Pixar’s latest creation Wall-E, is a must see. It’s a movie you’re going to want to bring into the classroom and use as the basis for a whole RAVE unit. Yes, Wall-E is a kids sci-fi movie. It’s a story about how humanity has left the planet heaped in garbage, so there’s an environmental message. But bigger themes – like how technology distances us from the wonder of creation and how that distance cripples us spiritually – play a bigger role. And filmmaker Andrew Stanton says Wall-E is all about relationships and discovering what makes us fully human.
Over the coming months there will doubtless be screeds written about Wall-E. There deserves to be. It’s a techno-whiz-bang fable that challenges us, a la Plato’s Allegory of The Cave and The Matrix Trilogy, that one way or other, we’re all living on the Axiom.
Wall-E is a call to wake up, stand up, and abandon ship.
For now, can I recommend you dip into the following insightful commentaries:
(Note of Nov 2011: these links are no longer live but I will try and hunt down the originals!)
Wall-E: Aristotelian by Rod Dreher
Wall-E by Kenneth Hynek
And from Woldmag, an interview with Wall-E Director, Andrew Stanton:
WORLD: How does WALL-E represent your singular vision?
STANTON: Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that’s not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to sayâ€”that irrational love defeats the world’s programming. You’ve got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.
With the human characters I wanted to show that our programming is the routines and habits that distract us to the point that we’re not really making connections to the people next to us. We’re not engaging in relationships, which are the point of livingâ€”relationship with God and relationship with other people.
WORLD: The depiction of humanity is pretty stark in this movie.
STANTON: Well, when I started outlining humanity in the story, I asked myself: What if everything you needed to surviveâ€”health care, foodâ€”was taken care of and you had nothing but a perpetual vacation to fill your time? What if the result of all that convenience was that all your relationships became indirectâ€”nobody’s reaching out to each other? A lot of people have suggested that I was making a comment on obesity. But that wasn’t it, I was trying to make humanity big babies because there was no reason for them to grow up anymore.
WORLD: Now that you mention people misconstruing your intentions, how do you feel about reports that WALL-E is an environmental movie?
STANTON: People made this connection that I never saw coming with the environmental movement, and that’s not what I was trying to do. I was just using the circumstances of people abandoning the Earth because it’s filled with garbage as a way to tell my story.
I always knew that I wanted WALL-E to be digging through trash for two reasons: One, I wanted him to be the lowest on the totem pole. It’s a janitorial job; it’s the saddest, lowest status amongst his kind; and it just makes him that much more of a lonely guy. Two, trash is really visual. Even the littlest kid understands when there’s stuff in the way and it needs to be picked up, so I didn’t need to spend time explaining his job. And then I just reverse-engineered from there, “OK, if there’s trash everywhere, how did it get there?”