Brainflow Feed

That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, they revolve mostly around films.)

WALL-E

Sunday, July 6th, 2008 8:34 pm—Film

WALL-E (USA 2008, Animation/Comedy/Romance/Sci-Fi), Writer/Director: Andrew Stanton

This is a special birthday post for GL, who turns 30 today and who also happens to love Pixar. And who says WALL-E in a cute, goofy way. Must be the accent. ;-)

WALL-E
is the latest computer animation from Disney’s Pixar, and it more than delivers on the outstanding results viewers have come to expect from the studio. I loved it. Its animation is excellent, sometimes even poetic. And the storytelling, especially when it doesn’t involve humans, is wonderful.

The movie opens with a sweeping shot of a vast metropolitan landscape in ruin. Its skyscrapers stand beside neighbouring towers made entirely of waste—the result of WALL-E’s daily grind. WALL-E (or Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class) is the last holdout of a model of robots designed to clean up planet Earth. He strips the defunct WALL-E units of their parts to keep himself in working order and spends his days dutifully collecting, compressing and organizing human garbage.

It’s amazing how much is established in the opening shots without any dialogue or narration. As WALL-E goes about his work, he glides past evidence of the catastrophe that left Earth in its current state. Billboards and video advertisements made by monopolizing conglomerate Buy and Large reveal that, after decades of accumulating waste, humans were forced to evacuate the planet, leaving behind WALL-E robots to clean up their mess.

For now, Earth is no man’s land, and the robot is perfectly at home. To WALL-E, this desolation is just the backdrop for his every day life. With only a cockroach to keep him company, WALL-E appears perfectly content to go about his business. While out collecting and compressing trash, he sorts through the rubble to find treasures that he takes home at the end of the day. Like his cherished ring box, which he stores after pitching the diamond ring inside it.

The opening scenes are made all the more spectacular because of their fantastic sound design. From WALL-E’s funny little noises to the wind’s haunting whistle as it blows through the lifeless city, the soundscape helps make the movie’s first half effective and captivating without ever relying on dialogue.

It’s a joy to watch WALL-E putter around, with his quirks and eccentricities, his sweet curiosity and the pleasure he takes in the smallest things. His nightly ritual seems to include re-watching the classic romantic musical Hello, Dolly!, an act that lets us know WALL-E harbors a desire to find someone with whom he can share all of this. At one point, the couple in the movie clasps hands. WALL-E looks down at his own metallic appendages and locks his hands together. The sad part is that I looked down and realized I’d clasped my hands in the same way. Maybe this movie is a little too close to home at the moment. But it just made it all the poignant for me.

One day, WALL-E gets a chance to make his wish come true. He follows a strange moving light that eludes his attempts to capture it for his collection. When the light finally slows down, WALL-E discovers its source: a spaceship that deposits EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) on Earth. EVE is a sleek new robot who doesn’t take much initial interest in WALL-E, other than shooting at him whenever he moves. As in many relationships, WALL-E spends the courtship stage just trying not to get obliterated. But before long, the two find their way to each other’s hearts and reach the point where they would risk everything for the other. At last, WALL-E has someone with whom he can share his favourite things, his discoveries, thoughts and dreams. And someone to hold his hand now and then.

Things go well for the robots until WALL-E shows EVE the tiny seedling he found and stowed away in a boot. EVE was sent to Earth in search of signs that the planet is once again habitable for human life. Having located the plant, EVE immediately stores it and deactivates. Despite EVE’s withdrawal, WALL-E remains devoted to his inanimate love, even bringing her on boat rides and other adventures.

When EVE’s spaceship returns to retrieve her, WALL-E jumps on board and follows her back to the space station Axiom. Here, the movie takes a minor nose-dive. Maybe it’s more like a swan dive. Or a dolphin leap. It’s still entertaining, and often clever and funny. It’s just not quite as special for most of the second half.

The Axiom is now home to humankind that has degenerated into obese blobs that do nothing but sit in motorized recliners; they receive meals, conduct work and even get their teeth brushed without ever leaving their chairs. Life seems to be run by robots, some of whom don’t appear to be in favour of humanity returning to Earth. There’s a derivative storyline involving the mainframe robot AUTO, and WALL-E loses just a bit of its magic when the movie focuses too much on that. This isn’t a major criticism; even in its weaker moments it’s still a fabulous film. But the best parts take place when the humans aren’t around.

WALL-E is one of the sweetest love stories I’ve seen in a long time. There are no conflicted emotions, no third parties involved, just mutual affection and selfless devotion that grow naturally from friendship and trust. In time, WALL-E and EVE are able to cast aside their directives—what they’ve always been told they should do—and follow their metallic hearts. It’s in the wonder of the bond they form that the movie finds life. All it needed was some loving care, and a little sunlight for WALL-E’s solar charged battery.

Not only do I recommend seeing this movie in theatres, I want to buy it when it comes out on DVD. Go see WALL-E – that’s a directive.

Bonne fête GL! ☺

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