A Second Look: WALL•E
In 2008, Andrew Stanton released WALL•E, which starred Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, MacInTalk, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, and Sigourney Weaver. Grossing $521.3 million at the box office, the film was nominated for numerous awards, such as the Academy Awards for Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Screenplay, the Annie Awards for Best Animated Effects, Best Animated Feature, Best Character Animation in a Feature Production, Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production, Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production, Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production, and Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media, the Saturn Award for Best Director and the Satellite Awards for Best Original Score, Best Original Song and Best Sound. It did win many awards too, including the Satellite Award for Best Animated Feature, the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Film, the Grammy Awards for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and Best Instrumental Arrangement, and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
The year is 2105 and all the humans have abandoned the now-inhospitable Earth to let it be cleaned by WALL•E robots while they enjoy a five year vacation in space. However, 700 years later, they’re still enjoying that cruise and the last of the robots is collecting the trash and living with his pet cockroach. One day though, he’s interrupted by a spaceship dropping off a modern robot named EVE and he falls in love at first sight, stowing away in space when the ship comes back to pick her up. At their final destination, he finds the remnants of humanity as well as a conspiracy keeping them on the cruise.
A film with practically no dialogue for the first 40 minutes, WALL•E is an incredible and enjoyable film, presenting audiences with a robot that winds up being the one to bring humanity back to earth after seven centuries all because he fell in love. It’s quite interesting in how the film starts showing just what happened to earth and how there’s one last robot out there doing his job and compacting all the trash he’s supposed to clean up in humanity’s absence. It goes on from there with WALL•E going off into space and through his quest to find and get EVE back after she shuts down with the plant, he winds up coming into contact with two humans who rediscover their humanity. What’s more is that his interactions with the ship’s captain also has an effect as the captain begins to discover what Earth is and all the wonders that can be found therein. The wonder gets to his head in a great way as well, shown when he tells the autopilot that he doesn’t just want to survive on the Axiom in a chair doing nothing, but that he wants to go to Earth and do more than survive. He wants to live. The film also fascinatingly makes his action of standing up after getting knocked out of his chair so well-done alongside Also sprach Zarathustra, considering he’s probably the first person in many years to stand up. This point in the film is also a wonderful depiction of what humanity has become during their stay on the Axiom. They’ve essentially become helpless and independent adult babies that wear one-piece jumpsuits and consume only liquids. Not only is the captain standing up for himself and his desire to live, but he’s learning to walk for the first time. The captain represents humanity growing up again.
That distinction between what it means to live and what it means to survive is notably just one of the many messages the film is trying to convey. It’s beautifully tied into telling its audience that striving after a more decadent lifestyle without any regard for the environment will not only turn out badly for the earth, but it will turn out badly for humanity because through that, said lifestyles will make it so that humans will eventually become so disconnected from humanity and relationships that people won’t want to touch or look at each other.
Now, while it’s a great message, it wouldn’t nearly have succeeded had it not been for its characters. Take WALL•E for instance, he’s a practical fool who only wants to hold hands with a female robot. Further, he isn’t aware at all that his meeting of other humans and robots brings about any change in them because he’s got tunnel vision. Yet, the film shows early on that he’s not the average robot with his conundrum revolving around the Spork he finds. WALL•E wants to add it to his collection of spoons and forks, but can’t figure out where to put it so he settles on the middle, showing that he’s not like other computers and is capable of comprehending middle states. It’s through this blissfully unaware robot that only wants to spend time with EVE that humanity returns to earth.
AUTO is also pretty great as a villain who is also unlike the other robots in the film because where they go beyond their programing, he won’t deviate from his orders to safeguard humanity and not return to Earth under any circumstances. Even when the Captain points out that Earth can now sustain life, AUTO finds it irrelevant and stands by his orders, making it so that he’s a fascinating well intentioned extremist who thinks he’s doing the right thing. He also has a great breakdown when EVE and WALL•E break out of the trash pit that’s furthered when the captain fakes him out with the plant backdrop. He goes so far as to send a large amount of Steward robots to stop EVE and WALL•E and intentionally causes the Axiom to list to one side and put everybody in danger.
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