Tuesday, March 2, 2010

#64 WALL-E: There's lots of world out there

2008. dir. Andrew Stanton, starring Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, MacInTalk.

Seen it before? Yes.

We open with a bouncy show-tune: "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello Dolly. This leads into one of the most horrifying things you'll ever see in a kid's movie: The Earth, vacant and ruined, with enormous mountains of garbage as far as the eye can see. It seems that in the future, mankind's wastefulness and reckless consumerism (epitomized by the "Buy 'N Large" chain of big-box stores, a Costco-eque entity that has apparently taken over all aspects of life, including government) have caught up with them, and the Earth has become polluted and uninhabitable.

But don't worry, humanity itself survives: Buy 'N Large loaded everybody onto huge spaceships. The plan was that they would float around in space for a few years until Earth becomes inhabitable again, and leave a fleet of robots behind to do the cleanup. The last robot remaining, WALL-E, is still there after hundreds of years, and still diligently piling up the garbage. WALL-E apparently has some sentience - he acts lonely, he loves to sing and dance, he makes friends with a cockroach. He falls in love with EVE, a probe sent down by the humans to detect plant life. EVE finds a plant, and reports back to the spaceship. WALL-E stows away onto the ship, and has some wacky adventures...

The spaceship is also pretty weird. The people on the ship are essentially giant babies - they just sit in floating chairs all day and watch TV. They are so bloated and atrophied that they can barely walk, and they are constantly bombarded by Buy 'N Large corporate propaganda. This raised questions that I think are too disturbing to answer:
  • Do these people have jobs? If so, what? It seems like robots do all of the work. If not, why does Buy 'N Large feed them, house them, entertain them, etc.? It's a corporation, not a charity.
  • The ship has been in space for 700 years, so humanity has apparently been propagating itself. So where do babies come from? Are these fat lumps of people doing it? Doesn't seem likely, because they can barely move on their own power.
  • The ship looks like it holds, on the outside, maybe a thousand people? Which means that in order to rescue all of humanity, they would need to launch at least 6 million ships. But that doesn't seem possible, so... what happened to everybody else? Who did Buy 'N Large save? Just rich Americans?
  • EVE reports back her plant to only one of the ships, but we know there were others. Did they also go back to the Earth?
  • So they return to Earth, which is still a wasted, scorched dustball. The end credits imply they brought back all of the plant and animal life that presumably had been extinct. Uh, how?
  • It seems like they were throwing a lot of stuff out. You couldn't really do that on a spaceship that's supposed to sustain life indefinitely - you'd have to reuse or recycle everything. Think about it: you only have what you brought on board. If you're going to make new things, you'll need resources - metal, plastic, glass, etc. - and if you throw things away you'll run out quickly with no way to replace them. This goes for biological material too, like oxygen, carbon, and water. So what I'm getting at is, what happens to sewage, and what happens to dead people?
Anyway don't let my nitpicks throw you, this is a great movie. Very striking visually. Lots of little nods to other sci-fi movies - the room of misfit robots from Star Wars for example, and AUTO is pretty much a ripoff of HAL from 2001. One interesting thing about this movie is that it has virtually no stars in it. I mentioned Fred Willard, but he's basically a cameo. The "voice" of WALL-E is mostly squawks and beeps like R2-D2. (The same guy, Ben Burtt, did both.) It's refreshing. Too many animated movies rely on dubious celebrity voices, as if people are going to care that Brad Pitt or Ben Stiller does somebody's voice.

Position on the list: 44(!)
The override code: A-113. This is apparently the number of a classroom at Cal Arts, and there's lots of references to it in Pixar movies. (The conference room in The Incredibles for example.) I'll be looking for it in the others...

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