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June 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on "Wall-E"

[Full disclosure: readers to this blog may remember a certain post in which I describe being fired from "Finding Nemo." The person who both fired and replaced me on that film was the director, Andrew Stanton, who is also the director of "Wall-E." Anything I say about "Wall-E" must be taken with a grain of salt considering my previous checkered history with Mr. Stanton. You can read that story here.]

Okay, so I went to see "Wall-E" today with my kids. First things first: this is a good movie, but not the over-the-top, mind-blowing extravanganza I was expecting based on the reviews. My quickie review: it's good, go see it, etc. But don't expect it to reveal any heretofore hidden truths about the nature of humanity.

Second things second: Pixar invested God knows how much money into a post-apocalyptic cartoon about a dead planet, a trash collecting robot, a laser-wielding ovoid, and co-starring a cockroach. Fun stuff. Humanity is presented as a morbidly obese race of self-destructive, loathsome blobs content to lounge around a cruise ship for seven hundred years, sucking french fries through straws, too lazy to even stand from a reclining position. This is a children's movie? Since when do kids love misanthropy? When did children start clamoring for movies about dystopia? When did the world's children all become French?

The movie seems to have a confused message. On the one hand, it blames humanity for the utter degradation and destruction of our planet. Then it turns around and, at the end, presents humanity as the planet's custodians after they return home and take up agrarian ways. Well what happens after that? A couple centuries later, won't they just fuck up the planet all over again? Why are we supposed to think that humanity has learned its lesson? The captain of the lone surviving vessel containing all of humanity didn't even know what a farm was until about twenty minutes before the movie ended. If he didn't, I'm guessing the other passengers on Spaceship Fatso didn't know much about cleaning up toxic waste sites and replacing them with smiling children and alfalfa sprouts. I give humanity about six months on that planet before they either die from starvation and disease, or decamp for the relative safety of deep space, which is presented as the ultimate trash-dumping frontier.

Then there is the love story, which centers around our hero Wall-E and his psycho enviromentalist girlfriend Eve. Eve is on a mission to find photosynthetic life on Earth. But she is also extremely trigger happy with her laser pistol, which raises a logic problem. What does Eve expect to find that necessitates killing? The only thing it (she) can kill is something that's alive. The only things that are alive require some sort of food. For any species that would present any kind of threat to Eve to survive on a dead planet for seven hundred years, it would need a regenerative food source. That food source could only be plant-based, which implies photosynthesis. Therefore any proof of large life on the planet is proof of photosynthesis. She shouldn't have to kill anything. She merely needs to record that life exists. So why is she hovering around shooting everything that moves? And why does our hero Wall-E fall for this psycopath? Is it the old "only if you were the last laser-wielding hoverbot on Earth" scenario? If that's the case, so be it, but God forbid he forgets to leave the toilet seat down one night.

Also, to nitpick some more because that's what I do - the end of the film kind of annoyed me. They employed the familiar third act Pixar blueprint, which is as follows: define a physical goal, throw innumerable insurmountable obstacles at our heroes, have each minor character play a part in overcoming said insurmountable obstacles, culminating with the antagonist sacrificing himself to finish the job. It's a tried and true formula and it works pretty well for them, but it's starting to wear a little thin for me.

As I said though, there is much to like about "Wall-E," including, oddly enough, Fred Willard. Fred Willard? Yeah. This film features some real, non-animated people, including Fred Willard, who plays the President of the evil corporation in the film, which has apparently taken over the entire planet, and which was also able, despite its horrible, malignant stewardship of the planet, to construct a self-sustaining luxury spaceship to warehouse humanity for seven hundred years while the planet heals itself. If they could do that, why couldn't they just clean up the planet in the first place? Anyway, Fred Willard is the head of that corporation, which I guess makes him the CEO of Earth. Which was a little weird. I mean, I like Fred Willard, but Fred Willard?

So if you go see "Wall-E," don't be surprised if you find yourself, as I did, wishing for all of humanity to just fucking die. Other than that, it's a fun time out with the kids. 

[Note: I recognize this is the second post in a row in which I fantasize about the extinction of the human race. This is just a coincidence and in no way reflects my actual feelings about humanity, which is that I love us as a species and wish nothing but the best for us, unless, as I said previously, scientists accidentally create an Earth-eating black hole which destroys everything. And the only reason I wish for that is because, as I said, it would be awesome, and regular readers know that in my philosophy, awesomeness trumps all other considerations.]

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Severed

I don't see how they made a "female" robot.

Zane

We saw that today too. My 10 yr old daughter sighed many times during the film, as if she was actually dying a little bit for every moment stuck watching. Afterwards, I asked my kids to try to explain to me what they thought the film was about. They didn't want to talk about it at all. "Recycling?" was about all I could get them to come up with. My 6 yr old thought the chihuahua movie preview trailer was the best part. The review I had read said that kids would love it and adults would want to own it and watch it again and again. ???
Your summary of it was great, thanks.

Todd from australia

"awesomeness trumps all other considerations"

werd

The Banana King

Zane, it already seems eminent that Pixar wants to break off from Disney's "make it for kids" crap and start making true art films, that or kids actually have different tastes in film and we will soon see a future where movie critics become younger and younger and there will be a critics top list war between Beverly Hills Chihuahua Movie and Wall*E.

Margo

"Since when do kids love misanthropy?"

Since always, or at least since my childhood - Roald Dahl, Raymond Briggs, John Marsden...

Camille

"Humanity is presented as a morbidly obese race of self-destructive, loathsome blobs "

Kind of sounds like the movie Idiocrisy.(with Luke Wilson)Good movie.

"Since when do kids love misanthropy? When did children start clamoring for movies about dystopia?"
I dunno...my son loves R. Dahl, Ripley's Believe It or Not,etc. I think I was reading Stephen King way before I should have been. Maybe that's just me and my freaky family,though.

Jenn M.

My kids were mostly excited about the free Wall-E watches they got when we bought our tickets. They liked the movie, but half way through my four year old wanted to jump theaters and see Kung Fu Panda.

Taylor

WALL-E is just another Pixar vehicle. In critics' eyes, Pixar does no wrong, ever. If they made WALL-E 2: Humanity Fucks Itself in the Ass Again and showed the human race fucking Earth up a second time, it'd be hailed as an apocalyptic visionary masterpiece by 97% of the "Cream of the Crop" at Rotten Tomatoes (as WALL-E has right now). In other words, only 5 out of 145 critics had the balls to call bullshit on the seemingly endless money train that is Pixar.

jed

But in the end, was it about the importance of friendship?

youtube.com/watch?v=hfUFF3ojrts

Therese

At the end of the day, I don't give a fuck for the storylines, I am just a CGI junkie, and Pixar ponies up the real good shit.

Matt S

Um... SPOILER ALERT next time please?

courtney

i think i would have liked the movie better if i'd set lower expectations (or read this review first).. oh well!

Courtney

Hey Michael! You're hot slut of the week, awesome.

http://www.dlisted.com/node/26855

Hopefully that works.

Hung Longley

I'm so sick of these disney-pixar films about things that talk which shouldn't normally talk (animals, fish, cars, etc) and in this case, things that do talk (robots) but in this case, don't.

Jaime

"Um... SPOILER ALERT next time please?"

Seriously.

good grief

C'mon...does omitting a "spoiler alert" really dash your hopes of figuring a Pixar movie out before it ends?

Brad

Eve could need weapons to defend itself from other robots. And if it were simply looking for any organic lifeform (non-plant) the cockroach would have qualified.

Anyway, I do agree. I'm tired of Pixar making kid films that feel formulaic and simplistic to me. Please make semi-grown up movies that kids can also watch. Thank you.

Jason

I give humanity about six months on that planet before they either die from starvation and disease

The animation running through the end credits suggest otherwise. They pretty much show humanity rebuilding civilization.

Dave

Did you mean the protagonist sacrifices himself to finish the job?

Anyway, I agree that the movie was good, but too optimistic at the end. The bird during the ending credits bothered me. I guess birds will re-evolve from cockroaches?

SF Rob

Watching Wall-E all depends on what type of mood your in. Like if you're Dad just died your gonna' think it's great, but if you've entered the theater still fresh with an erection from the reviews on metacritic than, of course it will not meet your faux-intellectual standards.

Now, my Dad died so... my mind was blown all over my face.

SF Rob

Watching Wall-E all depends on what type of mood your in. Like if you're Dad just died your gonna' think it's great, but if you've entered the theater still fresh with an erection from the reviews on metacritic than, of course it will not meet your faux-intellectual standards.

Now, my Dad died so... my mind was blown all over my face.

SF Rob

Can you review music too? Like Lil Wayne's Da Carter 3?

The Banana King

I don't understand the criticism on this comment board.

Wall*E was like how cartoons used to be made in its golden age. It's pixar's best and belongs up there alongside Aladdin, Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast.

Kung Fu Panda and Beverley Hills Chihuahua, now that's formulated crap cause kids enjoy the quickness in them. Wall*E is more of an art flick.

Will Merydith

I loved Wall-E. The whole time I was watching it I was fascinated by the animation and impressed with the story telling. I fell in love with Pixar all over again last night while seeing Wall-E. The character development between Wall-E and Eve was touching, creative and entertaining. And with nearly zero dialog between them.

Carrie

I could not agree with you more on your review of Wall-E. My husband and I were expecting Cars meets E.T. and what we got was crap. Waste of money- and waste of time. Majority of the people who went to see the movie last weekend were adults and boy were they all disappointed. What the heck? The reviewers must have seen another version because the movie we saw wasn't "all that and a bag of popcorn." Great summary... But I am going to give Pixar another chance when Cars 2 comes out in 3-d. WOO HOO! They should stick to cars... it just works better for them.

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