Andrew Stanton/United States 2008

You have heard it said that there are but two constants in the universe: death and taxes. It’s time a third constant was added to the list: Pixar can do no wrong. Pixar’s films have always been fueled by an expansive, unrestrained, berserker imagination. With WALL-E, it has taken yet another giant leap, adding scalding wonder and awe.

WALL-E offers a haunting, apocalyptic vision of the future one does not expect to find in an animated offering. The film reveals an Earth utterly devoid of human life. Our accumulated trash became too great and humans blasted into outer space, leaving a fleet of Waste Allocation Load Lifter — Earth-Class (AKA WALL-E) robots to clean up after us and make the toxic planet habitable again. However, a trip that was designed to last only a few decades turned into a 700-year diaspora.

Back on Earth, all but one of the mechanized janitors eventually wore out and broke down. WALL-E has been busy. He’s piled trash as high as the crumbling skyscrapers around him. As his components malfunction or require replacement, he scavenges parts from his less fortunate cousins. But WALL-E has exceeded his designers’ programming in other ways too. He’s been operating so long that he’s developed a personality and a passionate curiosity — he’s always on the lookout for that special something among the rubbish to add to his eclectic collection. By night the lonely packrat admires his knickknacks, watches old musicals with his only friend – a cockroach – and dreams of falling in love.

One day, a spacecraft descends through the polluted sky and deploys a probe named EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). EVE is everything WALL-E is not. Where he is all right angles, she is sleek and rounded like a bullet. Where he is clunky, caked in dirt and drives on treads, she is gracefully, gleaming white and levitates through the air. Despite the fact that she is most certainly a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later type of gal, WALL-E is hopelessly smitten. So much so, that when EVE makes an astonishing discovery that sends her roaring back into deep space with the news, WALL-E hitches a ride, desperate to stay by her side.

WALL-E was obviously made by a team of animators who thought that R2-D2 was the hero of the Star Wars films, not Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. The art of personification is inexplicable and enchanting. It has the power to make inanimate objects more human than human. WALL-E is no exception. The film is awash in the most adorable robots you have ever seen. When we finally run into human beings, they are not nearly as interesting or alive.

WALL-E is the most preachy of the all the Pixar offerings, though if a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, 97 minutes of an endearing robotic E.T. will certainly put you in a forgiving – even receptive – mood. Take care of the planet, WALL-E insists, it’s the only one we’ve got. The film also pokes fun at our corporation driven, logo-infested culture, and imagines a world in which technology has made our lives so comfortable that human beings lay about, growing obese, unaware even that we have the ability to walk.

For much of its running time, WALL-E is essentially a silent film. There are no spoken words until half way in. And yet such is its astonishing magic that no one, be they young or old, will notice, much less care. WALL-E’s genius is not in its words, but in its visuals. Outer space is not shown as a place of icy cold menace, but a dimension of radiant color, incandescent light and breathtaking beauty. One cannot respond the film with anything other than brazen awe.

Pixar’s blistering talent and expansive, imaginative vision is on full display here. WALL-E doesn’t merely represent all that is best about Pixar, it dazzlingly outshines its predecessors, once again raising the digital animation bar to dizzying and heretofore unimagined heights. Never satisfied with merely pushing the boundaries, Pixar operates as if the boundaries were never there to begin with.

© 2008 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.

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