What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Andrew Stanton’s WALL·E? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard
Director: Andrew Stanton
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
WALL·E’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Wall-E, a Pixar masterpiece starring a bunch of computerized blips and whistles, and also a non-animated Fred Willard just to mess with your head. Our story begins on Earth, which the Earthlings have abandoned in protest of the electoral college. The planet’s maid, Wall-E, is left behind to clean up all the garbage. Well, not really clean it so much as stack it into piles that would definitely fall over with the slightest earthquake.
One day, a sexy default Twitter avatar named Eve comes to town and starts scanning for vegetation, sexily. She’s got nearly 200 million square miles to cover, but fortunately Wall-E gives her a plant after like ten minutes of work. Good thing she landed in exactly the spot where Earth’s only resident lives, huh? When Eve’s spaceship returns, Wall-E hitches a ride so he doesn’t have to keep hanging out with a cockroach. They find the humans, who have just been chilling on a Carnival cruise this whole time, soaking up the sun’s delicious calories. Wall-E and Eve meet the Captain and discover that if they place the plant in an arbitrary spot on a purely recreational part of the ship that has nothing to do with the command center, the ship will send itself back to Earth. Piece of cake in a cup.
Unfortunately, the Autopilot has explicit orders to be an obstacle, so he mutinies, sending Wall-E and Eve to the trash compactor so Wall-E can feel more at home. But not so fast, because Wall-E’s all graduated and ready to leave the nest. They escape and head to the plant analyzer thing, where all the humans have been gathered for no explicable reason. The Captain turns off the Autopilot so they can put the plant in the doohickey, and they go back to Earth in two seconds, something it seems like they could have done at any point in the last 700 years if they really wanted a progress report that badly. Wall-E satirizes mass consumerism by depicting a planet destroyed by the insatiable need for newer, flashier stuff, even though in actuality we know Earth was destroyed by something far more sinister and impossible to predict. Ironically, the film presents this world of overconsumption in the minimalist style of the silent film era. Rather than dialogue, Wall-E communicates its message using the actions of its title character, whose antics are reminiscent of early stars like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and woman stomping on grapes.
The film also warns about overreliance on technology, even good technology like an eyebrow straightener. 21st Century Earthlings manufactured countless gadgets in the name of making life more convenient, but at what cost, I ask you? What cost?? The humans aboard the Axiom take this trend to the extreme: they are so comfortable with technology that they have placed their free will in its cold, metallic handles. They have traded their autonomy for automation. A little wordplay for the fans, free of charge. The passengers’ last remaining decisions are meaningless ones, and critical thinking is remembered only as a laughable antiquity. After centuries of physical and mental atrophy — plus all that time they spent in space — humans have devolved into nothing more than overgrown babies. This creates a Hoover vacuum of power that allows the Autopilot to take control. His entrance is accompanied by Johann Strauss’s “The Blue Danube”, a song associated with 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also features a tyrannical computer running on Windows 95. The message is clear: if you don’t control your technology, it may wind up controlling you, which is the opposite of what you want.
Wall-E and Eve’s role in the salvation of the human species is reminiscent of the biblical story of Adam and Adam’s girlfriend. The two robots inhabit Earth alone, similar to the Olive Garden of Eden, which is usually pretty empty except for like one couple. Just as humanity supposedly consists of a line of children descended from Adam and the other one, I forget her name, Wall-E and Eve are the genesis of man’s rebirth. Wall-E impregnates Eve with the plant, which causes her to transform into a fertilized egg and start wearing some questionable maternity clothes. This act ultimately leads Wall-E to the Axiom, which sort of sounds like it could be a bible name, thus triggering the salvation of the human species.
As Wall-E and Eve complete their mission, the humans begin to “grow up.” They do grow up so fast, don’t they? They take their first steps, begin learning new words, and play with toys that are probably covered in germs. The film signals this development with another nod to 2001: “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, not to be confused with Johann Strauss, Bruce’s schoolyard crush. [ALT: no relation to Johann Strauss, Richard’s mortal enemy.] Both films use the music to indicate a breakthrough of evolutionary significance, but only one of them has funny monkeys. When the Earthlings return home, they set about cleaning up the mess Wall-E failed to clean up for 700 years. But as long and painful as that process will be, the message is hopeful: perhaps they can find a way to repurpose their technology and move humanity forward. Once they do, they’ll have an even better ship for when they inevitably ruin everything it and have to leave again.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. And remember: shop at BuyNLarge this holiday season and all foreseeable holiday seasons.