How long did it take WALL•E and the ship on which he was riding to get from the Earth to the Axiom Executive Starliner? There are some conflicting points of reference that make this a bit confusing:
- The speed of the ship allows WALL•E to reach out as they pass the planet with rings and watch the material swirl away, indicating a relatively slow pace, which, regardless of how far away the Axiom is from Earth, it should take a minimum of years/decades for them to get there.
- Also, as shown in the screenshot below, we see the entirety of the galaxy (which I can only assume is supposed to be the Milky Way) as WALL•E and the probe ship approach the Axiom, which means that they've traveled not only beyond our solar system but beyond the boundaries of our galaxy as well.
- If we consider that the Voyager 1 probe only recently broke out of our solar system and entered interstellar space after 40 years of travel - even allowing a few years +/- for the research "stops" it made along the way, as well as improvements in propulsion methods made since the 1970's - and the fact that the boundaries of the galaxy are orders of magnitude further out than the boundaries of our little solar system, we're talking about thousands of years of travel, even at the speed of light.
- The plant has not grown (or completely died) when they get it to Captain McCrea, which would seem to indicate a very short amount of time has passed (unless the plant was placed in some sort of unidentified stasis inside the cavity in EVE's chest).
We know that the trip back was made very quickly through the use of a "hyper jump", which is apparently some form of faster-than-light travel since it seems to get them back to Earth in an extremely short amount of time.
Obviously, the writers played very fast and loose with the realities of space travel. I mean, WALL•E would have a very difficult time recharging with his solar panels while in interstellar space where the light from any single star would be so faint that he'd be lucky to get any of that energy into his batteries. Also, as stated above, unless the plant was protected by some sort of hibernation/stasis inside of EVE's chest cavity, even a couple of days worth of travel would likely result in its death.
Also, according to the movie, the ship has been traveling for 700 years when WALL•E and EVE arrive (Captain McCrea announces the celebratory septuacentennial cupcake in a cup). Again, the physics and math would make this far too short a time for even the Axiom to make it to the intergalactic nebula in which we apparently find it.
Now, add to these "little" idiosyncracies the tag line from the movie:
"After 700 years of doing what he was built for, he'll discover what he was meant for."
This would seem to mean that WALL•E has been working since the Axiom left Earth. This little fact would appear to cut the travel time to days/weeks.
This is probably a case of "suspension of disbelief" and allowing the storytellers to take creative license in order to tell the story they want, but there are so many factors that raise questions that I have to go ahead and ask.
I recently noticed an additional reference point that throws yet another potential "kink" in the timeline. WALL•E's cockroach friend, Hal. Based on the introductory scenes to the movie, it appears that WALL•E is working somewhere in the New England area of the United States. That would indicate that Hal is an American cockroach.
According to the linked reference, the expected lifespan of an American cockroach in the "right" conditions is approximately 3 years with the first 20 months being the maturation process from nymph to adulthood. It seems that Hal is likely a mature specimen, which would mean that he'd only have at most around 15 months left of his life expectancy when WALL•E leaves for the Axiom. Yet, Hal is there when WALL•E returns. It's clear from the "nervous" pacing while EVE is attempting to repair WALL•E that it is Hal, and not one of his descendants.
With this evidence, it would seem that the round-trip to the Axiom and back to Earth would have to take less than 1.5 years. Just one more "piece of the puzzle" to add to the confusion.