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Love Conquers All in WALL*E
By Jesse Carey
Interactive Media Producer
It’s 700 years in the future when we meet WALL*E, a lonely robot left behind by the Buy N Large corporation to clean up the mess of consumer waste left behind by humans. While the human race leisurely floats around the galaxy in a massive luxury space-outfitted cruise ship, WALL*E (whose name is an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), the last robot left back on earth, goes through his lonely routine of sifting through trash, picking up the pieces of old products and junk, occasionally finding clues of what it meant to be human.
The endearing WALL*E leads a lonely life until one fateful day when a sleek, futuristic, Mac-like female robot named EVE (an Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) lands nearby. She's set on her mission to search for plant life in the desolate landscape and bring back a specimen to the Axiom—the new home of mankind—to let them know that earth is once again inhabitable. Inspired by a worn-out video of the classic musical Hello Dolly! he found in the trash heap, the lonely WALL*E seeks love and companionship with his visitor. When she ends up rocketing back to her home ship to deliver a plant specimen given to her by WALL*E as a gift, our humble hero stows-away in an effort to stay with his new companion, setting off a wild chain events and an adventure back on the Axiom that lands WALL*E right in the middle of a struggle to save humanity.
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton had his work cut out for him. The guy behind Pixar’s hit Finding Nemo decided that for his latest project, WALL*E, which releases in theaters this weekend, that he was going to work within a tight set of self-imposed rules: robots would look like robots, not mechanical humans. That meant all of their parts had to make since as function-serving mechanisms. There’s also very little dialogue between the bots. They do manage to occasionally sweek out some beeps and digitized sounds, but primarily, Stanton relied on non-verbal cues to make his character communicate.
Stanton explained why the dialogue-less chemistry worked in the film. “I think you pull from your own emotional experiences to finish the sentence, so it becomes twice as powerful,” he said at a recent press junket.
The result is a love story between two robots that turns out to be deeply human.
By not using much verbal language between his hero and heroine, Stanton creates a relationship that plays out through acts of kindness, simple gestures and self-sacrifice. In an era where Hollywood increasingly relies on one-liners, cheesy pick-up lines and recycled romance plots, it was refreshing to see such a developed—and profoundly innocent—love story between two robots. And the choice of using a nostalgic song, the theme from Hello Dolly!, also proved to be an oddly fitting decision.
“I realized that the song is about two nerdy guys who have never left their small town, and they just want to go out to the big city for one night, feel what life’s all about and kiss a girl,” Stanton told a group of reporters at the press junket we attend. “I said, ‘That’s my main character!’”
As the love story between EVE and WALL*E begins to develop, so does their adventure. When they get back to the Axiom, we see that the human race has become a lazy, fat and dumb society where decisions are solely dictated by comfort and advertisements from the Buy N Large corporation, who runs the ship. Here, the movie gets a little preachy in its sub-plot that warns against the dangers of over-consumption, watching too much TV, corporate greed and loving comfort more than real interaction. It’s a good message, but it comes across as a little heavy-handed when we see that humans are so fat they can no longer walk (they float around in hovering-recliners) and are so caught up in comfort and entertainment that they can barely read. The message of the woes of consumerism also proves to be more than a little ironic considering the movie is from Disney. (You can read my story about the movie’s subtle, more ironic message here: “WALL*E-Mart: What Are We Teaching Kids?")
Visually though, the movie is eye-popping. From the gorgeous scenes around colorful nebulas on the edge of the galaxy and on the futuristic Axiom space ship, to the dreary skylines of an abandoned city back on earth and the trash dumps that WALL*E has made into his home, the visual artists did an amazing job of balancing real-life detail with state-of-the-art animation.
And though the movie delves into themes of over-consumption, conservation and the importance of relationships over technology, the social undertones never overwhelm the larger message—love. And that’s a message both kids and adults can understand.
“The message, to me is, Love conquers all,” Jeff Garlin, who voices the Axiom’s captain, said. “Really, that’s what it is. Their love, changes the world … that’s really what the message is.”
In the end, WALL*E is kind of a paradox. It’s a corporate blockbuster (with toy-lines, ad campaigns and video games entail) that warns against consumerism. It’s full of futuristic sci-fi visuals with the ole-timey Hello Dolly! as its backdrop. It uses two robots to show us what it’s like to be human. But mainly, it shows the emptiness of having it all (comfort, technology, material wealth) with nothing deeper and the purpose and value of having just one thing that really matters—love.
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Jesse Carey is the Interactive Media Producer for CBN.com. With a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing, he offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.
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