Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Refuse rules on Earth — a dirt empire abandoned 700 years ago by humans and now by a lone caretaker: WALL-E.
He’s the only Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth class robot that hasn’t broken down — diligently compacting trash, taking home tchotchkes that captivate him, powering down to Hello, Dolly! and dreaming, like a cybernetic Cornelius Hackl, of a world outside of Yonkers.
In WALL-E, what this cross between E.T., a turtle and Short Circuit’s Johnny 5 finds sure is way out there beyond this hick town. Even though it swapped slight subversion for something more saccharine, WALL-E challenged conventional thoughts on hoarding and environmental stewardship.
It’s also as creative, compassionate and wondrous as anything Pixar has mounted — a balletic, gentle robot-romance spin on Pinocchio (with a Jiminy Cockroach) and a hero who’s like Buster Keaton v. 73.0.
With esteemed live-action cinematographer Roger Deakins as a visual consultant, WALL-E’s camera moves like a real-life apparatus. And its introductory act has as much of a silent-film feel as any 21st-century production can — with only a handful of human voices.
When WALL-E finds vegetation, it becomes his inroad to woo shiny robot Eve — for which the plant is a mission that takes them both into space. Funny that 2008’s most resonant, least arbitrary romance would be created in a computer.
Some found ecological undertones too scolding. But the question of what truly happens to trash is a nice undertone — never overshadowing the endlessly renewable entertainment of WALL-E’s plucky protagonist and carefully, comically choreographed physical humor.