So, how many syllables are there in that name again?
This is an amazing movie. The magic of the first half is even enough to carry you through the more standard second half.
The film begins on an abandoned planet earth, which is no longer able to sustain life. Human life, that is. In the midst of what appears at first to be merely a haunting, desolate landscape, WALL-E’s abundant imagination has been thriving. There are many wonderful surprises that WALL-E finds while processing the mounds of garbage left behind by the human race. Delightfully, the back story of this post-apocalyptic setting is told through garbage, through the items that WALL-E finds, or the ones he passes by. The items that might be significant to us are often passed over by what catches WALL-E’s attention, and we are brought to question what we, in turn, value – what catches our eye – what delights us – what holds our curiosity.
At first, the abundance of slapstick moments in this film seemed like standard, flippant, cartoonish fare, but then I remembered one of the comparisons that some reviewers have been making between WALL-E the robot and Charlie Chaplin. There is a vaudevillian flair to the robot’s movements and mannerisms. Even the Inspector Clouseau-like moments that you can see coming are rendered so delightfully that they feel like surprises. Over the hundreds of years that WALL-E has spent picking up garbage on the abandoned planet, he has developed an earthiness that puts him in stark contrast to the precision of the machines that he meets later on in the movie.
WALL-E’s personality and behavior gravitates between that of a toddler and a young adult. He is both very clever and very innocent. The lenses of his eyes reflect back to us the wonders he helps us to see.
Some very insightful comments from Bob Mondello’s review on the WALL-E-Chaplin comparison:
There’s actually a nice parallel between this largely silent film and Chaplin’s first sound film, Modern Times. In that one, the silent clown used the soundtrack mostly for music and effects, not for speech, just as Pixar does here. Chaplin only let you hear a human voice a couple of times, and only on some sort of mechanical contraption — say a closed-circuit TV screen — to emphasize its artificiality. It was his way of saying to the sound world, “OK, everybody’s doing this talking thing now, but look how much more expressive our silent world is.”
For the first time in a Pixar movie, Wall-E’s filmmakers give a nod to the world of actual actors and cameras — and make them artificial in the same way: by only letting you see them on video screens, where they look flat and washed-out compared to the digital world around them.
But there’s one difference. Chaplin knew he had lost the battle: Silence was finished; sound had won. In today’s Hollywood, digital is what’s taking over — in special effects, in green-screen work, in animation. And Pixar’s animators, bless them, are at the forefront, insisting that imagery created on computers doesn’t have to be soulless.