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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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Jo

I saw Wall-E for my birthday, and I liked it alot. Enough to want to buy it on DVD as soon as it comes out.
a: You're got to respect Pixar's animation quality. While my friends were clamoring over Madagascar 2 and that idiotic Chiuaua movie, I sat in awe of the opening credits' rendition of space. When's the last time animation gave you the chills? Ratatoullie's Paris-at-Night view, that's when. Pixar's animators do good work.
b: Okay, so the story is a little "cheesy" and little kidish. But Pixar doesn't make trash like talking Mexican Chiuauas. They create a story with deep characters that can be apreciated on a level. It does send a message to today's youth, if they can grasp it, that they have to take care of the planet and themselves; A message everyone in today's society can take to heart (however clogged their ateries are). Unfortunately, one of my friends could only understand to recycle from the movie; The same one crazy-excited to see singing reincarnated Mexican/Mayan chiuauas. So it's the "Happy Feet" message of the Pixar movies.

If you don't want a deep peice of cinema with amazing production value, save your dollars for Space Monkeys or whatever that is.

Benjh

Well the smartness of this board just blows my mind!!!
Sure, bring your kids see Chihuahua and Kung-fu panda, and maybe one day they'll graduate and see Rush Hour 12. Bur show them wall-e, and maybe they'll understand that movies are about art.

Wall-E is an artsy movie, and yes, all the kids in the audience, the two times I saw it this week, were restless. But trust me, they'll get something out of it.

Pixar has created an incredible masterpiece - with very few weekness in the plot - but most of all an emotional movie, and very, very smart cinema.

To Taylor: Seriously, Pixar, money train? Well I'm so sorry a studio finally has the brain to create movies that are both brilliant and commercial. Next time wait for Van Gogh to do animation, maybe you'll be able to enjoy it knowing a genius is starving to death.

Yawn

Michael Ian Black is a whiny bitch, and everyone who has commented negatively about Wall-E are unimaginative, sociologically stunted morons who couldn't see such powerful symbolism if it slapped you upside the head with a dead fish.

Suzanne

"When did children start clamoring for movies about dystopia?"

That is pretty much what I said to my husband leaving the theatre. I even used the word "dystopia." He thought I was being silly and that it was a great movie... until our 4-year-old said "I want to be a fat person on a space chair!" Yeah, the message was lost on her, too.

Stevo

My Thoughts on Michael Ian Black's Thoughts on Wall-E

+The paragraphs with the addition sign at the beginning of them are my words. Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of your work Michael, I love it. I am truly a fan. That said, I respect you and your opinions as well but this latest bashing of 'Wall-E' doesn't seem justified and I wanted to share my reasons why. I completely respect your opinion and this is not written to get start flame wars or anything like that - just some friendly discourse.

MIB: 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.

+ It does, somewhat. It's not solely about the nature of humanity but more the
power of love and the accompanying sense of responsibility. It's when this responsibility is neglected that we get glimpses of humanity's nature. The consequences of irresponsibility support the main theme which is love. To go into a movie
starring robots looking for insights into humanity is as far from
logical as you can get in this instance. That isn't to say that humanity does not play a part in this tale, however. That Wall-E surmounts such
improbable expectations and manages to display human emotion more believably than most of the film characters I've seen recently who actually are human is a testament to how well Wall-E was made. One of the most emotional and 'human' performances we see this summer is from an animated robot, go figure.

MIB: 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?

+I'm sorry but not every children's movie has to be a shiny happy
bubble of joy that makes no effort to inform or instruct. There's a
moral to the story - most stories have them. Humanity had lost
responsibility and control. The issue with humans becoming
convenience-greedy and losing part of themselves is something you see
every day. People complain when an e-mail doesn't get through to their
friend when really, they should be thankful technology has advanced to
where it has - "back in the day" you had to ship mail. It's a valuable
lesson in gratitude and not taking things for granted. Sure, things look bleak, but this is only because instead of simply telling you to be responsible, Wall-E shows you the result of being irresponsible. Maybe preconceptions distracted you somewhat but it's hard for me to understand why you didn't see the values this movie championed - and that they did so without shoving them down our throats is admirable.

MIB: 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.

+Wow ... a confused message? Or maybe, just MAYBE, there's change
over time. Holy shit. Think about that for a second. WHAT IF - WHAT IF
the humans who were responsible for the Earth getting polluted WEREN'T
the EXACT SAME humans on the ship seven hundred years in the future.
Can you understand that? Seven hundred years have passed. We can
safely assume these are different people. Okay, well, now these
people, saved from their reckless indulgence of convenience and given
new freedom, taught valuable lessons about what it means to be human
as a result of the actions of a ROBOT, have decided that they want to
take responsibility. They don't know what they'll do to clean up the
planet, but they are no longer content with just pretending the
problem doesn't exist. The whole movie in respect to the environmental
disaster aspect can be seen as a metaphor for present day America wherein the people
driving the gas guzzling hummers might see the error of their ways and
start working to help protect the environment. It's not so far fetched
to think people can change - especially over 700 years. And it doesn't
say if they successfully clean it up, for all we know they could be
dead. But at least they tried, that's the point. And I think you
completely missed it. Also, I have to wonder if you're the type to think rehabilitation is impossible. Andy Dick aside, some people do change. Should anyone who committed a crime be condemned to prison for eternity because they're just going to do it again?

MIB: 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.

+Every species in existence has its own form of self defense. It's
called natural selection, survival of the fittest, all of this. So why
wouldn't robots as well? What if there is a hostile rogue robot
somewhere - or an alien? Whatever the case may be it doesn't make
sense not to equip Eve with some sort of self protection. Also -
considering her delicate and most rare/important cargo, she should be
able to defend herself should someone want her treasured 'proof of
life' as well. And another point - expect the unexpected. If Boy Scouts are taught to 'always be prepared' for what they might encounter in the world I can only wonder what gets programmed into robots that travel across the galaxy. As for the love stuff - they fall in love because Wall E is lonely and looking
for love, then Eve appears, and he likes her. Sometimes that's how it
happens. You
might just luck out and find someone who is perfect for you. Wall E
did. She fell for him eventually after seeing what a nice, charming
young robot he is. I often wonder - if nay-sayers shifted some of their effort toward trying (forcing themselves, if necessary) to find counterarguments to the "flaws" they point out, would they even be saying nay in the first place? Because this argument in particular (robotic self defense) seems to be pretty self-evident to the point where I have to wonder how much consideration went into the subject.

MIB: 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.

+Most movies follow a three-act structure but I don't hear you bitching about that. Formulas happen, and if they yield good
results, all the better. I certainly didn't mind as it worked well
within the context of the story/characters/setting.

MIB: 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?

+They didn't clean up the planet in the first place; to avoid guilt,
responsibility, etc. All of this is made up for later when the captain
decides he's done running, it's time to pay the piper and accept the
challenges that lay ahead. And to answer the question of Why Fred, simply because Fred Willard should be in every movie.

MIB: 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.

+Wall-E was fantastic, and I have yet to see any
"flaws" that exist within the context of the film. It's the only other
movie this year I could even consider close to The Dark Knight in
terms of quality. It was absolutely amazing and its critical response
reflects that. For those who have qualms with it, I don't know what to
say, but they seem to have missed the point, or maybe they weren't
watching as closely as they thought. I have yet to hear any legitimate claims
against the film - and I mean legitimate in that it can't be rebuked (almost instantly) with common sense or critical observation. I can't imagine
what anyone could complain about, if this were Little Mermaid nobody
would be going into such detail to attack it but I guess that just
shows how amazing Wall E is. Can anyone attack it without
resorting to nitpicking things that don't even really affect the
story? So far, no. It's a solid film.

SilentJ

I think many of the posters here forgot that MIB says right at the top to go see the movie. That's a good review.

It was indeed a good movie. Sure there are at least a dozen inconsistencies with reality, logic, and the movie itself, but people who complain about these things need to go watch Mystery Science Theatre some more.

It's just a show. It's just a story. Sure it has some moral messages that we've heard before and if you got the message, well good for you. So did Grimm's Fairy Tales and Aesop's Fables. If you don't think the message applies to you, then don't worry about it. If you don't think the fantasy world is totally self-consistent or logical, don't worry about it. It's just a story.

All of the great stories have been told. The story in WALL*E is as old as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah or the Great Flood. The whole world gets destroyed except for a few people who survive by some unlikely means and live on to repopulate the Earth.

So if you didn't like WALL*E, I think the problem is *you*. It was a fun movie. As another reviewer mentioned, I liked the expressiveness in the bots with very little dialogue. My two-year-old daughter has seen it about 20 times in the past week, because she likes the "momma" (Eve), and just got finished with another round of "watch robot?" My wife and I got big kicks out of the MANY gags related to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So tell yourself, it's just a show. I should really just relax!

Michael is spot-on in his review. You should see it and enjoy it. It's a fun film. However, you aren't going to be blown away with some grand insights into the nature of the universe or man's relationship to himself. Nor should you expect that from *any* movie. It's just a *movie*. Eat your popcorn and hush.

WALL·E SoundTrack

Well i have not yet seen the movie but I think this post sheds some real light on how we interact with the plot of not only that movie but others. I heard a secular commentator say that he "remembers when he went to church to be preached at and the movies for entertainment.

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Types of Cancer

So can Eva find any evidence that earth can be inhabited again? How did it get this way in the first place? Can Wall-E and Eva bring humans back to earth and help them take care of their planet this time? I hope you'll watch the movie and find out. It is a wonderful adventure fill with love and good lesson for everyone.

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