Monday, June 30, 2008


WALL·E is worth seeing for it's first half hour. Without spoken dialogue writer/director Andrew Stanton and the team at Pixar take computer animated cinema to a whole, new level. We find ourselves in a familiar yet forbidding world: a deserted American (I presume) city looking like an amalgam of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's sometime in the future and the Earth is devoid of greenery and buried under mountains of trash. The landscape reminds one of Blade Runner (although this dystopic vision of the future is seen mostly thru smoggy sunlight), Mad Max, Spielberg's A.I., even the dusty world of Tatooine.

WALL·E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) is busily and solitarily collecting the detritus of Western civilization, compacting it into neat cubes and stacking it...and stacking it some more. Along the way he (yes, he's a masculine robot) finds treasures ("one man's trash is another man's treasure") which he brings back to his homey bunker (it reminded me of Robin Williams' basement home in The Fisher King). I should mention the omniprescence of the logo BnL for Buy n Large, a Wal-Mart/Target-type superstore that's cornered the market on everything from robotics to your child's education -- the ultimate merging of government, business and marketing it seems. Pixar even set up an elaborate website for this believable fiction.

It's the small details that make the first third of this movie the most compelling. I'll just mention one. WALL·E is unloading his BnL cooler of the day's treasure and pulls out a piece of plasticware. He has the forks and spoons that he's collected segregated on the shelves of his home. But WALL·E is flummoxed because this isn't a fork or a spoon, it's one of those combination implements (a spork?) that one may get along with your loaded baked potato or strawberry parfait. Surely the brilliant invention of someone trying to make our lives a bit more convenient.

You may guess where this is going. I think there are multiple themes being explored at multiple levels, which I'm puzzling on (I found the ending problematic), but on the surface this is clearly a polemic aimed straight at overconsumption, consumer culture and cavalier disregard of our planet's future. This movie will irritate some conservatives. But to me it's a deeply conservative message, if speaking of an older Edmund Burkean kind of conservatism, before the "c" word became too often synonomous with untrammeled comsumerism and a slash and burn approach to the environment. A conservatism that didn't think building the best widget for the lowest price trumped all other societal considerations. I do see the irony though of a Disney movie (of all things) uncomfortably satirizing the hand that feeds it. Is this what Marx meant by capitalists hanging themselves with their own rope?

Don't get me wrong. This is a fun, entertaining movie, but it's not Toy Story or Finding Nemo (Stanton's previous film) by a long shot. And as I mentioned there are various other intriguing themes that could be explored, but I'll let you discover them for yourself. No doubt many viewers will recognize allusions to the Old Testament narratives of Eden and the flood.

Legendary Ben Burtt contributes the voices and sounds of the robot characters in WALL·E. Star Wars fans will recognize the name of the man who created the iconic R2-D2 and C-3PO. No doubt the possibilites available to him now must seem infinitely more than he had to work with in the 70s! Thomas Newman contributes an effective score, and Peter Gabriel adds a song over the closing credits that makes obvious the main "message" of this movie. "But we wanted to fly/When we messed up our homeland/and set sail for the sky..."


Oberon said...

.....walle.....was great.....left me with the urge to clean up the planet.

redeyespy said...

In addition, there were some deft homages (overt and otherwise) to films of the silent era. EVE was sort of a robotic correlate to Mary Pickford!

It was a masterstroke to not have the 'bots speak English. Their unique communication was more effective anyway.

The ecological, social, and especially health issues were dead on target, IMO. At the rate we're going, it will take far less than 700 years to reach the world WALL*E forbodes...