Wall-E was completely and totally made of win.

Oh, Wall-E. Oh, Wall-E. Pixar’s latest release is a return to the level of environmentally conscious awesome I haven’t seen in animated films since Ferngully or the Pirates of Dark Water.* Basically, the film describes a world where trash has overwhelmed the Earth. Humanity (or at least those who can afford it) flee a planet where the corporation Buy-n-Large has become synomous with the government. BnL leaves a series of little trash compacting bots behind, so that the trash-problem will be satisfactorily addressed by the time humanity returns to the planet. Wall-E has been compacting trash for 700 years. There are still mountains left, and he’s now the last of his kind. Though alone, he does have a routine. He’s got a friendly cockroach for company, a great musical on VHS, and a vast collection of thingamabobs reminiscent of Ariel’s cave. This routine is delightfully disrupted when EVE comes down from a mysterious space ship.* Wall-E immediately takes a liking to his strange visitor, and the two gradually become friends.

This friendship is one of my favorite moments in the movie. It is so rare that love stories for kids are also stories about friendship. I mean, seriously, do you think Aladdin and Jasmine would have tea together if they weren’t “in love?” What do Ariel and Eric have in common? Or Snow White and Prince Charming?

Anyways, Wall-E and EVE don’t fall in love right away — they become friends first, which is so totally fantastic. Once they do fall in love, you get the sense that the sincere affection underneath their love makes it way more sincere than star-crossed lovers. What’s even more awesome is that this film incorporates all the elements of a fairy tale with none of the triteness. Wall-E ends up feeling like an awesome postmodern take on Sleeping Beauty, where the two robots exchange the roles of rescued and rescuer, and where falling into a charmed sleep is very much about the loss of the self. Both EVE and Wall-E both fall into this mysterious sleep — EVE, when her primary directive forcibly takes her over, and she’s reduced into a pawn of her programming, and Wall-E, when BnL’s planned obsolescence places his very memory in danger of erasure.

I also liked the film’s subtlety. There’s no real villain; instead, everyone’s trying to do what they think is right, or at the very least get by. BnL might have doomed the planet, but you feel like they’re sincere in their panicked attempts to save the world. Also, even though humanity’s now evolved into morbidly obese halo addicts, neither their weight nor their consumerism are used to condemn these far-flung remnants of Earth. Instead, the film judges them for their sheer inability to pay attention to the world around them — they’re divorced from one another through distraction, and not vice. Plus, this alienation is not treated as inevitable; both humans and machines are capable of being engaged in the future of their shared world.

*I do think it’s ironic that Pixar is releasing such an environmentally conscious film that then rationalizes a series of toys and disposable garbage that petpetuate the problem the film describes. BAD DISNEY!
*Purtek talks more about robots and gender here! :D

Comments

  1. Death Worm says

    I loved this movie so much. I think the scene of Wall E and EVE “dancing” in space is one of the most lovely things I’ve ever seen in a science fiction movie. I have a mild obsession with robots, though, so I might be biased :)

    This friendship is one of my favorite moments in the movie. It is so rare that love stories for kids are also stories about friendship. I mean, seriously, do you think Aladdin and Jasmine would have tea together if they weren’t “in love?” What do Ariel and Eric have in common? Or Snow White and Prince Charming

    It’s a sad statement about Hollywood that a love story between two little robots with a vocabulary of only 2-3 words is more convincing than a lot of romances between human characters (even ones in live- action movies). The thing I thought was kind of funny is that even Wall E continued the trend of dumpy-looking guy paired with a far more beautiful and glamorous woman. Wall E makes up for it though by being sweet and sensitive, though, so the movie avoids becoming like a Judd Apatow movie (IN SPAAAACE!)

  2. Melpomene says

    Wall-E and EVA (is she EVA or EVE?) dancing in space — that scene almost made me cry. So much love.

    Re: EVA being glamorous — you know, I didn’t see her as beautiful or glamorous. I think I did in her first scene, but after she pops all the bubbles and demonstrates that she’s sleek, slick, and competent, her design didn’t strike me as being especially femme. That might be because she was so quick with her guns and so awesomely quick-thinking, tho — she didn’t act femme so she didn’t strike me as such. Like, her design seemed more about function than about pretty.

  3. Genevieve says

    I also like how EVE was shown as not being perfect. She’s quite temperamental, and also shown as being a bit clumsy at times. So while she’s clearly the more competent one between herself and WALL-E, she’s not on a pedestal or anything either.

    And yes, it is somewhat annoying that there was more chemistry between robots than between most human characters in movies.

    Did anyone else find the BuyNLarge CEO’s second message (the one Auto wasn’t supposed to show the Captain, but did anyway) to be particularly chilling? Did anyone else wonder what happened to all the other WALL-Es? Was the WALL-E in the film the only one who somehow missed being forced to stop cleaning up (when the CEO gave up on Earth)? Those two things I felt were particularly…unsettling.

  4. Melpomene says

    Hi Genevieve!

    I actually caught that as well — I think that’s where Wall-E’s planned obsolescence comes in. I don’t think they ever planned for the bots to last long, or for them to be self-repairing in the way Wall-E was.

    The clean up effort wasn’t ever actually meant to succeed. I mean, it obviously didn’t hurt BnL to be the only game in town on the space yacht.

  5. Death Worm says

    The variety of reactions Wall E has inspired in critics and normal viewers is interesting. Metafilter has a round-up of conservative critics denouncing Wall E as environmentalist propaganda and “Malthusian fear mongering” (actual quote).

    Sci-fi blog i09 also has a round-up of political reactions to Wall E. They show some conservatives saying Wall E is really chock-full of right wing values. For example, American Conservative says:

    “Staples of small-town conservative life such as the small farm, the “atomic family,” and old-fashioned and wholesome entertainment like “Hello, Dolly” are looked upon by the suddenly awakened humans as beautiful and desirable”

    Also, the i09 feature shows liberal reviewers complaining the movies’ anti-consumerist, pro-environment messages weren’t strong enough. Reed Johnson at LA Times, for example:

    “In serious science fiction, humans who’ve degenerated into some sort of new mutation force us to confront the darkest sides of our nature. Think of the cannibalistic Morlocks and the feckless, sheeplike Eloi of Wells’ “The Time Machine,” one of sci-fi’s master narratives. By contrast, the Pillsbury doughboys and girls in “Wall-E” are a bit dim but otherwise sweet, polite, essentially harmless, kinda cute… Apart from the spaceship captain, who rebels against a bullying computer, the humans in “Wall-E” really don’t do much to earn their shot at redemption. The movie doesn’t make the case that mankind, having fouled its nest, deserves a second chance.”

    I find it fascinating that a children’s movie can provoke so much political and environmental criticism and debate. But then again, anyone who reads this site knows that pop culture is always political.

  6. Diatryma says

    I took BuyNLarge’s word for it– they meant the WallEs to get the job done, but they underestimated what they had done to the planet. It wasn’t just a horde of Roombas; they also had the big compactors like the one WallE slept in.

    One part I loved was that the plots were fairly disconnected– Eeva didn’t decide to save humanity; she decided to go back to Earth to get spare parts. The captain didn’t care about the robots; he cared about dancing and farming. Mary and J-something didn’t know about Auto or Earth; they liked everything. Mo just wanted the clean everything the hell up. The common thread is fighting one’s programming and orders– don’t let the autopilot rule, don’t let the commercials win, fight the Directive and save your friend.

  7. sbg says

    Johnny Five is alive!

    Sorry, couldn’t seem to help myself. I haven’t seen Wall-E. I’ve no right to post in this thread. ;)

  8. Gategrrl says

    I was left wondering what happened to the OTHER space-ships shown taking off from Earth. There were plenty of others. What happened to THEM?

  9. Melpomene says

    Hi Doctor Science!

    I actually haven’t seen Bug’s Life, though that’s a great point. You’re totally right, tho, about *Finding Nemo* — that’s something Judith Halberstam talked about a very very little bit in describing queered memories. What she was talking about tho, was the relationship between Nemo’s dad and Dory, and sorta their gender neutral relationship as having to be predicated on Dory not having a memory. So what she was talking about was how you could have a hermaphroditic fish and a female-but-not-quite fish become parents, but only if the female-but-not-quite fish had an absence of memory or was coded as having an unstable self. It was a really, really great lecture — if you want I can see if I can find the citation for the paper she was talking about.

  10. EbonyRabbit says

    Sorry, I can’t see a movie as “completely and totally made of win” when it’s yet another movie from the studio that has yet to have a female protagonist.

    Well, not yet anyway but it is coming.

    However, it’s sad that it took them so long. On one hand, most of Pixar’s female characters never had the cliche/stereotypical personalities that most companies in general continue to display. On the other, none have been the out right main character (like Elastigirl and maybe Princess Atta) and/or have been love interests or side characters. The weirdest thing, other than a very innovative company not doing the one thing that would have made them even more so, is that I didn’t realize that Pixar hadn’t featured any female main characters until recently. I usually catch these kind of things!

    I still love almost everything about Wall-E even as I realize Pixar’s failings. EVE and Wall-E’s relationship progressed quite nicely without feeling rushed like most romantic movies do. I couldn’t call Wall-E just a romance though, at least not in the ‘normal sense.’ Just as Eve and Wall-E fell in love with each other, the humans fell back in love with Earth. It’s a nice message that sent me out of the theater with some small hope for the world.

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