” Just needed someone to look after you, that’s all. “
Left alone on a planet, a trash compacting robot searches for meaning in an endless loop. In a sea of meaningless nostalgia, Wall-E fantasizes about companionship and a sense of belonging. His adventure leads him on a quest for love and to preserve hope that Earth will once again be inhabitable. Wall-E provides a vision of a post-consumerist world, neglected and void of any responsibility. It does this through vivid dystopian landscapes and social commentary that, at times, seems closer to reality than fiction.
The beautiful thing about animated features, and a hallmark of Pixar projects in particular, is their ability to focus on ideas that can challenge current social paradigms and target those concepts to children. The new generation of animation takes the Disney moral stories of Snow White and Pinocchio to a new level.
The landscape and content of the film is an array of diverse variations of of excess. The world the humans leave behind is created from a need for ease and comfort mixed with a complete lack of responsibility and rationale. Disregarding all of the negative environmental effects of their lifestyle leads to a world completely uninhabitable. One inevitable moral of the story is that if we take the time and energy to be thoughtful about our actions and how they effect both the world we live in and the people around us, then we might be able to live in a sustainable and ultimately happier world.
In Wall-E, consumerism is taken to the extreme with life on the “Axiom” depicted as a purely content saturated society. No one is able to physically do anything for themselves beyond voice commands and are completely immersed in a world that would make a Las Vegas casino look like a dimly lit alley. The entire human race is held hostage in a world manufactured by the corporation “Buy-N-Large”. It is interesting how the corporation is depicted as the governing body and authority of the human race. Buy-N-Large appears to be the major corporation that fed the human race’s desire for over consumption and ultimately provided a utopia for the human race so that they could keep feeding the masses instead of combating the problem of over consumption.
Another aspect related to the over-consumption and consumerist habits depicted in Wall-E is the obesity. With the help of the corporation “Buy-N-Large”, no one has ever needed to lift a finger. Life on the “Axiom” is one where every desire is met with overabundance and ease to the extreme. At first I wondered how the entire society could be okay and complicit in such a mundane and manufactured life that had zero physical activity, but they had been conditioned through several hundred years, so I guess that explains it. Several generations would have grown up on their floating recliners and never known that there was a different option. It just seems like such a meaningless and unfulfilling lifestyle that would have high rates of depression.
Loneliness and solitude are reoccurring themes throughout the film. Wall-E is isolated on Earth as the only remaining robot, although he does have his little cockroach buddy. His only connection to companionship is the old VHS tape of Hello Dolly. He desperately seeks companionship and this becomes the main focus of the film. In contrast, the human’s on the Axiom live their lives in isolated bubbles, not even noticing the people around them.
Wall-E’s humanistic quality makes him a compelling character that many can relate with. He is the most compassionate character in the film and he’s a robot… The writer’s did a great job at making his character so relatable. Perhaps this is due to his menial and tedious job, his passion for learning and nostalgia, his compassion, and his innocence gives him a childlike essence. All of this makes Wall-E an engaging and lovable character. Pixar is good at crafting these compelling characters that are strong story subjects and dive the film emotionally.
Everyone that Wall-E interacts with has an emotional awakening. This is why I believe Wall-E is the most compassionate character in the film, he is also the most “human” character in the film. Even the people on the ship are living their lives like the robots that serve them. Everyone is content with the same rituals and paths without having any desire to stray off path or challenge themselves. Wall-E is the one that has to show everyone what to live for and how to think for themselves.
This is why I love animation. It is a medium that is targeted towards children, but the content has a larger role in their development. If this movie was made in live action and targeted towards adults, no one would see it. The fact that it is animated gives the writers more creative boundaries that would be harder to achieve in live action and it is way more appealing to a demographic that is in the process of building the foundation of their social awareness and identity.
Wall-E clearly depicts a bleak future for humanity. After all human life left earth in hopes that the robots would clean up their mess, they ultimately had to return and pick up where they left off. The main message the film leaves us with is that it’s not too late to do something to fix the state we are in. Sure it is easier to brush it off and say there is nothing we can do and just go about your life, but all the earth needs is someone to look after it. Hopefully a generation of kids growing up with that movie will help tip the scales back towards responsible lifestyles and consumption so that we can live in an environmentally sustainable world.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Cinematography: Jeremy Lasky
Score by: Thomas Newman
Runtime: 1h 38m
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures