Adult thoughts while watching WALL-E
The munchkin and I went to go see the matinee of WALL-E yesterday and it was pretty great! Definitely recommended for the whole family. If you haven't seen it, though, you probably don't want to read the rest of this post as I don't want to give any spoilers or take away from the innocent wonder of seeing the movie for the first time.
We good? Okay. The problem is that even though most of the Pixar movies have some sort of cognitive dissonance or generally creepy subtext if you think about them too much (The toys are *watching* us? Where the hell did the people go in Cars? Did they take over?) I think that WALL-E is particularly full of, um, "issues".
First I should say the movie was great - it's a love story at the core and it works really well. EVE seemed to have the personality of a strong, serious woman with a mission (more on this in a bit) and WALL-E may be a love sick moron, he's not generally a fool and is quite a bit mischievous as well.
The lack of dialog was only apparent at one point when I realized an entire theater full of people was dead silent watching the movie and it wasn't during some sort of emotional scene - they were just all intent on watching what was happening. It was akin to seeing a live play, when you step out of the moment for a minute to realize there's a ton of people there, in the dark, silently watching.
Anyways, after seeing the movie and replaying it my head a bit (especially since my son and I were playing the video game afterwards), lots of things occurred to me about the movie that just didn't fit quite right. Here's some thoughts on the movie from an adult point of view, in no specific order.
* When WALL-E is going about his work and he starts to break down a bit (his tread is wearing out) it's quite disturbing how casually he grave-robs a fellow WALL-E unit who has since stopped working for spare parts. It sort of makes you wonder *how* exactly little ol' WALL-E became the last surviving bot in the first place... As resources started to dry up, what sort of ruthless deeds did WALL-E do to keep functioning?
* The choice of Hello Dolly music is insanely odd, but will definitely trigger nostalgia for my parents. I saw it quite a few times when I was a kid, but I haven't seen the whole thing in easily 20 years. I wonder if there's someone in Pixar who actually just loves this movie, or if it was some sort of attempt to create a multi-generational family movie for all? Given the history of Disney, I'll assume the latter.
* In fact, a movie from the Disney Corporation expounding on the evils of consumerism? My mind just can't absorb the self-referential hypocrisy there.
* I don't get the double entendre meant by Buy N Large. There's the phrase "by and large" which means "in general" (more on the history of the phrase here), and I guess if you "keep buying, you will enlarge", but beyond that I don't see the link really. Maybe "buy in large quantities" a la Cosco or something? I just don't see how the joke works because the original meaning doesn't have anything to do with the second in some ironic way...
* I'm not Fred Willard's biggest fan - I think they should have just kept that stuff with him animated, but I guess it goes along with Hello Dolly in linking the past Earth with the dystopian future... Still, I think he's a jackass and not particularly funny.
* Okay, guys at Pixar, we get it. Steve jobs founded your company and Apple and so you like Apple products. We noticed the iPod, and the various Mac sound effects and even how the bad guy of the movie is the voice of MacInTalk. Hahaha. You guys are hip. However, when EVE reboots with the fucking Mac chime it pulled me out of the moment in a bad, cranky way, so could you please cut the shit from now on?
* Oh, yeah... and CALARTS FUCKIN' RULEZ DOOODZ! TOTALLY! A113! ROCK ON! YAH! A113! SO COOL!
About the plot... There's lots of little things which are odd. For example, at one point in the movie, WALL-E pushes EVE out of his little house to the roof when she shuts down waiting for the mother ship to pick her up... but then he does crazy stuff like standing there in a lightning storm with an umbrella over him to protect her. Why didn't he just push her back inside? But that's sort of nit picky stuff. The things that really bug me is what happens when they get on spaceship Axiom. There the whole premise of the movie starts to take a left turn from reality. All the future peoples are floating around like blobs, unable to walk, doing nothing but shopping, consuming everything in cups. There are LOTS AND LOTS of questions here:
* In a closed system like the one on the Axiom, how the hell is there *any* economy at all in which to consume to excess? All the robots do everything, there's no need to work, there didn't appear to be any rich or poor folk, and even the captain was a benevolent dictator of sorts who seemed to have the unquestioned loyalty of his people. What's there to consume and who cares if you do it anyways, as there's plenty to go around?
* The captain is suprised to see a *plant*... What the hell have they been eating all this time? What's in those 7-Eleven Big Gulp cups anyways, Soylent Green?!?
* At one point in the movie a woman and a man touch hands briefly and are genuinely surprised at the physical interaction. Umm... Obviously the must be reproducing completely artificially, which means there's a whole class of robots that we didn't have the, um, pleasure of actually seeing.
* Continuing that thought... I noticed babies and toddlers, and full grown blob-like adults, but no kids and no older people. How does that work exactly? Is it like that movie where they kill everyone older than 30? Where are the 11 year olds?
* The movie's anti-consumerism message is simply "buy too much and you become blobs". It's a bit weird. My kid didn't learn anything from the message as there didn't seem to be any downside to it beyond not really walking much. In fact, to those of us in the theater, who just paid $10 a ticket and another $20 per person for over-sized sodas and popcorn, sitting in our big easy chairs, stuffing our faces and sucking on straws, watching a movie in the middle of a gorgeous summer afternoon? It didn't seem particularly far from normal. Or is that the joke and it's on us? What? We're supposed to be out gardening and tending to the forests instead? Pixar can blow me.
* I do love how Hollywood (and Pixar is included there) just can't seem to keep from collapsing strong role models into gender specific stereotypes in order to create tension in the plot. Near the end of the movie, WALL-E has been damaged and is essentially dying, when he seemingly selflessly gives the plant to EVE so that she can continue her Directive and bring humanity back to Earth. Despite having struggled thus far to complete her life's work and do her duty, she tosses the plant aside carelessly signifying that all she cares about now is WALL-E. (See that little girls? The lesson here is to sacrifice all for your Man. Get it?) But WALL-E in his half-dead state insists, goes over and picks up the plant, and gives it back to EVE, which at first seems like an incredibly selfless sacrifice on his part, but soon you realize he's actually saying, "No you stupid bitch, Earth is where all my replacement parts are - we need to plant to get the ship there to fix me." Ahh... We see a little more of how WALL-E was the last remaining robot and how underneath that hard polished exterior and blasters, EVE is really just like all women are - subservient and unable to think clearly during a crisis. Thanks for clarifying that Pixar!
* At the end of the movie, we see the all the people in the ship wander out into the desolate wasteland of Earth, ready to start again now that the world is, um, slightly less toxic than it was before. The robots (we see during the credits) are there to help, which is good, because I don't know about you, but I'd pretty much starve if I had to farm for myself. Hopefully the ship has some seeds on it to get started... and bees and other bugs to help pollinate the plants... and well, animals, birds, etc. Oh, and sticking a plant into some dry ground and drowning it in water isn't going to produce much in the way of actual food (despite what the captain may think, and also wasn't that plant just floating in sub-zero space?) Also no worries about those frequent dust storms...
* And where the hell are the *other* ships out there? There's like a couple hundred people on the Axiom at best? They better start procreating like crazy if they want to repopulate the world. Well, that and figuring out how to re-evolve all that "bone-loss" they've genetically lost. Also, didn't they seem awfully happy to go from their lives of leisure and happy interaction with their friends (via their holographic view screens) to one of hard labor, disease and suffering. But that's just me.
* One last thought is that they didn't actually get rid of Buy N Large at the end, the purported evil corporation which helped pollute the world by its promotion of excess consumerism. Presumably, it'll just take over where it left off soon enough, so really, the world is still doomed.
Ok, I'll stop there. I'm sure more will pop up as I think about it. The movie was still quite entertaining though, you definitely want to go see it, as it's very fun.