Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jun 28, 2008

Wall-e

The thing that really makes me sad about this film is that *someone* I know, quite probably someone whose aesthetic judgment I actually respect, will go see it and come back whining that it's an environmentalist diatribe against consumerism. Well, if you have any intention of being that person, I have one thing to say to you:

Idiot! Go to the back of the line!

Although elements that might, in other circumstances, point at consumerism and environmentalism are present in the movie, the movie is actually about virtue. It's an extremely complex theme for any sort of movie . . . in fact, I think it might have been a bit too complex for THIS movie, but damn if they didn't make an excellent run at it.

The basic premise of the movie is that humanity has left Earth in a fleet of automated luxury cruise ships while the planet is dug out from under an immense pile of garbage. Seven hundred years later, the humans are still living in space and the only thing still moving on the planet is a small robot named Wall-e, who is basically a self-propelled trash compactor. Surrounded by the detritus of so many lives, Wall-e has developed a personality.

Through a series of interesting events, Wall-e meets and develops feelings for another robot (Eve) and winds up blasting into space and landing on the flagship Axiom. (As an aside, is that a great name for a ship or what? From what I understand the main director in charge of Pixar is, if not precisely an Objectivist, someone with Objectivist tendencies.) There he discovers that the humans have all been turned into passive, shapeless blobs by the perfect luxury service. The presence of Wall-e and his devoted struggle for his values upsets the status quo and starts the humans back on the road to remembering that there's a Real Life out there somewhere and they're missing out on it.

It's a really good movie--stylistically it reminded me of the Fallout games just a little bit. It definitely shares some of the same "1950's apocalypse" tinge to it. There's amazingly little dialog, which is actually harder to do than too much.

Definitely worth seeing.

8 comments:

Rational Jenn said...

Glad to see your review. My 6 year old is dying to see it, and I've been groaning over the environmentalist angle that keeps popping up in other reviews I've read. Something about SUVs ruining the environment?

Anyway, it's reassuring to hear that that isn't the main theme of the movie. With such a strong theme of virtue, it will be easy to discuss that with our son and focus on that, instead of the viro stuff.

Jennifer Snow said...

There isn't a single SUV or any mention thereof in the movie anywhere. Instead, there's just a big mountain of trash and a big full-service "we'll take care of you" sleazy company.

If you liked Speed Racer (and I did, too), you won't have any problem with Wall-e. The fact that humans left a machine to clean up their trash doesn't come across as evil, just as kind of pathetic, like the humans weren't capable of doing it themselves.

Fortunately they gradually redeem themselves during the movie and the pictures that show during the end credits are a great testament.

Rational Jenn said...

Well, we loved Speed Racer, so I think we're a go for Wall-e! I guess every animated movie (or movie based on a cartoon) can't be The Incredibles, eh?

BlueNight said...

Just came back; I was grinning almost as much as I was after seeing Iron Man. It seems like it's going to go in an environmentalist direction, but instead it's about the human spirit, about living with risks and challenges, sort of like Brave New World.

The ruin of the world was monopoly, not capitalism.

Stay through the end credits.

RyanTheEgoist said...

Hey Jen. I just wanted to make something clear about a not-so-significant part of your review.
Brad Bird is a quasi-Objectivist, and he's made a few Pixar movies himself ( The best, actually. Ratatouille and The Incredibles ) However, he had no association, as far as I know, with Wall-E.
I haven't yet gone to see it. I'm sure it will be great. Besides Cars, Pixar hasn't let down yet.

C. August said...

I'm glad I read this post and the comments. Every review I have seen has taken the strongly enviro/anti-capitalism angle, and I was dreading it, knowing that my kids would want to see it some day.

Perhaps the fact that all the reviews tout the movie as a condemnation on how bad we humans are is more of a testament to their own crappy sense of life?

Jennifer Snow said...

Actually, I think it's more a demonstration that people are incapable of thinking in terms of essentials, especially where it comes to art. It reminds me of what Ayn Rand said in her Introduction to Ninety-Three when she quoted what various art historians said about the novel: "The fact is that Ninety-Three is NOT a novel about the French Revolution. To a novelist, a background is JUST A BACKGROUND."

In order for Wall-e to be an environmentalist movie, it would have to have an anti-man premise as well as a huge pile of garbage. Instead, the movie is very pro-man, and sees the garbage as a temporary, transient obstacle that can be cleaned up instead of some permanent horror that no one can deal with.

If you want a viro movie to boycott, stay away from The Happening. Wall-e is well worth the price of admission.

McLazarus said...

Thank you for the message and the discussion. I was one of those people who saw it and was planning on blasting it for the anti-capitalist premise that was evident in the background.

But I was having a hard time coming up with a coherent statement of the problem. I have continued to mull it over and consider the good points. The "shaking up of the status quo" as you put it and the plight of the primary characters and narrative. But I continued to think that I should find the fundamental flaw and expose it. Then you did it for me.

The flaw was my own. Dropping the context and trying to condemn the work because it was set in a man-made trash heap. Of course overlooking the actual story.