Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wall-E

I thought it was excellent, but this post is mostly to criticise.

I think it's a good movie for pretty conventional reasons; it's generally fun, sometimes funny and the main character is totally adorable and that's good enough. It deserves extra credit for being entertaining without any dialog for ages. Stepping outside of any expertise I could plausibly claim, I don't just think it had "cool graphics", it was telling a story through visuals in a way that had meaning and emotional impact, good for it!

But, the movie isn't exactly shy about pushing its message and it's also quite mean, so I don't think the, "it's just a fun kids movie! Don't analyse it!" defence works, especially since so many reviews seem to think that it's such a devastating critique of western culture. Wanna make a point? Criticism is fair game.

In case you don't know, the message is, "We're drowning in our own garbage and we're all a bunch of fat, consumerist morons."

  • The environmental message isn't so much about global warming as about rubbish. Apparently landfills will get so out of control that we'll all need Hummers just to plough through or over the rubbish in the street and we won't notice of care until we can no longer open our front doors. We obviously don't care because even though all the machines are now solar powered and we have the technology to relocate hundreds of thousands of people to an unlimited life of luxury in space, technology to deal with rubbish hasn't advanced beyond squashing it a bit (a technology we've already had for a while). This is really stupid and the premise of the whole film.
  • The society that's persisted for 700 years on the Axiom is ridiculously unstable. The slightest nudges cause characters to break out of their consumerist funk. The stars! Dancing! (walking?) This is where the meanness comes in. It suggests that not only are westerners fat consumerist pigs, but that it's never even occurred to them to look at the stars or read a book. Look how enlightened am! If only you knew how superior my tastes are you'd be catapulted into a utopia of culture and learning! More likely is that they know about these things and choose not to do them. This would also allow the negative equilibrium to persist.
  • The Axiom celebrates its 700th anniversary by giving everyone a free cupcake (In a cup! Everything is in a cup). But in a society where everything is free what does that even mean? The characters should be all confused. I bet the animators are kicking themselves for not thinking of wearable feed bags.

Incidentally, Wall-E and The Incredibles show why the future of Sci-fi lies in these animated films. In fact it has the potential to completely transform the genre. I'm all excited. The only problem is that now the humans are either too cartoony or too creepy, so for now comedy works best, not grand scale space opera, though The Incredibles did have amazing large scale set pieces. But Sci-fi can go a long way with aliens and cool gadgets.

Remember. I loved the movie, but if you wanna use it as hammer to bash humanity, this is my response.

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