Directed by: Andrew Stanton | 98 minutes | animation, comedy, family, romance, science fiction | Original Voice Cast: Ben Burtt, Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Elissa Knight, MacInTalk, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver, Kim Kopf | Dutch voice cast: Pepijn Gunneweg, Vivienne van den Assem, Maja van den Broecke, Loretta Schrijver, Bridget Maasland
If one word applies to Pixar’s animated films, it is “progress.” Film after film, the Americans are setting the standard for full-length animation, without offending popcorn audiences. After the illustrious list of “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles” and “Cars”, Pixar managed to surpass itself again in 2007 with the warm-blooded culi-comedy “Ratatouille”. The question was whether it could be even better afterwards.
The answer comes in the guises of a rusty robot and an attractive (but irritable) robot tin. They are the main characters of “Wall-E,” an animated film that is miles away from anything that has appeared in the animation field to date, including previous Pixars. With “Wall-E” Pixar brings a mature, urgent and critical film, which is also dazzlingly beautifully animated.
The first twenty minutes summarize the best qualities of “Wall-E”. We end up in a post-apocalyptic city, a gray rubbish bin compared to which Ground Zero is a playground. The people have left and the only surviving machine is the diligent cleaning robot Wall-E. Together with a cockroach, he tries to tidy up what can be cleaned up and keeps things that he finds interesting. When one day the beautiful search robot Eve steps out of a spaceship, Wall-E (and the viewer) is immediately lost. After almost scraping him at first, Eve is gradually charmed by our iron Casanova.
The animation in this first part hangs against photorealism and is at times of unreal beauty. The contrast between the desolate landscape and the energetic, dutiful robots enhances the already special atmosphere. Seeing human devastation through the eyes of robots, this part is immediately the most confronting. Where “Finding Nemo” touched on the ecological tragedy, “Wall-E” pushes you on top. Without dialogues but with images that hit twice as hard.
The second part of the story takes place on a gigantic spaceship where the descendants of retired earthlings spend their days eating, sleeping and lounging. When “Wall-E” ends up here, the rest is quickly over. While this part is drowning in fun finds (ever seen a space ballet for two robots and a fire extinguisher?) And the humor gets more space, the plot loses originality. It soon becomes clear where “Wall-E” wants to go, and from that moment on it all becomes a bit predictable. Less predictable is the role of the human characters, who, like the sleepers from the Matrix, let true life pass by.
Despite the slightly lesser second part, “Wall-E” is a movie to cherish. The alternation of slapstick, intelligent jokes and cultural associations (just those beautiful credits) works fine. Wall-E and Eve’s characters have been fleshed out enough to be moving and the tone is hopeful, despite humanity’s deplorable state. With the courageous “Wall-E”, the bar for animation is once again raised, leaving the question of who will improve it.