Do you remember "Toy Story 2?" Apart from being probably the most delightful of all Pixar animated films, it posed an interesting moral conundrum: Would you rather have eternal life, staying forever as you are now, or would you rather experience all of life, including old age and death?
That film was written and directed by Andrew Stanton, a film artist whose work went far beyond that of any other animator. And I was absolutely fascinated by the question he asked, and have looked forward to his new film "Wall-E" to see where he is today.
And again he's chosen a most unusual conceit for his film: it's many centuries from now; the earth has evolved into one very big store, called BnL (for Buy N Large), which has converted all of our descendents into epic consumers, who have trashed the earth and left it with skyscraper-sized piles of junk. And then BnL has put them all into a space ship, where they all lie around happily eating and drinking.
But one robot, Wall-E (the acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth Class) has been going about his business for some hundreds of years, compacting waste and putting it into enormous mounds of garbage. And let me say that in this whole film there are probably fewer than a dozen lines of dialogue; a very brave decision. Wall-E has a sidekick: a cockroach, of course, because no matter what happens to the earth the cockroaches will survive. And he's put together a kind of personality - he loves an old video of the musical "Hello Dolly," he collects things that fascinate him, from a Zippo lighter to a Rubik's Cube. And then a probe from the spaceship lands on earth to see whether it's inhabitable again. The probe is called Eve (another acronym), and the two find each other.
This part of the film is a wonder; then Eve lifts Wall-E up to the spaceship and the level of imagination drops quite a bit; there's a look at all the earthlings who've settled for being waited on by robots, there's a captain who finally bestirs himself to act like one who's in charge of the ship; there's a lone plant that Eve has brought on board, and there's a Hal-like computer for the ship (Sigourney Weaver) who doesn't want to let go.
People have told me they not only loved this film but even cried at moments. I did not, nor was I tempted to. Once we were on the spaceship it all seemed too programmed to be interesting; the only unknown was how they were going to get everyone back to earth, which of course was the reason for the film in the first place.