WALL-E (2008)

Rated: G
Length: 97 minutes
Grade: B-AFB=D
Budget: $180 million
Box Office: $601 million (224 U.S., 265 Intl., 112 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo and A Bug’s Life, wrote Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 1+2) and Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 1+2)
Starring: The voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Sigourney Weaver, and Fred Willad

When a megacorporation takes over the world and pollution piles high, the humans must flee for a few hundred years in a space cruise ship. While they’re gone, machines attempt to clean up the planet, but only one of them is still operating. When a probe shows that Earth may have become inhabitable again, this lone WALL-E unit hitches a ride back to the mother ship.

Entertainment Value: B-
The good news is that the animation is, as you expect from Pixar, outstanding. The characters are fairly interesting, and funny. I’m extremely impressed they could make a full length movie with so little dialogue (a skill that shows up in the animated shorts in the extra features on the DVDs—by the way Presto on this one is BRILLIANT!) But the problem here is that the plot is just weird and nonsensical, in addition to seeming very political and pushy. Also, I had conceptual objections here as well, like if WALL-E has been operating all these centuries, how is this the first time he’s seen a probe ship and an EVE? Also, why on Earth (yes, it’s a joke) would EVE have this massive ray blaster, and what is she doing blasting everything with it if her whole point is to find life?

Superficial Content: A
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A-, Language A, Illegal Activity A
A robot uses a blaster gun to destroy things, but no one ever actually gets hurt by it. There is some mild peril.

Significant Content: F
Now this is an interesting one, because the movie’s intended overall message is different from the one you would draw merely from the plot facts themselves. What the movie primarily says is that Wall-Mart is evil (represented by Big and Large, which owns everything in the new Republic of B’n’L), humans are being turned into gluttonous slobs by technology (you gotta give them that one), and that we are turning this beautiful planet into a massive trash heap. But the funny thing is that in the end, the planet recovers in spite of it all, and if it hadn’t been for the one big company, there wouldn’t have been any Axiom ship to save humanity. But I give it an F for the impression rather than the logical meaning. One strong theme I like here is that happiness comes from fulfilling your directive.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Here’s part of the problem here. I don’t think most young kids will understand enough of this movie to really know why things are happening. I had to explain several parts to Spencer, and even so I don’t think he really followed all that was going on. Oh, don’t get me wrong. He loved it and didn’t realize he wasn’t getting it, but so much of the plot elements are really geared to older kids or adults and are specifically not explained in this virtually dialogue-free and totally narration-free movie.

Discussion Questions:
~What techniques are used in this movie to get you to think of WALL-E as a person rather than as a machine? Consider things like fear, friendship, compassion, collecting, holding hands, crying.
WALL-E seems so desperate for love that he will even continue pursuing it when it’s unrequited. Why?
~How is the Axiom ship like an average suburban house today?
~The captain talks about the difference between living and merely surviving. What does he mean?
~Is it likely for technology to ever take over from us? Why is this such a powerful theme in science fiction and movies? Can you brainstorm a list of all the movies built around this theme?
~What is the difference between the messages this movie makes you feel and the messages the movies plot facts support? Why is it important to know the difference between emotional impact and logical impact? Which is more powerful in movies?
~Do you believe this movie is targeting Wal-Mart or not? Is it hypocritical of Pixar to make such a movie after having allowed themselves to be acquired by Disney?
~How worried do you think we need to be about the problems of over-consumption and trash disposal?
~Would it be fair to say that WALL-E loves EVE? What about EVE to WALL-E? How does sacrifice prove love?
Overall Grade: D
Very disappointing. Definitely intended for adults and not children. I’ve seen Al Gore’s movie, and I love Wal-Mart. My dad said it best, “Gosh, if only they had thought to include an overt political message, that would have been good.” Still, the robots sure are cute. And the extra shorts are brilliant, especially Presto!

1 comment:

Naum said...

…not just the best animated film of the year, but the best film for the broadest audience. It’s a movie about the future with a sense of place comparable to Blade Runner and Lawrence of Arabia, and a moral vision of the present that deserves to be shouted from the rooftops: We are the makers of our own destiny, and time is running out to ensure that there is a planet for us to have a destiny on.