wall-e2It’s 700 years in the future and earth has become a toxic wasteland. Centuries earlier humans were forced to leave the planet and move to outer space, because copious amounts of rubbish created through mass consumerism had made the place uninhabitable. The dusty cityscape shows the remnants of a civilisation: old billboards advertising cola and holidays, an empty bank, an engagement ring sparkling in the gutter.

Looking more closely, we notice that the tall skyscrapers aren’t buildings at all, but giant cubes of waste, compacted and stacked on top of each other. Save a lone cockroach just one thing stirs. This is WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), a small, rusty robot who diligently trundles through the barren, dusty streets, scooping up rubbish into his belly, compressing it and stacking it. Occasionally he finds small gems among the trash – an old boot, a Rubik cube, a video of the musical Hello, Dolly! which he watches again and again on his ancient VCR. He is fascinated by a scene of a boy and girl holding hands and dancing.

Like Robinson Crusoe on his Island, WALL-E is a lonely creature – the only robot left to sweep up the debris of a rapacious generation. When one day an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluer – EVE – falls to earth, WALL-E’s ago-old routine is shattered. White, sleek and shiny, EVE initially ignores WALL-E’s attempts to make friends, too busy searching for the green shoots that would signal the earthlings’ homecoming. Only two words pass between them by way of dialogue: “Eve” and “Wally”, and the first half hour of the film passes mostly in silence.

The film’s graphics are simply stunning, and it’s amazing to see how computer animation has moved on since Toy Story. Partially modelled on the post-Chernobyl wasteland of parts of Russia and the Ukraine, the earth-based scenes realistically depict a ravaged planet, with a colour palette of rusty browns and sooty greys to match. This is in stark contrast to the space scenes, where humans, obese from a diet of soft drinks and junk food, float around on hover chairs in a garish, Disneyfied spaceship resort.

Written by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, the film is full of touching and amusing details, such as when WALL-E nervous hands a sheet of bubble wrap he has scavenged to the technologically advanced EVE, who pops the lot in a split second, and solves his Rubik cube at lightning speed.

However, whilst WALL-E is visually stimulating, plot-wise it leaves much to be desired. The eco-centric storyline makes the valid point that mass consumerism, if left unchecked, could leave our planet uninhabitable for future generations. However, it is slow to get going and feels a little worthy. I wonder too if the first half hour with its total lack of dialogue could sustain a child’s attention.

WALL-E is remarkable in the way it pushes aesthetic boundaries, but offers little in the way of plot or character development. It often feels like the story has been shaped to fit the animation, rather than the graphics illustrating the story.

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