WALL-E is worth seeing despite or maybe because of the controversy over the movie’s messages manufactured that those not blowing hard over the non-existent edginess of the current crop of political advertisements.
Regardless of what has been written by pundits and critics from publications as diverse as Entertainment Weekly and The National Review, WALL-E is pure genius in that, like most of Pixar’s other creations, it can be viewed on a variety of levels.
On one it’s a story about perseverance, evolution, and being true to yourself: Built to clean up humanity’s mess after we’ve completely destroyed the planet – the opening sequence of wind farm turbines up to their blades in trash nicely and succinctly skewers the current hype surrounding the need to concentrate on ameliorating climate change as we completely ignore humanity’s rampant over consumption of resources that is the root of all our problems – WALL-E (Waste Allocation Lift Loader – Earth class) is the last of his kind, and in the 700+ years since he was brought online not only has he done his job, he’s also developed a personality, one that’s curious about the objects he finds, and one that is more than a little bit lonely.
Enter EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) a sleek robot that some critics say echoes Apple’s design sense. Dropped off by a large, automated probe, EVE goes about her mission with ever increasing levels of frustration which she expresses by blowing things up with her embedded laser canon. Once she determines that WALL-E isn’t a threat, she follows him back to the cargo vehicle he’s been using as living quarters, the place where he stores and categorizes all the things that have caught his eye over the years, including the one thing EVE is looking for: evidence of plant life.
It is in his sharing of the things that have intrigued him and in his protective treatment of EVE while she is in hibernation mode waiting for pickup from the automated ship that dropped her and the other EVE units off on Earth that WALL-E most obviously evidences this first way to view the movie. When one thing or set of things fails to intrigue EVE, WALL-E finds something else to share, looks for some other way to connect. He takes care of EVE because it seems like the right thing to do. Indeed, WALL-E follows EVE into space because it seems like the right decision to him not because of some programming sub-routine or because of social pressure to behave in a certain way.
On another level, and this is the level that has drawn the most criticism, WALL-E is cultural critique. From that brilliant opening sequence with the wind farm buried in trash to the fact that it’s a corporation, Buy ‘N Large a not very subtle stand-in for Wal-Mart, that runs the U.S. at least and is responsible evacuating humans from the planet to the state of humanity after 700 years of having every whim catered to by obliging robots in a hyper-controlled environment, there is no aspect of our current self-indulgence and destructive over consumption that is spared.
Of course, it is a little hypocritical of Disney, Pixar’s parent company and one of the prime pushers of plastic crap we just do not need, to make a movie criticizing over consumption while still pushing promotional tie-ins of said plastic crap. But Disney’s hypocrisy doesn’t degrade either the message, or the fact that on the final level Pixar has made a story about connecting and what it means to interact with other people.
Is WALL-E perfect? Certainly not, but it’s a damn good movie regardless of your age.