by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
I finally saw the movie Wall-E. I’m normally not a big animation fan, but this film has a huge heart and huge message. Released by Disney in June of 2008 and a success in conventional terms, I’m surprised it didn’t find the media hype it deserved. If you haven’t seen it, go for it and spread the Wall-E word.
The premise: “Approximately seven hundred years in the future, the earth is over-run with garbage and devoid of plant and animal life; the consequence of years of environmental degradation and thoughtless consumerism.” The remaining humans have escaped into outer space in luxury, with their new and improved robots who perform every physical task, including scooping up the roly poly humans when they slide out of their moving lounge chairs. Everyone is attached to headsets and screens where their activities are all virtual. They hold onto aÂ steady supply of liquid nutrition that they drink through a straw.
Wall-E is an “old-fashioned” solar-powered trash compacting robot who stays on Earth to help with a long-ago abandoned clean up efforts. His only companion is a cockroach, who hitches a ride with Wall-E to “work” each day and subsists on 700 year-old twinkies.
A sleek, modern robot is transported to Earth to check for signs of renewal of the planet. Wall-E is mesmerized, and after they work out their differences, they find one tiny green sprout amidst the rubble and the excitement begins.
At this point, I’m more taken with the way Wall-E manages to continue his “life” on Earth than what’s in store for the spaceship. Each night, he returns to his makeshift home, cockroach in tow, along with an igloo cooler filled with historical treasures he collects during his compacting duties. Part of his collection is a video tape of an old movie (Music Man?) which he plays over and over (on an ipod with a magnifying glass in front of it). He is especially drawn to a close up shot of people holding hands and ends up gazing down at his own metal “hands” in a bewildered longing.
Ok, I know what you are thinking, but I feel this to my core and it only gets stronger each time he panics when he accidentally crushes his cockroach friend (who always springs back to life, of course) or tries diligently, for many hours, to solar charge and care for his robot crush when she shuts down unexpectedly. And yes, he wants very much just to hold her hand.
Wall-E, even in his robot-ness, shows real emotion and an understanding of many of the simple pleasures we humans have set aside in the search for bigger and better, or as in the movie, “Buy N Large”. And it gave me pause when I realized just how much our shopping malls and living complexes feel eerily like that luxury spaceship…
Watch the movie. You’ll enjoy the happy ending. Let’s insist on our own.