Wall-e

As I saying in my previous entry I went to see Wall-e for my birthday yesterday. My family got to discussing the messages afterwards and so I’d thought I would put thoughts here.

Rating: 12/12 Perfect

Wall-e is about the robot Wall-e 🙂 . His mission in life is, along with many other like him, is to clean up the planet while humanity takes a vacation in space. At the start of the movie he’s been at his job for 700 years and appears to be the last robot still functioning. The 700 years of contact with the garbage left by humanity has allowed Wall-e to develop his own self-awareness and personality. Self-awareness is great but as Cory Doctorow’s “I Row-boat” (read here) mentions, intelligence needs other intelligence around. So with only a pet cockroach to keep him company, Wall-e is lonely.

Wall-e, while working, collects things that catch his eye and one of his prizes is an old VHS tape that he likes to watch. The tape is of an old movie that shows a couple in love holding hands and the sadness on Wall-e’s face because he will always be alone really tugged at me. One day, though, a spaceship lands and offloads a robot, Eve and Wall-e’s world will never be the same again.

Before I start to discus Wall-e, I wanted to mention the short in front of the movie. As most people know, Pixar puts a animated short before the start of all their movies. This one was called Presto and was about a magician and his hungry bunny. The bunny is part of the rabbit-outta-the-hat trick. The way the magician sets up the trick is the bottom of the hat onstage is connected (probably with a wormhole) to another hat offstage and when he sticks his hand down one, it appears to come out of the other. So with the other hat sitting on the rabbit’s head the magician starts his trick but the rabbit wants to be fed and attempts to mess up the trick until he gets the carrot. This short was worth the full price of admission by itself. It’s probably the closest anyone has gotten to the level of quality of the original Looney Tunes. Heck if they had made the bunny look like Bugs – I’d being looking for Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, or Bob Clampett in the credits because I would think they found some sort of lost Looney Tunes short.

Back to Wall-e now (and banish the thoughts of Pixar getting the chance to do new Looney Tune shorts).

There are several things in this movie that deserve praise. The first is it’s animation. If you’ve watched the other Pixar movies, you’ve noticed that every movie gets a graphical upgrade and Wall-e is no different. This movie is gorgeous, your jaw will drop at several points in the movie. Another is the soundwork. Wall-e and Eva don’t really talk, they kinda modulate sound that can sound a bit like speech, but the lack of talking doesn’t prevent us to understand what they are thinking. Then again, that is to be expected from the guy that gave us the sounds of light sabers and Darth Vader breathing. Also, Pixar’s efforts to show and not tell us what’s going on needs special praise. My favorite scene in the movie is when Eva first gets to earth. She starts to fly around and by the way she swoops and flies I almost immediately pick up that she feels intense joy at being here.

This movie definitely has a message in it but I disagree with some of my family that it’s primarily an environmental one. The first reason is that I read an interview about the Wall-e and the guy from Pixar said that they wanted a story about a robot that’s all alone on earth until finally meets another robot and thus built the scenario around that. Also, the idea that simple garbage would wipe out all plant life on earth and require all of humanity to evacuate to space is too absurd to be taken seriously. Instead, I think the message is for us to think for themselves and enjoy the world around them.

A Greek philosopher, I think it was Socrates but maybe it was Plato, said that well-educated citizens where a requirement if a government where the citizens vote for their government leaders is to work. In Wall-e we see the corporation Buy’N’Large, BNL, running the schools. There is a short shot of the very little kids reciting the alphabet – A is for Axiom, the ship they’re on, B is for Buy’N’Large, etc.. BNL is interested in educating the students to become life-long consumers of their products not in actually imparting knowledge. Then there was the lines on the ground. Everyone, robots and humans, stayed on these lines – it was truly sickening to see.

And it’s obvious that the people are not as happy as they can be. Everyone is connected to the equivalent of the internet 24 hours a day and consequently lose sight of the world around them. When Wall-e ended up on the Axiom he caused two humans to turn off their access to the net and they became interested in their surroundings. They stargazed for the first time and went playing in the pool that neither realized the ship had (probably because no lines went to the pool). The captain also exemplified this. When he found out that the ship was meant to go back home to Earth, he went on what could be described as a Wikipedia binge. He started with looking up what the earth was and several hours later he’s reading about what farming and dancing are and is genuinely excited about going back.

So, while I don’t think the message is really an environmental one, for us to be able to enjoy the world around us, we need to keep the world in good enough shape to keep living here. Anyone have any other thoughts or differing points of view?

In closing, if you haven’t seen Wall-e yet, you really should while you can see it on the big screen. And let’s hope the next Pixar movie can keep the string of great movies going.

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3 thoughts on “Wall-e”

  1. Ok well I haven’t seen it yet, so I cannot comment on the message. However, I can mention that it is historically accurate, in America, for big business to fund education to the point of influencing the kind of education received. The Carnegie-types of the Industrial Revolution purposefully gave funding to schools to encourage those with a diploma to have the proper skill set to work in industry, college-prepatory became extra. This is only starting to change today. Most computers in classrooms of today were purchased by Microsoft and Bill Gates. While adding computers to classrooms was definitely something we needed, the programs and donations by Microsoft were definitely aimed at creating more consumers as well as encourage more people to work in the industry.

    I guess my point is that many people would watch that and see an unfair parallel between BNL and Walmart. When I go to see it, I will have a frame of reference that believes there is a historic precedence that is being exaggerated for the sake of story. The garbage thing is probably also an exaggeration of real scenarios but I’ll have to watch it to see. Thanks for talking about this, I was curious about your point of view!

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  2. In reality, only the ruling class would have gone on the spaceships. Everybody that had the technical skills to build it and who had worked in the mines to get the minerals for the ships, they would have been left behind on Earth to rot.

    That would be reality in the futuristic sense. Even for America.

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