There is no denying Wall-E is an event. This, for so many reasons both large and small. I was trying to figure out what irritating me most about Stephanie Zacharek’s review of the film (since Ryan is on vacation and all), and I think it’s that she commits an unpardonable sin for any film critic: she has misplaced expectations. Her review of Wall-E mostly says that the film is great in the first half but begins its march towards the mediocre and predictable in the second half. I couldn’t disagree with her more and here’s why: that last part is where the film packs its most powerful punch. Why? Because it’s the moment where it all begins to make sense in a glorious big picture way. Was I the only person who walked out of the theater looking differently at the world and my own life? I doubt it.
Also, Zacharek forgets that this is a summer movie, an animated feature designed to entertain children primarily. She is holding it to impossible standards by expecting it to be an art house movie through and through. What would it be then? A daring box office bomb. It would quietly be packed away, having satisfied five critics and would occasionally be brought back out on top ten lists. It may ultimately rise to the top of that list. But to me, that means that the film hit only those whose ideas it already corresponded with; how remarkable that the film will reach millions. Kids will see this movie and that is probably the most important thing. What Stanton and Pixar have done here is turn their success around and used it responsibly.
So, is it a message movie? In so many ways, yes. Because underneath all of its heartbreaking romance and its clever Mac references and gadgetry, and its odd depiction of our future it is saying, essentially, that Earth needs humans as much as humans need Earth.
It is far too easy to slip into the belief that our blue planet is better off without us. Perhaps it is, but if we go so does appreciation of music, toys, films, humor, human contact – this is a film that doesn’t condemn us but celebrates us. Wall-E is a representation of all of the good human beings left behind, underneath the defecation and waste, the trash and consumerism. He has lived among it for 700 years and in that time he has picked up that great human trait of compassion. He introduces himself to braindead people and robots; he falls in love and convinces a hard-shelled creature to fall back in love with him. He makes art where there is none. He turns trash into treasure.
Without the end, or the last part of this movie, none of these ideas would come to fruition. It would be a sad and lonely tale, perhaps a cautionary one – but it would not carry the heft of a message that is becoming increasingly difficult to get across, especially to our kids who are plugged into the nipple of Capitalism younger and younger, just as in the film. The kids are being programmed to buy happiness through useless things.
Wall-E, to me, is more than just a good movie. It’s a subtle, grand wake-up call.