Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

WALL-E, 2008

with 2 comments

Nothing I’m going to write is going to make a bit of difference, you’re either going to see it or not.

Nevertheless, while I felt a bit conflicted, I adored it. It keeps up this week’s unintentional “charming” theme — Wall-E and Eve are two of the most charming characters I’ve seen in a movie in a long, long time.

Everything with Wall-E and/or Eve is great stuff, especially the two of them together. Any scene that deals directly with the love story is on par with the best work Pixar has ever done.

I also liked the fact that Wall-E prevailed not because he was strong or smart, but because he was nice. Everybody who meets Wall-E, throughout the movie, either likes him right away, or comes to do so very quickly, because Wall-E is sweet and kind. And his sweetness and kindness, along with persistence, no little courage, and perserverence, are what let him save the day. Considering his characterization is done without dialogue except his name, the word “directive”, and virtually no other words, it’s amazing work.

However.

Yes, there is a “message”. Some part of that message was unavoidable given the nature of the story Pixar set out to make. Director Andrew Stanton has said that having the Earth be abandoned because of trash overload was not a message, but a reverse-story-engineering from the core concept — which was a love story about the loneliest robot in the world. Trash was visual, and let the story be told in the most elegant way possible. I believe that, too.

Then there are the humans, who show up in the second act. It’s hard not to take them as symbolic of Americans today, or at least the filmmakers’ view of same. They are essentially adult babies, catered to by robots run by the Buy ‘N’ Large Corporation. They’re large, grossly obese, incapable of walking on their own (everyone gets around via hover-chairs), and mostly useless. The way they are pacified in a totally artificial environment and have their lives run for them is likely a comment on America at large ((Sorry, pun intended. )), but also comes across specifically as criticism of Disney itself.

I’m of two minds about this aspect of the movie.

Yes, I’m an objectivist, I think Ayn Rand was largely right about most things. Still, there is much about the way some corporations do things, usually the really big ones, that bothers me. Particularly when they get “helpful”. I could point to Google and Yahoo and their pathetic caving to the Chinese government, turning over information that has led individuals to disappear for the crime of expressing the wrong thoughts — in private emails. I could point to an ice cream parlor that had a birthday club, which gave children a free ice cream cone on their birthday if they registered their names and birth dates, and then turned around and gave the lists to the Selective Service, so that they could hunt down draft-eligible young men. Hell, all I have to do is point to Dilbert, which exemplifies so many ways internal corporate culture can become hideous for the people working in it.

So, in some sense, when I see a movie in which a single corporation took over the world, seemingly, including the government, and ran it right into the ground so badly that humanity was forced to evacuate… well, okay, it’s not 100% invalid.

On the other hand, holy crap am I tired of business being the bad guy. I’ve been freaking tired of it since the 80s. It’s old, old, old. Been there, done that, got eighty-seven tee shirts, puh-LEEZE come up with something different!

As for the portrayal of ordinary people as inattentive slobs, again… there’s a point there. I lived in a foreign country for three years, and it’s just kind of amazing how many disgustingly obese people there are walking around, compared to anywhere else. You can’t really appreciate it without having been removed from it for a time. As to the inattentive part, well, come on, look at the nominees for President. Do I really need to say more?

So I’m not really offended by the point being made, per se. I am offended that that’s all there is. The people portrayed aren’t evil, and at least one becomes heroic (in humorous fashion). But they seem to be an indictment of the culture at large, and there’s a lot more to us than that.

Those ambivalences aside, I kind of loved it. I totally loved Wall-E, and even more so Eve. Everything else was secondary to those two love-bots.

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Written by [IMH]

2 July 2008 at 3:41 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Wall-E totally looks like the robot from “Short Circuit”… minus the cheesy 80’s style of course

    patrick

    10 July 2008 at 9:21 pm

  2. Not totally, but he does have the binocular-style head and tracks for feet, which gives a strong impression of him being cousin to Johnny Five. He’s much sweeter, with no saccharine, and no cheese to be found either.

    Ian Michael Hamet

    11 July 2008 at 8:00 am


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