This movie is a modern classic by virtually every metric. It is a rare “family” picture; neither inaccessible for children nor too stupid for adults to enjoy. It succeeds as work of science fiction, examining themes of how technology affects our way of life, as a film, using pure visual storytelling as its strongest narrative tool, and as a simple but resonant story in its own right.
The characters are all well-sketched. Wall-E himself proves that a children’s character doesn’t have to be designed from the ground up to be cute and lovable. Eve is, like Woody or other complex Pixar heroes, a shaded person, capable of great loyalty, but also possessed of a quick temper and a tendency to judge too quickly and harshly. Sure, the humans are all lazy and fat in the beginning, but they are also still human, able to move on and become better than they begin.
And, really, I feel the film’s themes and messages are more nuanced than the film’s harshest critics act. The point of the film is not some half-coherent ramble about the evils of technology and pollution. That’s not to say that those things aren’t a part of the point, but, more-broadly, it’s about stagnation versus change. Wall-E survives his countless fallen brethren because he has developed beyond his original programming. Eve succeeds in her mission for the same reasons, befriending Wall-E and defying orders to do the right thing. The humans aboard the Axiom all prove that they don’t want or need to remain metaphorical children forever. And the closest things to villains that the film has are villains because they choose sullen satisfaction with a status quo over moving forward. That’s why the ending works: showing progress and evolution through the medium of art.
Plus, rather than show technology as some nefarious force destructive to the human soul, a la Star Trek: Insurrection, Wall-E gives it an even grade. Sure, technology has the potential to turn us all into lazy trolls, but it also plays a vital role in keeping us alive. And, rather than a reductive Robot War, humans and machines at the end of the film live together in harmony, rebuilding society into something better.
Wall-E is a modern classic of the genre and the medium, a feast for the eyes and a treat for the mind.