Here’s the plot. In 2105, the Earth is ruled by a single corporation, Buy-n-Large Corporation (BnL). Because of pollution and garbage, the Earth has become uninhabitable. To solve this problem, BnL shoots the population of the Earth into space aboard luxury starliners, where they live in great comfort and happiness. Unfortunately, having nothing to do, as the starliners are automated and robots wait on their every need, the humans become morbidly obese and essentially incapable of movement as they become dependent on the machines.
WALL-E takes place seven-hundred years after the Earth was abandoned. WALL-E is one of the garbage robots, and the story begins when WALL-E discovers a small seedling on the Earth. He nurtures it, only to have it found by EVE, a robot sent from the starliner Axiom to search the Earth for signs of life. She reports her discovery, but when she does, the ship’s automatic pilot Auto, suppresses her discovery and tries to have her reprogrammed. WALL-E, who has fallen in love with her tries to save her, and she, WALL-E and the figurehead human Captain must fight Auto to free the humans from their gilded cage. At the end of the movie, they return to Earth where they discover millions of seedlings, and like Noah, they set about rebuilding the world.
Why This Film Excels
WALL-E is an amazing story. Why? Because it’s really several different stories, all told simultaneously and beautifully. For example, on the surface, WALL-E is a love story in which a robot which cannot even talk thoroughly convinces the audience that it has fallen in love with another robot. This is truly an impressive achievement. Having an audience believe that two characters are in love is already a difficult challenge. Making them cartoons doubles the challenge. Making one of them mute ups the challenge exponentially. And putting them into a story that is not a love story makes this a nearly impossible task... yet, Pixar pulls it off without a hitch or hiccup.
But there’s more... WALL-E is essentially Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” brought to film. Yes, it is. Whereas Orwell warned of a brutal, oppressive government crushing freedom, Huxley provided a similar warning in “Brave New World,” only he pointed out that government need not be heavy-handed to be insidious. Instead, it can use hedonistic pleasure to control the people just as easily as it uses violence. WALL-E delivers this identical message. Consider this:
But first impressions are misleading or at least incomplete. The idea that the humans are happy is shown to be a mirage when they realize how helpless and dependent they’ve become. This awakens something inside them, something which drives them to regain their freedom despite everything they will lose.
This is a truly subtle and difficult story to tell, yet Pixar does it and it does it without any false shortcuts, such as making Auto defective or secretly programmed to be evil. Evil just becomes natural to him because he has absolute power. Pixar lays this out without adding fake motives to try to explain away difficult truths. That's a hard sell for a cartoon. Add in that at the same time it does that, Pixar tells the Noah story and the love story, and you have a true achievement here.