There is a tradition in science fiction to make a film that takes some scientific fact about the world or the universe around us and then extrapolate that to its extreme end. It’s a well known tradition, and one that science fiction does well. For Wall-E, it’s the ever increasing amount of garbage that is surrounding us here on Earth.
If you do a simple search on floating garbage masses or garbage in space, you’ll see where the inspiration for Wall-E may have come from. All around us there are masses of waste just like the ones seen in the exquisitely animated opening of this film. Though we may not see them every day, they are there.
The makers of Wall-E took that fact and played it out, hundreds of years into the future, coming up with the virtual wasteland that is portrayed in the opening of the film. It’s a fine line that they walk then with the first piece of this film, between the bleak future of an Earth overrun by trash and the whimsical nature of the title character on display.
Watching Wall-E go about his daily rounds and interacting with the planet around him is an amazing sight. The design of the character allows for movements from the eyes and arms that allow him to display a full range of emotions without speaking. He reveals his character through action, which is a fantastic feat.
This opening serves as a warning of what could happen to the viewer, but it’s not the only one in the film. When Wall-E takes off into space and boards the Axiom, we see the true horror of what humanity could be. Fat, boneless creatures shepherded around in chairs, constantly on technological devices, never pausing to see one another or the world around us – it’s not that far off, is it?
Like the best science fiction, Wall-E uses these extreme scenarios to reveal truths about the world we live in today. By showing us the dystopian future, we see what is frightening in our lives now. That is one part of the genius of this film.
The thing that makes Wall-E a masterpiece, though, is that it manages to do all of this without being preachy or overly dramatic, because the real plot of the film is a love story. It is all about the love that Wall-E has for EVE. Sure, there’s more to it, with the complications of the plant and the process of finding Earth, but at its core, this film is a romance.
The fact that the main characters are robots hardly enters into it. I cared more about Wall-E and EVE than I did any character in a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy or the latest chick flick du jour. These are real characters with heart, love and passion to them. The sheer joy of their dance among the stars is simply beautiful.
Pixar rarely has a bad film. I wrote before about Up and the genius that lay within it. The stretch of films that Pixar made from Ratatouille to Wall-E to Up stands as some of the finest work they have ever done, because it stretched the boundaries of what an animated film could be. Wall-E is a fantastic example of that, and a film not to be missed.