Disney for a long time has had the market cornered on sad. Snow White had to run away from her father’s house and was nearly killed by her stepmother, Bambi witnessed the murder of his mother, Simba his father, and the list goes on. With Wall-E Disney/Pixar moves from sad to purely depressing. This is also probably the first Pixar movie which really is for adults more than children. The first half hour or so depicts a garbage-riddled planet earth that can no longer sustain life. Humans live on a space-ship where they are tended for by state of the art robots. But from the depths of this depression, the film leaves audiences with some hope that that our fate is not locked. Furthermore, in what can be considered a cinematic masterpiece, Pixar has also managed to improve upon themselves once again, not only with the CGI animation, but with the story and script as well.
Wall-E tells the story of what will happen in 700 years from now if humans (namely Americans) continue to live the lives of excess consumption and frivolity with the earth’s resources. At this future date humans have been living on a cruise ship-like space ship for nearly a millennia because the earth has become so overrun by trash it can no longer sustain life. The fictional mega-story Buy-N-Large has become the corporate monster which seems to be at root of all the troubles that plagues the planet. It was the CEO that came up with the idea to send away all humans until earth once again became livable. Unfortunately this optimistic outcome has yet to come about. Wall-E is an old school, boxy and mechanical robot whose job it is to clean up earth’s garbage, and he’s the last one of his kind having outlasted all his counterparts. It’s not until Eva, a super-sleek robot from the human ship sent over to find proof that life can be sustained on earth once again, that an understanding of the movie’s plot comes about. Wall-E and Eve’s courtship is not unlike more traditional romantic comedies. But in this version the unlikely couple communicate through a series of beeps, barely able to say each other’s names and, as only Pixar can do, their emotions are so vividly
Eva doesn’t appear until about a half hour into the movie and up until that point the audience is treated to Wall-E’s exploration of the remnants of human life. In a throwback to the silent-era’s masters, Wall-E takes its time, establishing characters and setting without rushing itself too much like so many movies do today.
Furthermore, this film seems to be paying tribute to the stories and genres which have paved the way for its existence. After collecting his goods, Wall-E brings them back to his hollowed out truck to put them on display. While obviously not knowing what the items are he organizes and utilizes them – very similar to the scene from Disney’s The Little Mermaid when Ariel plays with her treasures in her cave of wonders. What’s old is new again. Also through the use of music and other visual and thematic clues Wall-E builds upon the foundation its predecessors laid before it, which is an extension of its theme of recycling and renewal. In the world of Wall-E, recycling is a lost art; a society of excess and disposable goods has created a physical environment where an ozone layer has been replaced by a trash layer.
While the initial impression of the film is a rather depressing one, a bleak world overrun by trash no longer able to host human life, the truly depressing aspect was the prediction of the future of humankind. Apparently if we stay the course we are currently plotting, our fate (according to Disney) is to be grossly overweight consumers devoid of any human interaction who rely on pureed food and hover-chairs. However, ultimately, like any good Disney pic, the lasting message is that of hope and opportunity. That our fate is not locked in, it’s not too late to change the course of our destiny.