Monday, 10 April 2017

WALL·E (2008)

Fig 1 - WALL·E Poster
WALL·E marks Disney Pixar's ninth cinematic outing and, as of April 2017, is the highest-rated Pixar film on IMDB's 'Top 250' list. The story begins on Earth in the 29th century in which the planet is now void of all human life. The baron wasteland that remains is scattered with deactivated 'clean-up bots' (reminiscent of R2-D2's with tank controls), of which the titular WALL·E is the only remaining of his kind. It is presumed that WALL·E has been building Minecraft-style skyscrapers of trash for hundreds of years, until EVE (a fellow robot of sleeker design) shows up on Earth in search of natural life. WALL·E finds himself instantly enamored of her and puts it upon himself to take care of EVE when she, having discovered new life, shuts down altogether. EVE's findings appear to beckon the same ship that dropped her off and in fear of losing her, WALL·E climbs aboard only to find that human civilisation has become a shadow of it's former self...

This is one of the few Pixar films I had not seen in it's entirety until now, so I was able to watch from a fairly fresh perspective. Of course, the opening act is famous for it's lack of dialogue and primarily visual gags, which I think the film does incredibly well. In the same way the film establishes ideas of the 'old world' (primarily using real-life footage, which I'll come to), in it's 'silence' it is able to hark back to the slapstick stylings of greats like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. In addition, it's use of sound effects are much more powerful in this segment, from WALL·E at 'full-charge' using Apple's boot-up sound to the jolt of surprise when he activates the central locking on a car in the distance. In his naivety, WALL·E is able to make Earth feel much more homely than his reality suggests, which makes the opening one of the best parts of the film for me.

Speaking of the film's use of real footage, I have heard many people complain that for them it 'kills the suspension of disbelief' in blending reality and fantasy. It's initial uses come about when WALL·E activates an old hologram advertising the 'starliners' that allow Earth's inhabitants to flee the planet, followed by a VHS tape in WALL·E's home that plays real footage from 1969's Hello, Dolly!. The film goes on to show footage of the CEO for the all-encompassing 'Buy N Large' (played by Fred Willard), who appears rather satirically to represent Earth's commander-in-chief. I was unsure to begin with whether this use of live-action made any sense, though having thought about it, there would be much less distinction between past and present without it. The live-action also serves as a glorification of the 'way things were' and ultimately makes the 'old world' a much more relatable one.

Fig 2 - WALL·E - EVE and WALL·E
Once we are aboard the Axiom (the starliner on which humans now live), it becomes very clear that the film is a huge satire on consumerist American culture. As on Earth, everything is run by 'Buy N Large' and from a young age, passengers are taught that the company is their "very best friend". It's passengers, incidentally, have grown to accept obscene obesity as the norm and transport themselves about the ship on futuristic mobility-scooters. Humans have become entirely dependent on robots to do their bidding, and thus they hover around on pre-determined paths, consuming and interacting primarily through computers (often despite being right next to one another). Though it is established they are given some form of education, the ship's Captain (Jeff Garlin) is initially unable to comprehend how a book works and bases his entire education of Earth on descriptions by Axiom's motherboard (Signourney Weaver). At one point, the ship's barrage of billboards is disrupted by an advert saying "Try blue, it's the new red!", at which point every passenger in red is then seen wearing blue. It's moments like these that make WALL·E's central commentary on society incredibly blunt, much in the same way that Team America (2004) makes it's stance on American nationalism. In 'dumbing down' it's take on society, particularly in how little it has progressed centuries into the future, the film does a great job of establishing that Pixar isn't afraid to make statements about the harsh truths of our culture.

Additionally, the soundtrack (primarily by Thomas Newman) owes a lot to classic sci-fi such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (with which the film in general has many parallels), Alien (1979) and Star Wars (1977). The music bounces between 20th century Americana and famous compositions such as The Blue Danube, enhancing the overall contrast between old and new, a theme on which the film is heavily predicated.

Though it may not be one of my personal favourites, WALL·E undoubtedly has a lot to say in regards to the future of society and deserves all the credit it gets for it's fresh approach to the genre. It doesn't pack the emotional punch the studio is known for, but it's leads are charming and it's message - foreboding.


Fig. 1 WALL·E Poster (2008) From: WALL·E - Directed by: Andrew Stanton

Fig. 1 WALL·E Screenshot (2008) From: WALL·E - Directed by: Andrew Stanton

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