course doesn't understand what has happened, and spends days by Eve's side, sheltering her from rain and generally looking after her. Then the space rocket returns to collect Eve. As Eve is taken back on board, WALL-E manages to grab on to the outside of the rocket to follow her. It turns out that the rocket is returning to the human space ship Axiom, and Eve is just one of many probes that have been sent out to look for signs of life on Earth again so that the humans can all return.

When WALL-E and Eve arrive on the axiom we see that in the 700 years since humans arrived on board they have all got fat because they  haven't walked or exercised since! However, when Eve returns the plant to the captain, amidst his surprise that life has been found, and trying to figure out what to do next; the droids on board (primarily the Auto-pilot) activate a long dormant programme to make sure that humans never return to earth.

There are various adventures on the ship but eventually the captain turns off the Auto-pilot, WALL-E and Eve manage to get the plant to the Holo-detector. This immediately activates the ships navigation to return to Earth, hyperspace is engaged and before you know it the humans are stumbling out into the sunshine again. Eve and WALL-E then live happily ever after.

As I already said, WALL-E and Eve are done so well that you forget that you are watching computer generated robots. The sounds of all WALL-E's motors, as well as the little noises they both make, easily make up for the fact that they don't really talk. Back in 1977, you could mostly figure out what R2D2 what "saying" from his various bleeps and bloops, but here Ben Burtt has excelled in producing sounds that communicate a whole range of emotions.



Some of the sounds that WALL-E make did remind me a lot of the security turrets in Portal (Fantastic game by the way; so simple and yet so good).


Perhaps the only very very minor let down with the film is the very end. Humans return to Earth, having wrecked it 700 years ago, and yet there is no indication that they are going to do anything different this time! So we can destroy our planet, bugger off for 700 years, come back when it is starting to recover, and bugger it all up again! To have a little moral to the story (this is Disney we're talking about after all), it wouldn't have been too difficult to have some human characters say that this time we will do things differently, and take better care of our environment.

Like I said, very minor point, which does not detract at all from a great film. Fabulous animation, amazing sounds, a solid (primarily love) story line (thought still not as good as Monsters Inc, which I think is a story hard to beat for twists and inventive-ness), and characters that are brilliantly realised with whom you can really empathise. Brilliant. Hoorah for Pixar! Now, I really should see Toy Story 3.