WALL-E (2008)
June 17, 2020 2:23 PM - Subscribe

In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Roger Ebert: Pixar’s “WALL-E” succeeds at being three things at once: an enthralling animated film, a visual wonderment and a decent science-fiction story. After “Kung Fu Panda,” I thought I had just about exhausted my emergency supply of childlike credulity, but here is a film, like “Finding Nemo,” that you can enjoy even if you’ve grown up. That it works largely without spoken dialogue is all the more astonishing; it can easily cross language barriers, which is all the better, considering that it tells a planetary story.

NPR: The first hour of Wall-E is a crazily inventive, deliriously engaging and almost wordless silent comedy of the sort that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton used to make. Things turn more conventional in the last half hour, when pudgy, machine-dependent humans make an appearance, but the glow of that first part will carry you through.

That and the majesty of the filmmaking: Wall-E's world, in all its epic decay, looks real. You can almost taste the dust. And it's emotionally real too — enough so that a cautionary tale about the environment, and about big corporations that don't take care of it, and about getting so caught up in our gadgetry that we forget to look at the stars all take a back seat to romance.

NYTimes: Wall-E’s tender regard for the material artifacts of a lost civilization is understandable. After all, he too is a product of human ingenuity. And the genius of “Wall-E,” which was directed by the Pixar mainstay Andrew Stanton, who wrote the screenplay with Jim Reardon, lies in its notion that creativity and self-destruction are sides of the same coin. The human species was driven off its home planet — Wall-E eventually learns that we did not die out — by an economy consecrated to the manufacture and consumption of ever more stuff. But some of that stuff turned out to be useful, interesting, and precious. And some of it may even possess something like a soul.

Next City: The portrayal of humans is unflattering, a representation that is Carlin-esque in its extremity and absurdity. Each individual sits in his or her own hovering recliner with a holographic screen directly in front of him or her. Without so much as lifting an arm or turning a head, the resident-passengers of the Axiom can interact, feed and entertain themselves, all from the comfort of this physical arrangement, with a wide spectrum of artificial intelligence acting as its prime facilitators. Ironically, in this ultimate stage of convenience, the level of ease with which these displaced Earthlings live makes them fully dependent on the robots and computers that have been constructed to serve them.

Beneath this façade of a comically obese and infantile human race is a drastic reordering of the social structure in which we currently live. It is the exaggerated extension of our current consumer-driven lifestyle whereby convenience and complacency have supplanted personal liberty. The residents of the Axiom are happily unaware of this arrangement, waking up only when their robotic servants attempt to prevent them from returning to Earth.

NYMag: At heart, Wall-E spins a rather conventional and even conservative — although you’d never know it in this topsy-turvy political world — parable. But the film never feels like blockbuster business as usual. Like in Finding Nemo (only more so), the sense of loss is too pervasive. Something precious is alive, but hanging by a thread, a twig, a microscopic filament. And Pixar — this ridiculously rich, state-of-the-art computer colossus — is using all its resources to show us what we’re losing.


Streaming on Disney+

Wall-E gave us a future where we chose a corporation over people

Now is the time to revisit Wall-E, perhaps the finest environmental film of the past decade

The Environmentalism of Wall-E

A list of ways our society is already like Pixar’s dystopia in WALL·E

WALL-E turns 10: Andrew Stanton explains the film's Hello, Dolly connection

The new Pixar movie goes out of its way to equate obesity with environmental collapse.

I Think About This a Lot: The ‘Happy’ Ending of Wall-E

Your guide to the WALL-E controversy

Wall-E: Pixar’s Lasting Tribute to the Power of Art
posted by MoonOrb (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I read somewhere, probably here on MetaFilter, that Eva was obviously an analog for the dove in the tale of Noah's Ark, and it's been impossible to unsee.
posted by LionIndex at 4:51 PM on June 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I love this movie so much.

Something precious is alive, but hanging by a thread, a twig, a microscopic filament.
This is probably just going to get more and more poignant until it stops being poignant because we're all dead.

I think my favorite thing about WALL-E is the credits montage where they show civilization slowly rebuilding itself via historical art styles. I was totally blown away by how beautiful it was in the theater and it made me wish I could be a part of that kind of project so badly. I still haven't figured out how exactly to do that.
posted by bleep at 5:51 PM on June 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

Also the article about the Hello Dolly connection had this wonderful tidbit:
After WALL-E debuted, Michael Crawford, the original Cornelius from the 1969 film (who can be seen in the footage in WALL-E), called up Stanton to ask him out to dinner. There, he told a story that blew the director away.

“[Crawford] said when he had to punch the very beginning of the song with the orchestra and say the phrase ‘out there,’ he was never getting it right, and finally [director] Gene Kelly had to come out of the booth and come over to him,” Stanton explains. “[Kelly] said, ‘Kid, you gotta sing this like it means more than the world. This is bigger than the universe, just think of the stars.’ And the take that they used was the one where he was thinking of the stars when he sang ‘out there.’ So when he saw the opening of WALL-E and it was just this field of stars, it just blew his mind.”

It's funny cause when you watch the movie it all feels so seamless, like that whole other movie was made just for this reason.
posted by bleep at 5:58 PM on June 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

Reading the WALL-E controversy article just made me sad. Fortunately, Peter Gabriel’s “Down to Earth” cheered me right the heck back up.
posted by drivingmenuts at 6:24 PM on June 17, 2020

I read somewhere, probably here on MetaFilter, that Eva was obviously an analog for the dove in the tale of Noah's Ark, and it's been impossible to unsee.

Sure, I guess. They kind of hit you over the head with Eve (Eva?), being named Eve, after all, shaped like an egg, carrying life within...

Heh. I'd always wondered how the integration of Hello Dolly came about. Was it just an inspired choice? Was someone paid off? It works so well, but seems so arbitrary it just had me a little puzzled. It hit a soft spot with me and my kids when I took them to see it because I'd already introduced them to Hello Dolly, and they were quite familiar with the song and dance routines.

I really like WALL-E, probably best of all Pixar work. Mostly because it an honest to goodness science fiction story that isn't dumbed down for kids (or adults for that matter), the remarkable animation suits a devastated lifeless Earth quite well. Humanity is clearly second fiddle in this story, none has the depth of character as WALL-E or Eve. It get a bit bogged down with the uninteresting, cartoon-y humans, and the unconvincing conflict over returning to Earth. But the movie's strengths more than compensate.

I think I'd said it before of MF, but I'd kind of wished the story would have ended with humans remaining in space, as they're depicted as being more or less happy with their lot, and WALL-E and Eve returning to Earth with the plant, free to develop and evolve into a new world of life and sentient beings without humanity, where our heroes, after million of years, become the legend of origin of life on Earth, life all over again.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:08 PM on June 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

I mean, the controversy WRT all the people on the ship being fat has a point; not all fat bodies are unhealthy, and not all unhealthy bodies are fat. (This point is one that, although I haven't seen any threads lately about it--maybe because they were quashed by the mods--some MeFites seem to have had difficulty grasping in the past.) But some of the other criticisms are really just reactions to the movie's legitimate criticisms of our consumption-oriented society. One of the things that I've read WRT the protests against the pandemic regulations is that, for a lot of people, "freedom" means the freedom to drive their SUVs, shop at Wal-Mart, and eat at Chili's. If the choice were between enduring the current, temporary hardships, or leave the planet forever on a ship like the one in the movie, you know which one they'd pick.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:47 PM on June 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

They kind of hit you over the head with Eve (Eva?), being named Eve, after all, shaped like an egg, carrying life within...

More like all living things have boarded a ship to preserve themselves and to see if it's safe to go back they send a flying white thing out to find a branch.
posted by LionIndex at 8:56 PM on June 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

That analysis of the happy ending is missing some major points:
The crux of the movie hinges on this idea that Earth, having been destroyed by humans, can hang on and survive — and maybe even support life again — so long as these returning humans can get their collective acts together. But the humans in question have also lived in space for generations, captive on a giant floating spaceship where they have had no need for things like farming knowledge or fine-motor skills.
This assumes that the humans in question are working alone. But the credits clearly show the robots are collaborating on the cleanup of Earth along with them - and these are robots that have been trained to do a good deal of caretaking for humans all this time, so presumably they are capable of stepping up where the humans are not yet ready to shift for themselves.
I’m overjoyed that one plant was able to survive the apocalypse — literally a weed in a shoe — and, sure, that fact fills me with hope, but let’s be honest: These guys have a loooooong road ahead of them.
Except right before the opening credits, as the camera is panning away from the robots and humans before panning up into the sky, it passes over a hill covered with more plants, proving that the plant WALL-E found was far from being the only one. It was the first one EV-A found, so that's the one that triggered her directive and was all she cared about, but that only means she stopped looking and didn't notice the others (and clearly so did this author), as opposed to it being the only plant there was.
Every single day at my home, with my 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, I spend about six hours picking up toys and wiping fingerprints off of relatively clean surfaces (I have tracked this, for what it’s worth). My house is the kind of house you might describe as “clean,” or “orderly.” What I’m saying is that I don’t live in a nuclear-fallout zone, and it still takes me the better part of a day to eliminate the detritus left by just two humans. Ergo: I’m just curious as to how anyone thinks that a bunch of spaceship-bound people are going to tidy up a decimated planet without sinking into a wormhole of depression.
Ohhhh, I get it, the whole thing was an ironic commentary on "kids amirite". Nevermind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on June 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

I loved the scene where they had to punch through the orbiting belt of junk around earth; it was these little touches continuing the narrative of Humans Messed Up that really worked for me. Also I love Wall-E's container home and want the rotating shelf thingy for all my....important stuff. Yeah, important.
Also I agree with 2N2222; would rather have 80% of the film be about Wall-E and other robots, and the humans in space having to really earn their way back to earth, not reconquer it to grow pizza plants.
posted by winesong at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think that would have been an interesting but different movie with a very different tone, or maybe even just a long-form drama series.
posted by bleep at 3:13 PM on June 18, 2020

Wall-e did a thing that so many Pixar films do to me, where the emotions and action and beauty are there but I always have issues with the world building. Without doing a rant I've done before, I didn't believe in either the Junkyard Earth or in the Eternal Lazy Tourists in Space scenarios. And yeah the fat shaming was tiresome. You could show people as withered and weak from never walking without having to do that.
posted by emjaybee at 5:22 PM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

mad's dave berg predicted what would happen with people who stopped walking in 1960
posted by brujita at 6:33 AM on June 20, 2020

WALL-E is adorable. I'd like to think Wally Cox would be proud.
posted by TrishaU at 8:16 AM on June 24, 2020

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