Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Wall-E": Depressingly loaded with People-Bashing

It's not very often that I go to movies, as my criteria are so narrow (no violence, suspense or slapstick)--but attending an advance screening of "Wall-E" with my son and daughter seemed to offer a pleasant evening out with Rated G entertainment.

I'd loved Pixar's "Toy Story," "Cars," "Bug's Life," and "Finding Nemo" (though there was some uncomfortable suspense in that one), so I expected not just great effects but some upbeat music and a sweet ending. I don't think
it's a spoiler to say that while most would consider the finale of Wall-E puckeringly sweet, I found it manipulative and unsatisfying. In fact, I found the whole film disappointing. I may be the only reviewer in the United States with that opinion.

I just finished reading the almost poetic praise of the film in the New York Times: "The technical resourcefulness that allows 'Wall-E' to leap effortlessly from the derelict Earth to the pristine atmosphere of the space station is matched by the rigorous integrity the film-makers bring to the characters and the themes." Gag me with a...tower of garbage? Toxic dust-storm? Rusty artifact?

How do you say "We are slothful despoilers of the universe, overcome with our selfish greed and laziness?" Here's how: Take a ruined, gray planet piled high, thanks to an eeeevil corporation, with mountains of rusty tin cans and garbage; plant a cute but lonely (thanks to an old "Hello Dolly" video) ET-guy to clean it up; bring in an advanced ovum-shaped alien searching for life, and in the midst of some irrelevant, bovine, devolved humanoids, have them save the day and at the same time fall in love.

OK, THAT might have had a spoiler or two.

The New York Times, in its barf-able fawning, says the cartoon people (not even slightly as detailed and artistically rendered as the shrouded planet or robots) are US. Grown so fat and lazy our skeletons have shrunk even as we sip supersized milkshakes with extra-long straws handed to us by deferent servants.

If space-station residents in the year 2700 are us, then Andrew Stanton (writer and director), sees the destruction of our humanity: the google-brained people lack all creativity, competition, craving for the transcendent, or connection to family.
We are reduced not to mirrors of a movie audience (sunken into our comfy chairs equipped with soda holders) but creatures whose lack of initiative, complacency and carpe diem mentality are clearly inferior to the mechanical beings who wistfully yearn for love and collect souvenirs of a once thriving culture (complete with Rubik's cube).

And let's not forget that it was a corporation--named "Buy 'n Large" of course, in a stab at WalMart and perhaps even Costco--that herded humanity toward its willing demise.

The movie is riddled with logical lapses.
Buy n' Large, after corralling the almost-all-racially white population of the entire world onto its space station, leaves only a few machines, clearly produced waaaaay before the capability to MAKE a space station, to box up all the detritus of an entire planet. With obviously uncharacteristic ingenuity, Wall-E is able to thwart his obsolescence to keep chugging along for 700 years.

Now, the corporation supposedly was not going to make good on its original pledge to return humanity to Earth after the place was habitable....and yet, inexplicably, a wildly futuristic probe containing the gendered EVE-A (subtle reference--get it?) arrives to look for growing life, prerequisite to man's re-population. Somehow, with her eerie magenta search-flashes, EVE manages to miss Wall-E's cockroach sidekick--HE doesn't count as life, but a withered seedling that somehow had germinated in darkness, DOES. The seedling manages to remain green t
hroughout lots of mishandling and a supersonic voyage; the cockroach, Wall-E's only friend, remains unacknowledged.

Enough. The film's a disappointment. Great effects, but to a depressing message. Yes, Eva and Wall-E fall in love, but for non-reproducing, un-marriageable robots, that's hardly a happy ending--when the rest of us remain such shlubs.


  1. Lileks waxes poetically about the film. He answers your concern in the final paragraph or two.

    To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton, 'what you are asking of us General Northern Light, is a willing suspension of our disbelief.' I will go into it with eyes wide open with thanks to you.