(Warning: This post may contain spoilers.)
Last week a friend sent me a link to AICN saying if you think you're geek enough to see WALL-E early, send us an email. I sent links to all my robot drawings and was thusly picked. Me and a couple hundred other geeks and film nerds - and my daughter - got to see an early screening of the movie at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Harry Knowles of AICN gave a little intro after all the hilariously dated commercials and movie trailers and in it he stated that next to the Disney family and Pixar family (and a few small magazines) we were the first public audience to see the movie. LMA was more excited about this than I was. She thought we were there to see Kung Fu Panda.
She orders a bowl of popcorn and a coke and I order a cider and a burger and we begin our viewing. The thing I like about screenings is the lack of pre-movie junk. No previews, no commercials - it's quite refreshing. I see a lot of previews online so I don't feel I miss much.
It starts with a Pixar short, as all Pixar movies do. The one before WALL-E is called Presto and I'm not going to tell you anything about it other than it is quite hysterical.
The camera pans back through Disneyland, the lamp jumps on the I and we're ready to roll.
A catchy if not older show tune like piece begins as we approach Earth. Earth is surrounded by and covered in junk, so much junk the world is brown. There are no green things growing on this Earth. A side bit of a commercial plays by the company Buy 'n' Large (BnL) about how we've trashed this planet, but don't worry. We'll board these giant ships and leave behind the robots to clean it up, then we'll come back. Well the only one left is little WALL-E. Actually, they're all called WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth Class) but you begin to see he's the only one working. And little WALL-E has been working hard. It's not apparent what city we're in, but the stacks of trash he's been building tower has high as the surrounding skyscrapers.
The next few minutes are a joyous and charming look at every day life for WALL-E who appears as more of a curious 10 year old than an industrious robot. He collects things, he watches old movies and he has a pet cockroach. During one of his outings, he finds a plant growing in a refrigerator. A large space craft lands and dispatches a sleek little scout robot (EVE) and she begins looking for something. She (because it's obviously a she) is beautiful but deadly as WALL-E is quick to find out. But his centuries of watching musicals has made him yearn for companionship and he immediately falls for EVE. She follows him around a bit after it's obvious her search is finding nothing. WALL-E show her his little home and all his things. When he shows her the plant, her light turns green and she takes the plant into her storage compartment shortly before shutting down. A distraught WALL-E does what any loving person would do with a comatose partner; watch after her, show her things, take her places. It's depressingly sweet.
Eventually the big ship comes back and takes EVE. WALL-E clings to the ship and is whisked away to a larger ship waiting some light years away. At first all we see on the ship are robots, all sorts of them. They're mostly faceless, they follow lines on the floor but we begin to detect personalities and right off the bat, WALL-E's interaction with them changes them somehow. We also see the first humans since the commercial at the beginning of the film.
(Side note, the commercial and subsequent communiques with the President or Ruler-of-Earth are all done with live actors, something I hadn't seen Pixar do before. I'm not sure why they did it.)
The humans we see are fat sloths. Life on board a solitary cruise liner run by eager-to-please, all-things-taken-care-of robots has made humans soft and lazy. They all float around on hover-chairs, consuming all meals in liquid form, all wearing the same clothes and all talking to other people via video chat with screens mere inches from their face. It's not pretty and I don't think it's meant to be.
It was hard to ignore messages in WALL-E and that would be my only critique. Every Pixar movie has a theme. Most are non-confrontational and fall into the realm of "it's good to have friends." WALL-E's main theme is it's a love story. There are side bits that I suppose you could take away if you were a cynical bastard; we're trashing the planet, we're turning into fat, lazy, careless wastes, we're depending too much on machines. But those are just side events to tell the love story of WALL-E and EVE.
Things go wrong on the ship and we find out that even though EVE has found a plant and humans can return to Earth, there are some robots that have been programmed to keep them in space. A classified directive shows the Earth president saying the planet is toxic and to never come back. There's a lot of running around, a lot of robot humor, some crazy robots get loose from the repair bay, or robot loony bin, and finally the plant is put into the right place and the ship heads for Earth. But not before WALL-E is...
Well, you'll just have to see it to find out.
Pixar made me tear up with Nemo and Cars and Monsters, Inc. and they've done it again with WALL-E. Whatever they're doing, they're doing it right. There's so many little bits of humor and so many touching moments that you could watch this a dozen times and still be surprised. It's easily one of my favorite Pixar movies and very likely one of my top 10 movies of all time (my time, not since, you know, movie history.)
And if you don't get the joke in the theater, here it is. When WALL-E charges up with his solar panels and he reaches full charge, the sound he makes is the chime of a Mac booting up.
I give it a five out of five, as Chip would say, it's a movie I'd pay full price for.
at 8:58 AM