I saw WALL-E for the second time yesterday, and I was just as enthralled by it as I was the first time. It is, quite definitely, the best children’s film I’ve enjoyed as an adult. I was thinking of writing CGI film there, but that’s not really it. This is a children’s film first and foremost, but it utterly transcends that to be a narrative that affects me just as deeply as a heart-wrenching drama.
Thinking about it last night I think I understand why this is. WALL-E is two films, first and foremost. One is for the adults and those who enjoy a thinking film, and the other is for children. It’s not even as if they are intermingled with one another to create some cleverly woven film filled with moments of emotion and moments of slapstick humour. They are quite clearly separated into the first half and the second half.
The first half of the film is almost entirely devoid of speech, which instantly makes it special. Here we are presented with the last robot on earth, spending his days compacting rubbish into towering sky scrapers and salvaging odds and ends to return to his home at night. Watching it the second time there was a very Omega Man feel about this, especially since he’s solar powered and thus heads home at sunset. The streets are littered with the husks of his brethren, all given the same task of cleaning up the planet. Obviously they failed, but WALL-E doesn’t know that.
So you have this cute little robot with only a cockroach for company, and one day a spaceship lands on earth. Here is the beginning of possible the strangest love story ever committed to film. WALL-E becomes enamored with the grace and majesty of the probe EVE, sent to Earth to find traces of plant life. WALL-E follows her everywhere, trying to remain out of sight but inevitably failing. I suppose this is where the children’s half of the film starts to creep in, but it’s all so touching and delicately demonstrated you can’t help but love it.
The second half of the film is entirely involved with the mission at hand, with man’s salvation in the balance, and the ensuing slapstick and often laugh out loud moments are all very wonderful, and it is a more entertaining second half, but something of the quaintness of the first half ebbs away and your left with another (rather brilliant) Pixar film. I recently heard about their next film, Up, about an old man on a journey of self discovery, and seeing the moments in the first half of WALL-E make me look forward to such a premise all the more.