July 4, 2008

Wall∙E

Bits and pieces from my review of "Wall∙E" in the upcoming issue of The American Conservative:

Despite its misanthropy, the superbly crafted dystopian science fiction film "Wall∙E" will be the ninth straight movie from Pixar Animation Studios, going back to 1995's "Toy Story," to earn at least $162 million at the American box office.

"Wall∙E" is stronger on execution than originality. Writer-director Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") sets loose a squatter version of the cute robot from the 1986 comedy "Short Circuit" in the dysgenic consumerist wasteland of Mike Judge's suppressed 2006 satire "Idiocracy." Indeed, Stanton's vision of a smoggy, trash-strewn Earth resembles a big budget remake of Judge's cult classic. ...

The first half of "Wall∙E" contains almost no dialogue. This is not unprecedented in a kid's movie -- the staggeringly gorgeous 1979 hit "The Black Stallion" was similar. Stanton feels that audiences want to work for their entertainment, so he has high expectations for what they can handle. Restricting verbiage prods him to new levels of inventiveness in conveying emotion visually, in devising what his mentor, the screenwriting guru Robert McKee (played by Brian Cox in "Adaptation") calls "worlds we've never seen but a humanity we all recognize."

Reviewers rave over how Stanton gets us to recognize emotions in a machine. Still, although Pixar is immensely skillful, people naturally perceive personality in anything self-activated. My wife, for instance, fusses maternally over her Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, grooming it lovingly when its sprockets clog, which is often. ...

"Wall∙E" doesn't actually peddle an environmentalist message. The real fear it plays upon is not that we'll run out of room to dump our trash outdoors. After all, Los Angeles County alone has enough cubic miles of uninhabited canyons to hold the world's trash. … Instead, "Wall∙E" embodies a more pressing modern American fear -- that we'll run out of room indoors to store all the crud we keep buying. ...

The movie acts out a classic nerd's fantasy -- to be left alone with cool stuff … except for a sleek girlfriend. (And if she's a Japanese robot, so much the cooler.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am reading a book by Joe Eszterhas who repeated calls Robert McKee a fraud. He makes his living by teaching others to screenwrite, but can't make a living that way himself.

Steve Sailer said...

True, but McKee's students wrote the Pixar movies while Esterhaz himself wrote "Showgirls."

Anonymous said...

Doesn’t anyone see all the gender reversal, political correctness stuff?

Wall E gives up his career (packing trash) and nurtures Eve when she is shutdown. Eve drops everything and abandons Wall E whenever her prime directive is triggered; quite the career girl. Of course, Eve has the big gun with anger issues to match. Wall E has a little laser. Eve is more powerful, faster, smarter (cube puzzle).

At least Wall E does the wooing in the picture.

testing99 said...

Joe Esterhaz movies: Flashdance, Jagged Edge, Hearts of Fire, Big Shots, Betrayed, Checking Out, Music Box, Basic Instinct, Nowhere to Run, Sliver, Showgirls, Jade, Telling Lies in America, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn

So, most of them were junk, but they made money, entertained people, which is more than McKee has done. Some of the movies if not classic have classic moments: Flashdance and Basic Instinct.

Anonymous said...

Steve, the link to Idiocracy is extremely tenuous. It's a silly piece of obstinacy in an otherwise good review.

M said...

1. How did the humans maintain a 700 year consumption based culture in the ship when they had no incoming resources?

2. Why did EVE shoot a gun at any sign of movement, especially at the cockroach? Shouldn't movement be considered a sign of life?

3. At the end, how did the humans walk on earth when their bone density was nonexistent?

4. The system of depositing the probes on earth. What's more likely, this movie's system or, say, Star Wars' system? (i.e. individual probes making the journey themselves versus a huge probe ship individually making drop-offs and pickups over and over)

5. How did Wall-E hang on to the returning probe ship during warp drive?

6. If the humans had warp drive, why didn't they find another planet to colonize instead of pining for a decayed waste dump? Are the creators of Wall-E suggesting that earth is the only habitable planet in the galaxy?

7.
How did they fit all of humanity into a ship that seems to be relatively small? Perhaps they are expecting some massive die-off in the future which is why there weren't any asians or mexicans in the movie.

mka said...

"Steve, the link to Idiocracy is extremely tenuous. It's a silly piece of obstinacy in an otherwise good review."

I dunno about that. The opening scenes of Wall-E immediately reminded me too of the garbage avalanche in Idiocracy. It's not so far-fetched to think Stanton was influenced a little bit by Mike Judge's cult classic.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to see you as such a sheeple, Steve, when it comes to the "message" of this movie. This was Pixar's worst yet. Ratatouie was boring but at least it didn't preach at me or try to indoctrinate my kids with pc environmentalist, anti-capitalist, feminist crap wrapped up in a mediocre movie. As the mother of 3 sons, I didn't like the feminist slant of Wall-E being inferior in most every way to Eve. If humans are so stupid and lazy who invented all the technology in the first place? Anyone who has ever programmed knows that a computer is only as smart as the person who programs it, no matter how much sci-fi fans hope otherwise. I agree with Steve that Wall-E ripped off a good portion of the story from Idiocracy. Boo, Pixar. Parents trusted you and you let us down.

Johnson said...

From the perspective of a singularitarian, it was a great movie. Very entertaining and interesting. I'm surprised at the harsh messages.

Anonymous said...

m

1. How did the humans maintain a 700 year consumption based culture in the ship when they had no incoming resources?

2. Why did EVE shoot a gun at any sign of movement, especially at the cockroach? Shouldn't movement be considered a sign of life?

3. At the end, how did the humans walk on earth when their bone density was nonexistent?

4. The system of depositing the probes on earth. What's more likely, this movie's system or, say, Star Wars' system? (i.e. individual probes making the journey themselves versus a huge probe ship individually making drop-offs and pickups over and over)

5. How did Wall-E hang on to the returning probe ship during warp drive?


All good questions. I also wondered how a plant managed to grow in a refrigerator. And, like others, I found the conceit that Eve was much stronger and smarter and tougher than Wall-e tiresome. Nevertheless, I really loved the movie. Movies are a lot more enjoyable if, from time to time, you stop worrying about what messages you're being bombarded with and enjoy the show.