Pixar is not a studio to compromise on quality, at least as far as visuals are concerned. Their new WALL-E is expertly rendered; the CGI animation is breathtakingly realistic, arguably beyond anything we’ve ever seen from them, or anyone else. And to begin with, WALL-E presents a concept to match. The eponymous robot is a remnant among remnants. Some time in the future he was created to compact garbage; in the far future in which this film is set, humans have long since abandoned earth for a flotilla of corporatized life-support systems in outer space. WALL-E still goes about the task he has been programmed for on earth, however. He wheels between obelisks of trash, forever building, and goes home at night to a lonely bunker, where he watches the same scene from Hello, Dolly! over and over again on a beat-up television. It seems WALL-E, in addition to his industriousness, is an archivist, and an incurable romantic.
It takes half an hour to establish these aspects of WALL-E’s existence, during which time he meets a sleek robot interloper, EVE, with whom he falls in love. This section is flat-out ingenious: tragic, poignant, scary, fun and funny, sociologically and environmentally relevant. But this is not a contemporary recasting of the myth of Sisyphus; it is a Pixar movie for kids, and soon after EVE’s introduction we are taken with her to those who sent her on her mission: a ship full of humans. And with these humans, the film loses a lot of its magic. Language is introduced, as well as a conventional escape plot with much too much cutesy capering (but with, admittedly, Promethean undertones). Plus, these are Pixar humans with the studio’s trademark physiognomy; WALL-E has already been watching real humans in Hello, Dolly! and on billboards, and the contrast is cheapening. One might say WALL-E’s mistake is turning into a cartoon, when it has already proven to us that it can be so much more.
WALL-E is now playing at AMC Yonge and Dundas (10 Dundas St. E.), SilverCity Yonge-Eglinton Centre (2300 Yonge St.) and Rainbow Cinemas Market Square (80 Front St. E.).