Wall*E - Movie Review, but more of an analysis
By now you have no doubt heard about Wall*E, Pixar's latest opus. I am also certain you've probably seen Wall*E, read other reviews of Wall*E, talked to friends about Wall*E, and then bought a plush Wall*E to hang on your rear view mirror. I mean, who could resist?
That's why I didn't bother writing a review about it. It's a damn good movie and people already know it.
The problem I only recently realized is that people don't realize "how" damn good of a movie Wall*E is. Just like the machine which the movie empathizes with, it's difficult to understand the mechanics that make it tick.
So I'm only going to briefly recap the story.
Earth has been all used up, and Wall*E is the name of the line of robots left on earth to do the clean up work. It's not an original name, it's a model type. But after hundreds of years of cleaning up without anyone to look after them, the robots have stopped working, and stopped thriving, for reasons unknown. For this reason the only one left becomes original, or is original because he is the only one left. He sleeps in a small trailer-like compartment filled with collected objects, like a pack-rat hoarding things in his attic.
The question of why he is alive is a central one, but not one specifically asked. One of the most human traits is that of self-preservation. Wall*E gets up each morning and puts on the chains for his wheels, sometimes changing them when they break. He continues to do his job even though there is little reason at all for it. Not unlike Gregor Samsa, the traveling salesman turned giant cockroach from Kafka's Metamorphosis(perhaps even referenced in Wall*E's insect friend), there is something existential about Wall*E's existence. It is filled with action, but no substance. But what draws the most interest is that Wall*E knows it.
He is visited by Eve, a brand-spanking new robot and the antithesis of Wall*E. If there's proof that opposites attract, this is it. This is the essential theme of new technology vs. old technology, and how both sides want to merge. Eve was sent to earth for a reconnaissance mission, not to make friends, but Wall*E has been alone, and he has been alone for too long to let the chance slip by.
This again challenges the notion of existentialism and perhaps even nihilism in accordance to man's isolation in the universe. Wall*E suddenly realizes that he is not alone, and immediately tries to capture whatever it is that has found him. He eventually even brings it home where it could perhaps rest alongside his other collected objects, but this is another individual literally not meant to be confined to Wall*E's world.
Loneliness is a hard theme to capture correctly. It can be established through wide empty spaces or hollow conversations, but it never been so apparent than in Wall*E's relation to Eve. When Eve is temporarily shut-down, Wall*E still attempts to spend time with her, wake her up, even have romantic outings with her. When she is taken away, he follows her. She is his window to the universe, a promise that he is in fact in the presence of others. When he finally meets those others we begin to delve into the commonly tracked theme of nature vs. technology, a theme so commonly tackled that it is argued to be this film's weakest point. Nevertheless, the interpersonal relationship between Wall*E and Eve is what really counts, and luckily, the film does it immense justice.
One of the unique aspects of this Pixar film is that it occasionally features live-action segments with filmed actors, along with animated versions of humans in the future. No one talks about it because it doesn't bother anyone. The reason for this lies in the uncanny valley of technology. We connect with Wall*E and Eve despite the fact that they have no organic feature about them, but we feel for them because they are just as expressive, just as human-like in their qualities. The animated humans are cartoonish and comical in their appearance, but we feel for them in the same way. What would have happened if Pixar had decided to use photo-realistic models like Beowulf, or Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within? It would have been significantly hindered, maybe even ruined. The images would have been disjointed, and we would have seen Wall*E as far more human than the characters we recognize as versions of us.
Finally, there's the concept of identity, and if it can be removed. If you were to name a ship, have it destroyed in various hurricanes, and then repeatedly piece it together with different parts, are you left with the same ship? Is it even a ship at all? What is Wall*E after he is pieced together? Has man managed to make a soul, and if he has, then why bother saving the human race? Wall*E, in his journey, has in a way saved his creator. It makes you wonder how happy the ending would have been if it was just him and Eve left on earth. Would it have been just as human?