WALL·E ★★★★★

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Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#8

Here I arrive at Pixar’s pinnacle, the film that demonstrates the studio and the animated medium’s capabilities of crafting pure cinema, one that finds dazzling beauty, and emotional and thematic depth, arguably even more so than the medium’s live-action counter-part. A film that reaches to such ambitious heights without sacrificing their trademark accessibility, a thought provoking journey that emotionally grips and penetrates unlike anything the studio’s previous features were able to provide; even Pixar’s most innovative of efforts pale in comparison to the impact that Wall-E resonates to its audience. This is a film that sinks within me deeper than almost any other film; irresistibly drawn into the romantics between Wall-E and EVE, belly laughing over the awkwardness of our titular character, unshakeably in awe of the film’s gorgeous visuals, and left with profound reflection of its universal themes.

It arrives on the dusty and empty setting of our beloved planet, sounds filling the atmosphere only by its natural ambience, until the we realise that Wall-E, a lonely garbage compacter, is present and alive, the only empathetic figure on our screen; emphasised its sense of life through the nostalgic music that evokes from his cube-like torso, a song from a lavish musical of Hollywood’s prime, Put on Your Sunday Clothes from Hello Dolly; a film that would speak remarkable volume towards Wall-E with it being the only gateway to our beautiful and lively pastime, a capsule of nostalgia’s exaggerated optimism, the life that we all deeply crave for, now far more distant and far more aching when reminisced. The construction of Wall-E takes inspiration of American cinema’s most classic of icons, featuring the awkwardness and loneliness of Chaplin, the scope of slapstick from a youthful Keaton; a tribute to silent cinema pushed even further by moulding a similar atmosphere at its first act, with words at their most minimal, pulsated only with moment of sincere sounds of emotion from our lovely protagonist, and refined by the emptiness of his surroundings, hearing only the passing dust, and the slight rumbling of nearby dirt or rocks.

Wall-E arrived in our world at its most pitiful, abandoned at its most crucial, he acts as a directive droid that is aimed to clean and sort our garbage filled world, a failed endeavour by humanity’s arrogance; it is assumed over time his presence in such a desolate place and the one by one fall of his peers have forced him to develop a mirroring human conscience, beginning to be driven by curiosity and consumed by loneliness, forced to adapt to his emotional position, compensated in his addiction to collect the relics of our past, a gateway to a period of life, where practicality and function existed; even if he hilariously couldn’t realise some of his collected items’ previously intended purpose. It is through this deep sense of emotion that we immediately find ourselves attached to such a character, developing a sense of sympathy for his unfortunate position whilst staring in shame at our previously cherished world which he is now forced to clean. Wall-E finds companionship only in the rare cockroaches that still manage to live within such a toxic world, communicating with it at its most fundamental, resonating an immediate sense of compassion and comradery, something that this life has long deprived him of; this pairing is certainly far from fulfilling and ideal, but it is a compensation that is necessary, an optimistic outlook that surely distances him from reaching points of madness, an emotion that would seem ridiculous if not for the film’s penetrative perspective and an empathetic human essence within the character.

Wall-E’s routine breaks with the sudden arrival of another directive droid, EVE, a testament to the unescapable progression of technology, a youthful design that merges excellent practicality and physical grace and simplicity, a slickness that cannot be denied and becomes the initial source of attraction for Wall-E. In his first sight of her, it becomes an attraction fuelled by years of desperation, a longing for a worthy companion that would satisfy his deepest sentiments; one that is easily understandable due to the wonderful construction of EVE and her undeniable beautiful introduction, watching her simply glide the rocky crater leaves one with a powerful sense of awe and warmth, a craving that reflects our inner desires towards our modern technologies. Unlike the nature of Wall-E, within such a world, EVE finds herself unfamiliar and hostile to anything that moves, cautious of a potential threat, to the point where our little protagonist finds himself in risky destructive terms during their first encounter. Wall-E thrives in this world as he is driven to create, a need for artistic expression that resonates a strong emotional weight in staring at his final product; what begins as a simple and symmetrical cube, slowly accumulates and assembles a world that would bring a simulation of life and progression, a reflection of his desires. EVE is motivated by protocol, a shoot first, ask later outlook; but such a stoic and deadly approach becomes softened through her lengthening exposure with Wall-E, during which a contrast between the two is further established in her ability to utilise Earth’s relics at their truest potential, but possesses an inability to restrain chaos and anarchy in such a careful and fragile world.

It is in the bloom of romance between Wall-E and EVE that the film finally takes on a purposive direction, a remedy of loneliness for the titular character whilst slowly unravelling the mystery of her agenda. The pairing between the two characters are perfectly matched and heavily inspired by the nostalgic romantic structures of classic Hollywood cinema, where the male protagonist is defined with an older model, finding attraction and pursuit over a younger female figure. It is director Andrew Stanton’s homage to cinema, pushing forward even further the film’s attraction to nostalgia. The development of their romance initially takes on a poetic sense in its slow build and translating love’s most fundamental emotions through the power of imagery, one that pulls the emotive heart strings through its subtleties, capturing a sense of sincerity in their developing attraction, resonating with me at a level that is equal to cinema’s greatest romances; When Harry Met Sally, Casablanca, and Her immediately comes to mind.

It is Wall-E deep love for EVE that would take him onto a risky adventure, ambitiously reaching the deep space of our cosmos, arriving at humanity’s temporary solace; a spaceship that inhabits what could be assumed as the remains of our species, a pitiful look on our species’ eventual total consumption by a singular capitalist company, a direction that is arguably foreseeable in today’s world. Our lives strapped in a singular chair, with its inhabitants unknowingly aware of the company’s manipulation, intending to condition the mind of consumeristic and dependant attitudes, no longer living a life worthy of its title. In introducing to humanity’s capsule, we find a world that is uniform and precise, a visual look that resonates sterility and innovative; a world that captures a sense of progressive comfort that our forefathers would either repel or share envy, a lush superficiality juxtaposed by humanity’s disintegration. It is in Wall-E’s presence that this world’s neat structure begins to crumble, with robots falling out of line (literally), acting almost as if as a revolutionist of the ship’s unappreciated and faulty robots, awakening some of the ship’s human vessels to the world around them as they finally live a life with choice and passion, and ultimately Wall-E has brought hope to a species that seemed to have given up. Yet such depth goes almost unnoticed by the protagonist itself, driven cynically by his romantic agendas towards EVE, touching on either camp without dampening the effect of the other; a film that manages to have its cake and eat it too.

The film’s environmental message achieves with similar power as one would find in a Studio Ghibli film, one that speaks to us personally and hopes to re-evaluate our views on the world surrounding us, hoping that we are able to prevent such mistakes from taking place; a story that features strong similarities with Christopher Nolan’s recent release, Interstellar. Wall-E views its future with a sense of hope, although not sourced from ourselves, but instead sparked by one of our own creations, one that has gained such affection and nostalgia over such a world, realising its value, hoping to reclaim the glory days of our species. It hopes to influence its viewers of the value of agriculture and fresh produce, highlighted by its finale where the sprouting of an expansive green field would provide our species the food that we truly need; no longer do we need to rely on the artificiality of complex foods, compacting what was once separate dishes into a singular cup, aimed to be quickly consumed and immediately repurchased rather than to savour.

Wall-E is Pixar at its boldest, taking on an inspired cinematic form, a widescreen approach that is reminiscent of the Hollywood’s Cinemascope, consciously instilling the essence of a physical camera within certain scenes, almost as if a ghost of our past acts as a voyeur of humanity’s salvation. The detail created by the members of Pixar is outstanding; immersive and gorgeous from the first frame to the last. At times I found myself adjusting and concentrating in viewing upon such beauty, just to ensure that what I was seeing is still artificially generated. It is in this detail that makes its characters seem convincing, no longer do we find ourselves occasionally stumbling back due to the film’s inability to capture a model with precise detail; such a feat becomes even more impressive as it emphasises humanity’s slow descent towards a caricature design, seemingly distant of what honestly defines us, with Wall-E itself seemingly more sincere as a product of earth as compared to these subsequent generations of our species.

As with any beautiful image, it is at its highest potential when paired with equally excellent music; this time contributed by the always reliable Thomas Newman, in what quite possibly his greatest achievement, capturing emotion with a penetrative strike, thoughtfulness in the story’s most profound sections, a timeless quality that would surely stand with pride as the studio’s filmography begins to expand. As the film takes on multiple tones transitioning off one another as Wall-E’s journey progresses, Newman’s score carries an equal seamless movement, managing to keep up with the film’s demands, ensuring the film remains at its pinnacle, equally realising that Pixar is simply not making a standard run of the mill project.

Wall-E is yet unbeaten by its ambition and emotion, an animated film that triumphs even the greatest efforts of the traditional animation of the days of Walt Disney; a film that equally matches Studio Ghibli’s greatest film, which personally for me is Whisper of the Heart. My adoration for Wall-E was immediate, right from its opening frame during my initial viewing a couple years back. It is a film worthy of one’s tears, one’s thoughtful analysis, one’s attention, one’s affection; an undoubted cinematic treasure.

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