Rise of the Machine

2008 is shaping up to be a massive year for science fiction and fantasy movies. Obviously the likes of Star Trek, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and of course, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, are making us even more excited than the impending visit of Santa Claus, but there’s another film on next year’s slate that’s shaping up to be just as big a deal... Pixar’s WALL-E. In fact, at the risk of sounding like an unashamed WALL-Evangelist (which I’ll admit I’ve been since Pixar first started leaking details of its follow-up to the fantastic Ratatouille), I’d say it’s a good outside bet to become the SF hit of the year.

Now, before you start yelling “kids’ film!” at your monitor, let me make a case for the defence. First off, it’s made by Pixar who don’t do bad films (yes, Cars was a disappointing CG retread of Thomas the Tank Engine, but it was still a cut above the majority of computer-animated movies). But even by Pixar’s standards, this is a magnificent premise. This is about a robot who’s spent 700 years cleaning up the landfill site that is future Earth after the departure of the human race – how’s that for dystopian? – whose life is transformed by a new-fangled droid called EVE. It’s one of those concepts that has you at hello.

As the brilliant new trailer shows (you can see it here , on MySpace), the animation is flawless, with WALL-E himself given tonnes of personality despite the lack of what we’d usually recognise as a voice. And there’s the other big plus. The robot hero’s sound effects are provided by Ben Burtt, the man who supplied R2-D2’s bleeps and whistles, suggesting that we’re barely going to notice that the movie’s virtually dialogue-free – as director Andrew Stanton’s said, this is “R2-D2: The Movie”, which is something a certain generation has wanted to see for the best part of 30 years.

So put aside your worries about the cuteness – we’ll accept that WALL-E’s amalgam of ET and Number Five from Short Circuit is almost hard-wired into the brain’s “Awww” receptors. Everything I’ve seen so far suggests that this little robot will be able to more than hold his own against the big hitters of 2008. And he’s nice to cockroaches.

Wall-E is included in our massive 2008 movie preview, which you can find in the January issue of SFX, on sale now.

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