40 minutes. That’s how long it takes for Wall-E to introduce us to any people. 40 whole minutes. The film is only an hour and a half long, yet it waits until nearly halfway into its runtime before properly diving into the plot. For comparison, you could watch an entire episode of Doctor Who in that amount of time. The most impressive aspect of all that is that not a second of it is wasted, and once the plot does finally get going, it is thoroughly enjoyable and emotional.
We follow Wall-E, a waste disposal robot, as he leaves a long-since abandoned Earth in pursuit of his new love EVE; a sleek robot seeking signs that humanity can return home from the stars. It’s a fairly simple plot- an environmental message disguised as a love story between two robots. Wall-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth class) has been alone, for centuries, and developed an inquisitive personality. All he really wants is someone to share his wonder and excitement with and it finally arrives with EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). She has come to Earth in search of organic life to certify that the planet has become habitable in the 705 years that humanity has spent on their space cruise-liners. Upon finding a solitary sapling, she initiates low power mode, during which time Wall-E keeps her safe from the harsh environment. He has no knowledge of what has happened to her but continues to protect her in a demonstration of pure love and kindness. With a vocabulary of only several words between them, they must rely on these words and actions to show how much they care, providing us with some of the most adorable chemistry I’ve ever witnessed. I genuinely could have spent the entire hour and a half just being on Earth with these two but, alas, EVE is retrieved by a spaceship and returned to the human colony with her new friend stowing away. As Wall-E clings to the ships outside, we get to experience the vast beauty of space through his eyes. Again, I could have spent much longer here, just soaking in the infinite majesty of the universe.
So here we are, half way through the movie and the real meat of the plot can begin. In the 705 years since leaving Earth, the subsequent generations of human have grown obese, focused on nothing but the holo-screens in front of them. Their ship (The Axiom), everything on it and, indeed, everything on Earth, was manufactured and owned by the company BNL (Buy ‘N’ Large) whose sole aim seems to have been making life as easy as possible. Having ruined the planet with their consistent need for consumerism, humans have now in effect ruined themselves the exact same way. They were so focused on themselves that they forgot to take care of the people around them and their home. If only they hadn’t allowed one single company to own absolutely everything.
With the plant suddenly missing, EVE presumes that Wall-E has taken it, which is a bit harsh, and demands that he return to Earth immediately. It is here, with half an hour to go, that we learn the shocking truth about the Axioms auto-pilot Otto. He is the one attempting to destroy any evidence of the plant, hiding it from the Captain himself, in an attempt to stop humanity from ever returning home. You may be getting some 2001: A Space Odessy vibes but, this time, Otto is simply following protocol. He long ago recieved a message from the prsident of BNL (and subsequently Earth) that the planet was a lost cause and that the safest thing for humanity to do was live amongst the stars. As a result, Wall-E doesn’t have a villain per se. The true fight, so we’re shown, is between us and capitalism.
With a wonderful story like this, it only makes sense that the score and sound design should match, and it proves to be spectacular. Whether it be the low hum of EVE hovering or the sound of rocks as they fall through Wall-Es caterpillar tracks, these sounds feel real. Indeed, the film makes no secret that everything here could actually come to pass, down to the use of live action footage. the blend of computer animation and live action, at least in a computer animated film, is rare. Which is a shame, because it leads to a unique viewing experience. It adds to the reality of the film’s message- that this future is all too tangible. On top of that is the somewhat ethereal score which, whilst adding a sense of whimsy, adds a sense of dread. It’s no wonder that Wall-E won the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture and no surprise that it is remembered so fondly. If only people would remember its message too.
Until Next Time…