Ron likes the cute robot but isn't so sure about the environmental credentials of Pixar's latest blockbuster...
BE WARNED – POSSIBLE SPOILERS…
WALL-E, like most of Pixar’s fare, is a movie with a message. Well, actually, the movie has several messages, and it relentlessly beats the viewer’s skull in with the blunt hammer of poorly-done social criticism and lazy writing until even the average house plant can understand what the writers are trying to convey. Since the movie is about a trash-cleaning robot on an abandoned, polluted Earth, obviously one of the messages is that we need to start recycling and stop polluting. I got that part from the trailers; as that message was pounded into me again and again, I was compelled with the urge to throw trash out of my windows on the drive home. May as well keep the robots busy, after all.
Disney is nothing but hypocritical for telling me I need to recycle more and stop using so much energy while using more energy in one day than I could use in my entire life. Even if I tried, I couldn’t use as much electricity as Disney does. I know Westerners create a lot of garbage, but how much garbage does Disney create? How much garbage will be created by cheap plastic WALL-E toys and tie-ins that are destined to get thrown away once the cheap Chinese plastic they’re made of breaks? Hell, how much electricity was used to run the server farms and design computers needed to put WALL-E together?
Do you know what else WALL-E says is evil? Wal-Mart, Tesco, and all the big-box retailers (that just so happen to sell all the Disney/Pixar branded toys, games, DVDs, VHS tapes, plush toys, coloring books, and enema kits). The company that creates all the trash is a generic Big Box company called Buy’n’Large, helmed by CEO Shelby Forthright (Fred Willard, in the first live-action scenes ever included in a Pixar movie). Their gigantic, wasteful stores, with dozens of gas pumps, only encourage the smog that chokes the air in WALL-E’s future. Their encouragement of consumerism creates the walls of trash that clutter the planet. Sure, they also made the space ships that allowed humanity to survive, and they created the WALL-E robots that are cleaning up the earth, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still evil! They create junk food and they turn people into sheeple! They’re sucking up all the planet’s resources and selling it back to you at low low prices!
Oh, I forgot, people are also evil. Specifically, big fat lazy people who suck down junk food, fly around on hover couches all day, and spend all their time on future versions of cell phones (even if their equally fat friend is hovering beside them). That’s right, lardass, Pixar wants you to put down your box of Finding Nemo Swedish fish and your Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and get some exercise! Stop staring at video screens all damn day and take a look at the world around you!
Are you getting the point yet? That you should actually look at things when you’re not watching your 1800 Disney/Pixar DVDs? That you should be active outside of the cubicle and get off the couch once in awhile so you don’t become a slave to helpful future robots? If you’re not, WALL-E will gladly keep ramming the point home until it knifes through the 18 layers of blubber growing on your ponderous torso and impales your cholesterol-encrusted heart with the barb of life-changing awakenings.
If you can get past the middle portion of the film, which goes well out of its way to cram its messages into your popcorn cavern, the movie itself is actually very sweet.
The first third of the film, which showcases the incredibly lonely WALL-E’s (voiced by Ben Burtt, who does most of the robots in the movie) daily routine of gathering trash into his belly, compacting it into squares, and stacking the squares into skyscrapers, is gorgeous to look upon. The ruined earth is picture perfect, and the dingy but expressive little robot is the sort of character who audiences will instantly fall in love with. He passes the time collecting interesting bits of junk, watching the old musical Hello Dolly!, and hanging out with a cockroach. It’s nearly completely silent, with no actual dialogue. The only communication is robot noises and, of course, WALL-E’s classically expressive Disney bug-eyes.
He’s the last of his kind, a fleet of robots sent to clean up the earth after humanity has messed it all up with our consumer waste and SUVs. Humanity has abandoned the Blue Marble, and it’s up to WALL-E to clean up after us while collecting a mishmash of 80’s technology to play with in his down time (possibly an homage to WALL-E’s resemblance to Johnny Five from Short Circuit). Day in and day out, he picks up his cooler, rolls off to the trash piles, and rolls home again, with no company save our long-discarded media and his indestructible roach buddy.
That is, of course, until the sleek and (I guess) robo-sexy EVE (Elissa Knight) shows up in a blast of fire and the spectacular landing of a rocket. EVE is on a mission, sent down from the spaceship habitat Axiom. She’s searching earth for any sign of plant life. WALL-E is searching for a friend (or possibly girlfriend, hubba hubba). Sparks fly, but it takes awhile for the courtship to actually work. However, things go sour when EVE finds what she’s looking for and gets recalled back to the Axiom. WALL-E, in true romantic comedy fashion, refuses to let a little thing like space stop him, and journeys to the Axiom to follow his beloved EVE.
The sweetest (and best) parts of the film were all centered on WALL-E and EVE. WALL-E’s cuddliness always comes through, no matter who he’s interacting with. He wins over two of the tubby citizens of the Axiom, John (John Ratzenberger) and Mary (Kathy Najimy), who change their slovenly ways thanks to the power of WALL-E. He changes the robots he comes in contact with, from MO the cleaning robot to even the giant compactor robots in the ship’s garbage chutes. He even wins the heart of the ship’s Captain (Jeff Garlin), and eventually awakens the entire human portion of the ship while battling the evil autopilot Otto, voiced by the MacinTalk program (one of a TON of Apple references in the movie) and inspired by HAL 9000.
Can you tell Pixar shares a corporate father with Apple yet? Director/Writer Adam Stanton may as well have had Steve Jobs show up and lecture me about how he saved the earth from Microsoft and Wal-Mart.
WALL-E is one special robot. Not only did he manage to change the entire world, he also made me forget how distasteful and cloying the middle section of the film was after the gorgeous, emotionally poignant beginning. It had lots of Chaplinesque slapstick, some sweetly funny moments between WALL-E and EVE, and a garbage dumpster full of cuteness to spare, but that’s not enough for me to rate the film as stellar. If Stanton had kept the love story center-stage, or made the preachy middle a little less ham-fisted, then we’d have a different ending to this review.
Wal-Mart is bad! Pollution is bad! Consumerism is bad! But Ron Hogan is good! Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
The Screen Robots Ready ReckonerCheck out WALL-E’s predecessors in arguably the most exhaustive rundown of screen robots on the web.
This review was posted for many hours in an incomplete form. We’re not sure what happened, but our apologies to Ron for giving the mistaken impression that he’d made incomplete commentary on WALL-E – Den Of Geek