There’s a point, about ten minutes into Wall-E, where you begin to suspect that Pixar are just showing off. The most successful producer of kids’ films at that moment, and their new film opens with sweeping shots across an abandoned Earth, then cityscapes devoid of life and dominated by towers of compacted waste. A lengthy opening sequences featuring almost no speech, and soundtracked by songs from a 50 year old musical. The only dialogue is delivered by a live-action Fred Willard from the past, with animation representing the present. The protagonist himself is mute. His facial features consist entirely of a pair of shuttered binoculars.
…And this is Pixar, so of course it works perfectly.
With tilts of those binoculars and raising of the shutters, Wall-E is one of the most expressive characters in … I was going to say in animation, but unless you’ve got Robert Downey Jr’s face, it’s probably fair to say in cinema. The bleak future is presented effortlessly
When considering any Pixar film, considering the company that produced it seems inevitable. It’s a stop we’re going to be making another few times before this is done, so I’ll get all that out of the way now:
The Pixar legacy is the most casual miracle in modern pop-culture. They’ve been casually throwing out classics that are accessible to anyone and rewatchable for years. You know that, of course. But with the lineage potentially in danger this very summer, it’s worth baldly stating just how magical this is. It’s been like a second Christmas, an event as dependably annual and – probably more dependable, in fact. I can guarantee you’ve had a disappointing Christmas more recently than you’ve seen a disappointing Pixar film (…2006, probably).
That Wall-E doesn’t capture the beginning’s mad spirit, the filmmaker-let-loose feeling, again in the second half is a weakness. But that’s because it’s so easy to take for granted the classic Pixar story that’s left once the ambition of the opening has been jettisoned.
What’s left is hardly charmless or simplistic. It’s a sweet love story between two mostly mute robots, with a satirical backdrop, that also manages to be a thrilling adventure story. Then there’s the beautiful contrast between the analogue Wall-E and the other digital technology: it’s all a bit ‘I’m a Mac’/‘I’m a PC’. And then that translates into plot’s story of liberation and revolution, with people – and robots – exploring beyond the narrow glowing single path set out for them. All that in the less ambitious half of the film, the half that’s generally considered weaker.
It should be surprising. But it’s done so casually, so easily, that you just accept it. After all, this is Pixar.


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