The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

WALL-E (2008)

WALL-E lifts his gaze in Pixar's wonderful 9th animated film

On top of the world, WALL-E lifts his gaze...

A Home and a Hobby

Robotic romance, one spark at a time.

by Bryce VanKooten

Whenever it happens, I’m usually just staring. It usually comes right around midway through and I don’t take my eyes off the screen till it’s done – right on through the credits. It’s only about once every decade or so that a film breaks out of its genre with the ferocity to be remembered as something more. Braveheart became one of the greatest romances of its generation. Saving Private Ryan, despite its violence, transcended its audience and brought highly charged drama (along with its bullets) to the big screen. It’s becoming very rare for me to be able to sink into my seat, put a timer on the day’s stress and just get lost in a film, let alone an animated one. It’s easy to make the connection to animated characters – lovable, hilarious, colorful as they are– but often difficult to transfer that connection to an everyday reality.

WALL-E changed all that.

Pixar’s ninth feature film, WALL-E (spelled with a bullet) takes us to the future of Earth, circa the 22nd century, only to show us that our planet has become far too trashy to inhabit. The humans have left on the Axiom — a ‘premier, space-cruising starliner’ created as an alternative to the wasted existence left back on Earth by Buy-n-Large, the pre-apocalyptic, world-ruling, corporate juggernaut. And as the movie opens, we see the scope of their reach: Buy-n-Large is everywhere. Billboards and buildings, everything holds the Buy-n-Large name, even WALL-E himself. There’s little – strike that – there’s no dialogue throughout the first half hour except for faint ‘beeps’ and ‘blurps’ from WALL-E and his best buddy: a nameless, happy-go-lucky Cockroach. Its not long before the theater follows suit – most children awestruck by Wall-E’s hapless charisma, most parents the same. A simple machine with complex emotions, WALL-E is the last of his kind. The sole survivor, programmed to clean up the mess that we left behind – left back on Earth to figure it all out.

As the days move on and on (as if the silence wasn’t daunting enough), we quickly realize that earth and all its advertisements are completely wasted, nothing worth more than the screens they’re projected upon. But WALL-E cruises on, not a care in the world. We can almost hear him on his trek, ‘Waste Allocation Load Lifting isn’t that bad…’ as he sings his way from site to home – an abandoned trailer, smack in the middle of it all. He’s surrounded by the waste around him and content with his toys: a spork, a Rubix Cube and a VHS copy of Hello Dolly!. WALL-E’s content. When day breaks, this little guy’s legitamately happy. He’s content with life as is, but can’t help but think, like the rest of us, ‘I wonder if there’s something else…’

As you can imagine, that something else comes quickly in the form of a true beauty. A futuristic robot named EVE (Earth Vegetation Evaluator), sent to Earth to find plant life. Thus begins the wonderful love story that is WALL-E, Earth’s most recent animated creation and without a doubt, my favorite.

WALL-E and EVE journey over the course of two hours and show us why film is different, why it’s the exception to the rule. WALL-E is speechless to the world around him. He doesn’t hold much of an opinion on life and the fast-living; he’s content where he is — what a profound outlook to a strikingly discontented world. In our fast-paced living, the silence we heard as WALL-E trampled from one dump to the next was as blissful to us as a Saturday afternoon breeze — if we hear it.  Life is a pushy thing. WALL-E refused to push back.

In one stark moment of clarity, time really did stand still. Shot out of the Axiom, WALL-E is met by EVE — no background, no foreground, no ground, just space — as they dance to the tune of their own affection.  Many of us experienced true silence for the very first time during this waltz. All sound specifically filtered out of the theater, WALL-E and EVE danced the only way they knew how, leaving us to our own silent pursuits.  We sat and stared. We stilled and sighed while two robots, hopelessly in love, danced in silent space while the humans both back on the ship and just off screen tried to learn all about it.

As I watched these robotic eyes and tractor toes, it sort of hit me all at once.  I had worked at Disney for the past eight months. WALL-E was and is very near and dear to my heart. About midway through my third viewing I realized the simplicity of it all. WALL-E had a home, a friend and a hobby, that’s it. And he was happy. Truly joyful. How much more do I have? How much more do I need? WALL-E was ready for EVE. She came in his life and filled the only thing he had left: a heart for the taking. It was all cleaned out, ready to be stolen.  He’d been preparing for her. He’d been cleaning it up for years.

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August 19, 2008 - Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews | , , , ,

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