The Scoop: 2008 G, directed by Andrew Stanton and starring Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, and Jeff Garlin
Tagline: After 700 years of doing what he was built for – he’ll discover what he’s meant for.
Summary Capsule: Robots in love. Awww. Plus, humans suck.
Courtney’s rating: Eagerly awaiting the inevitable Wall-E attraction at Disney World.
Courtney’s review: I am not a huge Disney fan. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. I’m that chick whose always talking about how much better the world would be if children’s films didn’t promote stereotypes or provide shallow storylines. A big part of that is the fact that my family is very much Disney-obsessed, and being around all that magical goodness for two decades can really spoil the inner-child until it turns into a rotted, ironic version of itself. I have been desensitized, and therefore could have been perfectly happy living my whole life without ever having watched Pixar’s Wall-E. Perfectly happy, indeed.
But I would not have been a complete human being.
Okay, that sounds super corny. But it’s cool, ‘cause isn’t that what the Disney magic is all about?
Before I actually watched this movie, I thought I’d already figured it out. It was just a cheap attempt to make big bucks by introducing children to a saccharine love story involving an “adorable” character whose vocabulary is restricted to one word. Toss in a few fat-people gags for good measure. In a way, I guess I was correct, but when I actually did watch it, I was taken aback by its depth.
Knowing that most of the movie contained little to no dialogue, my expectation was that I’d be bored to death. Which is kind of why I watched it in the first place; I was flying home after my semester abroad, and I always have trouble sleeping on planes, so I thought a boring kids’ movie would lure me into a ten-hour coma. Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you wish to see it,) Wall-E proved to be far more interesting than I thought – so much so that I watched it a second time during the same flight.
What I thought was most awesome about it – and I absolutely love it when any movie is like this – was that it was incredibly entertaining and an intelligent piece of cinematic art. Because it works on these different levels, I can watch it while babysitting my neighbors’ kids or I can write a good 10-page analysis on it. And lord knows how much I love both of those! (The sad thing there is that I’m not being sarcastic. I actually do love babysitting and writing analytical papers…I usually don’t have a lot going on.)
The thing that’s frustrating right now is that I can’t quite figure out what was good and what was bad about the movie. I’m a little flummoxed – I think Pixar actually managed to balance everything so perfectly that it’s hard to say. I will let you know that anytime the humans were talking (like, using actual verbal language instead of delightful beeps and whirs,) I got bored. From a narrative perspective, it was a necessary sacrifice to take us out of the “silent film” thing. But I did want to fast-forward through all that and just watch Wall-E get himself into more hilarious predicaments with the evil robot.
Oh, and I really liked the OCD robot. He’s my favorite ever.
And because this is an animated movie, I’m going very easy on it for committing a crime I’d normally butcher a “legit” movie for. Like Lissa said, it’s not subtle. Like, at all. But then again, its target audience is about 7 years of age, and when I was that young, I didn’t know a darn thing about subtlety. Mickey, I grant you my forgiveness.
All I’m really trying to say here is that, despite my best efforts to hate on all things Disney-related, this was a genuinely beautiful movie. I even may have shed a tear or two, but it’s not like I’m gonna actually admit to that on the Internet. You have no proof!
And Peter Gabriel is at least 4 shades of awesome.
Lissa’s rating: That meat mallet is really getting a workout.
Lissa’s review: So yeah, there’s this little offshoot of Disney called Pixar, and they make movies. And they have a new one out about a little robot named WALL-E. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Yeah, it’s not cult, but it’s Pixar, and that’s close enough.
In many ways, WALL-E is your typical Pixar fare. Gorgeous animation, tons of pop culture references, some more adult (but not necessarily sexual) humor, and characters that aren’t human but have a ton of humanity. (And a really hysterical short in front of it that is deserving of its own cult – I was doubled over laughing.) And saying it’s a typical Pixar film should tell you a lot about the quality. While I definitely have favorites and non-favorites in the Pixar family, I’ve uniformly liked every movie they’ve put out, and WALL-E is no exception. I almost didn’t bother to review it, because I wasn’t sure I’d have much to say.
But I found some things to ruminate on.
Anyway. WALL-E is a little garbage robot working on Earth, cleaning up an insane amount of garbage. The population of Earth has left on a five year space cruise, leaving the robots to clean up the mess. However, it looks like only WALL-E and a cockroach have managed to survive. WALL-E lives in a box trailer sort of apartment, where he collects odds and ends from humanity and watches Hello, Dolly over and over. Then a little white robot name EVE appears, and WALL-E finds love. In an attempt to prove his devotion, he gives her a plant that he found. EVE instantly shuts down.
All that is sweet and nice and well done and very boring to comment on, because I can’t find much to pick apart. In fact, the scenes where WALL-E cares for EVE after she shuts down are poignant and lovely and will bring a tear to the eye of anyone who’s ever watched a loved one shut down for whatever reason. It’s once the spaceship comes back for EVE that things get interesting.
See, EVE is an External Vegetation Evaluator – a probe droid from the space cruiser Axiom. This is where at least part of humanity has sequestered themselves. And this is when things really get dystopian, because the future that Pixar has envisioned here is cynical, bleak, and… well, really frakking cynical. Sorry to reuse the word, but it just really surprised me. (And oh yeah – spoilers.)
The survivors of humanity have been living in what is supposed to be luxury. As a result, they’re all fat, lazy, and constantly plugged into their little screen things that obviously represent the internet/cell phone phenomenon. They eat constantly, although “eating” has really been replaced by drinking, since ingesting food in liquid form is easier. And reading has pretty much become a lost art form.
I found myself very uncomfortable with this particular representation of humanity. On the one hand, I get it. I get it completely. On the other hand, I’m sitting here on a computer talking about a movie to a bunch of people, most of whom I’ve never met in real life and heck – I don’t even know who all is reading this. And yet, I do it anyway. And I should be downstairs working out sometime today, but I’m not. (However, I probably will take my kids to the park sometime today, and part of the reason I’m not working out is because there is a sort of deadline on this review.) I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t want to see that version of humanity, but I can kind of see where Pixar came to it, and it can hit a little close to home.
But at the same time, I fought against that vision that Pixar was seeing. What, you mean to tell me no one ever thinks or gets off their cruising Barca loungers? How did those babies come about then? Don’t they learn to walk? What did people do when they needed to go to the bathroom? No one ever breaks out of the mold? I don’t know. I was uncomfortable enough with how they saw humanity to question it, and my questions poked too many holes in the story.
The funny thing is that it was binkies that sent me over the edge. Seriously – binkies. There were several shots of the infants aboard the Axiom, and every single one of them was sucking on a binky (or pacifier or dummy or whatever you call them around you). I think that made me very uncomfortable because of the Mommy Wars. See, I’ve mentioned this before, but no matter what issue you’re talking about with child rearing, there are some people who are unconditionally on one side. Binky use isn’t as hot a topic as stay at home moms or breastfeeding, but there are people out there who hate binkies. And, I have to admit, I’ve been one of them. I don’t really like them, and with Ducklet, it was no big deal because he didn’t like them. Then we had Ducklino, and he loves his binky. It’s amazing how you’ll sell out your convictions for a good night’s sleep, let me tell you. But it’s one of those experiences that gave me a kick and reminded me that different things work for different kids, and the binky is not Pure Evil. And it just touched a nerve that it was sort of being treated as such – that binkies exist not to give a child sucking satisfaction, but to shut them the heck up.
I’m not offended by the message, or even that that was how Pixar envisioned humanity in this situation. I’m just extremely surprised by the cynicism, that’s all. I would also say that WALL-E is NOT for small children.
I also was left with some questions that probably come from watching way too much Battlestar Galactica these days. Were there other ships? Like, other ships working in space, other ships taking off from other nations, or the like? Or did everyone not on the Axiom perish? Where were they getting their food from? Where were they getting their water? (Waste disposal was pretty well addressed.) What about fuel? Were the robots really doing that much work? How were those babies being produced – or was it artificial at that point? And after 700 years in such a closed environment, how inbred was the gene pool? Didn’t people get bed sores? Didn’t they wash and whatnot?
However, I don’t think this detracted from the movie. On the contrary, I think it’s a good thing. This is one of the first Pixar movies that I didn’t just enjoy (and I did enjoy it – very much) but made me truly think. That’s pretty special. It’s definitely worth seeing, owning, and parking on your shelf next to An Inconvenient Truth. Just don’t expect anything approaching subtle.
Drew’s rating: 101000001111011000111110111010000101
Drew’s review: …………………………………..
Wal… Wall-E? EVE.
EVE? EVE! !!!!!!! …??? EVE?
Directive. Dir… directive? Wall-E?
Directive, Wall-E, directive, Wall-E….. Wall-E!
Wa-… Wall-E? Wall-Eeeeee?!
*vvvt, tssst, rrrrm, bzzzt*
Wall-E!!!!! Wall-E Wall-E Wall-E!
Justin’s rating: Fine, I admit it. I’m the cause of everything wrong in this world. Including New Coke and Britney Spears.
Justin’s review: A close examination of Pixar’s film legacy will reveal one overwhelming motif: Humans Are Bad. I’m not sure what kind of troubled childhood the Pixar team had, or if they’re longing for the day where they can resequence their DNA to become a dolphin/tractor hybrid in order to escape the pesky remnants of humanity, but we just get whacked over the head, time and time again, about how stupid and gross and mean people are.
You know, like the people who made these films.
Don’t believe me? Toy Story — the little boy was a hateful, toy-destroying monster. Finding Nemo — people imprison sentient fish and torture them to death. Monsters Inc. — people are perceived as poisonous and deadly. And now, now we have Wall-E. Because when I have kids and they grow up watching these Pixar masterpieces™, it’ll be great to ingrain in their heads how truly awful and useless the human race is.
Really, we should just all become robots. Isn’t that what Wall-E is saying? That the robots are the new humanity, the hard workers, the ones capable of love and sacrifice? That we as a human race are doomed to become such a mindless consumerist culture that nobody works, nobody thinks for themselves, and nobody sees past their own needs? I don’t care if you go “Zing! Pixar scores one on our culture!”, that’s actually pretty insulting to me – and to you too, if you spent a minute to think about it. I don’t take any artificial guilt trips from pretend cartoon robots, thank you very much.
Of course, the movie itself is almost pure gold, if you get past this heavy-handed commentary. It’s probably the closest thing most kids – or adults, really – will have experienced to the silent films of yesteryear. Most of Wall-E exists without dialogue, and much is said in the actions, expressions and roles of the robots. How expressive can a robot be? Wall-E, who looks like the mechanical representative of a fussy old man, has teardrop-shaped eyes and nebbish hands that he uses to explore and shape his world. EVE, his iPod love companion, gets a whole computer screen worth of monochrome facial gestures. It might be silly until you watch it, but you genuinely care about the relationship between these two robots and their adventure to the stars and back, and if a filmmaker can make you care, on a deep emotional level, about the characters of a film, that spells success to me.
It’s not quite as funny or wacky as you might expect a Pixar flick to be, but it’s definitely one of my favorites from their studio. Even though I happen to be one of those slothful, mindless drones they tend to hate.
Intermission! [some sources: IMDb]
- The teaser trailer contains part of Michael Kamen’s score for Brazil. Michael Kamen was going to score another Pixar film, The Incredibles, but died before he could.
- First instance of a Pixar feature-length film using live-action.
- The film contains numerous references to Apple computers: when WALL-E is fully charged by the sun, he makes the same “boot up” sound that Apple computers have made since the earliest Macintosh system, WALL-E watches his favorite movie every night on the screen of an iPod, the villainous Autopilot’s voice is provided by Apple’s text-to-speech system, MacinTalk, EVE’s sleek design as an evolution of WALL-E’s parallels the sleek iMac design having evolved from the boxy, beige Apple IIe. Steve Jobs, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Apple Computer, was CEO of Pixar until its acquisition by Disney in 2005, and as a shareholder and member of the Disney Board of Directors is still actively involved with the company.
- WALL-E’s boot up sound?
- Peter Gabriel is awesome.
- So is MOP.
- John Ratzenberger is back again! (He’s been Hamm in the Toy Story movies, P.T. Flea in A Bug’s Life, The Abominable Snowman in Monsters, Inc., the fish that give directions in Finding Nemo, the Underminer in The Incredibles, Mack in Cars, Mustafa in Ratatouille, and John in WALL-E. Hasn’t missed a one.
- Very little real dialogue, but boy, can beeps be expressive.
- Don’t cut off robots – they will swear at you.
- Buy n Large. No, it’s not Wal-Mart.
- I kept thinking BNL stood for Barenaked Ladies.
- VHS tape really stands up well to 800 years of neglect.
- HOW many layers were on that burger?
- Okay, I’ll swear in a court of law that everyone in the movie called the girl robot “EVA,” but apparently it’s actually “EVE.” Weird.
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? During the beginning of the credits, the animation shows the colonists reclaiming Earth. It’s pretty cool, as they go through the various major art styles of the ages. Once that’s done though, there’s nothing. At the very, very end the BNL logo is shown, but that’s not worth sitting all the way through.
MOP: Foreign Contaminant.
Captain: I don’t want to survive. I want to live.
Ship’s Computer: Voice confirmation required.
Ship’s Computer: Voice confirmation accepted.
Teacher Robot: A is for Axiom, your home sweet home. B is for Buy N Large, your very best friend.
Voice in commercial: Too much garbage in your face? There’s plenty of space out in space! BnL StarLiners leaving each day. We’ll clean up the mess while you’re away.
Captain: AUTO! Earth is amazing! These are called “farms”. Humans who put seeds in the ground pour water on them, and they grow food – like, pizza!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- City Lights
- Finding Nemo
- Monsters Inc.