Waste Not, Want Not
If a trash compactor mated with a Roomba, WALL-E would be born. (Pixar, contact us for this and other WALL-E prequel ideas, okay? Pleeeease?)
WALL-E is an acronym that stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter—Earth class. By contrast, the monstrous WALL-E looking robots aboard the Axiom are WALL-As, the "A" for Axiom class.
The WALL-E class robot, which seems to run a Mac OS, is designed to scoop trash. Human beings have left Earth looking like a rest stop bathroom—uncared for and covered with garbage. The WALL-Es have trundled around for seven centuries compacting trash, and they're still not done. At some point in those seven hundred years, however, most of the WALL-Es' batteries died. One survived, our main character, and he somehow has a personality.
WALL-E doesn't indiscriminately scoops and squish trash into cubes; no, he saves stuff he finds interesting, from trash can lids to bowling pins to Rubik's cubes. He has a childlike fascination with the world, and is more likely to play with a box than, say, the diamond ring that came in it.
There's a morbid dark side to WALL-E's scavenging, as he collects useful parts from "dead" WALL-Es, like new treads, arms, and circuit boards. This doesn't seem to bother him, but he's not a creepy sociopathic robot. WALL-E has emotions—he shivers in fear, he worries about his friends, he laughs (or makes noises that sound like a laugh to human ears), and, as we see when EVE lands, he falls in love.
WALL-E is a romantic. He watches a musical on VHS and dreams of holding hands and falling in love. When EVE shows up from space, it's like she's been sent just for him. Although their relationship starts off rocky—EVE tries to blast WALL-E with her arm cannon multiple times—she warms up to him.
But EVE has a directive—to return the plant WALL-E found to the Axiom. EVE has this single-minded focus, kind of like WALL-E and his garbage, but WALL-E abandons his directive for a new one: her. For the middle of the movie, EVE takes center stage and WALL-E merely follows her. He tries to get the plant back, but for her. He helps her get back to the cabin, because of her. When the two end up floating in space, and EVE gives him a little zap (the robo version of a kiss) that pretty much seals the deal. He's one smitten kitten.
WALL-E will do anything for EVE, even risking his life (as much as he can be said to have one). When WALL-E gets zapped by AUTO, a malicious shock that is definitely not a kiss, EVE abandons her directive for him. She just wants to save him.
Lucky for our two robot stars, EVE's directive of returning to Earth lines up with saving WALL-E—all his replacement parts are there.
Upon landing on Earth, EVE rebuilds WALL-E… but he's not the same. It's like if a human being were able to have a brain transplant. With a new circuit board replacing the fried one, WALL-E revives, but when EVE extends her hand, he doesn't hold it. His eyes don't focus. He doesn't talk. He crushes his own stuff into a cube. He wheels over the cockroach and just keeps going. There is static on his radio.
Other horrible things may happen to illustrate WALL-E's loss of identity, but we were too busy crying to notice.
It feels like an eternity (but is actually about three minutes) until EVE kisses WALL-E goodbye. Her little spark sparks his memories, though, and WALL-E revives. His little eyes refocus and his hand tightens on EVE's. Love is reborn!