Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Welcome to your post-apocalypse

So I finally saw the movie wall-E. And I've been thinking about how it fits in the lexicon of children's film and fiction. Which it so doesn't. I mean...stripped down, this is a movie about garbage, dystopia and solitude. Everything potentially familiar to children like cities, roads, houses, humans, and toys have disappeared, been covered with waste, or converted into square garbage-based-building-blocks. There is no greenery anywhere and it's pretty heavy-handedly explained that the familiar world has been destroyed by short-sighted human consumption. Human beings, meanwhile, have turned into amorphous, futuristic-wheelless-chair-bound, disconnected blobs living on a space outpost. They perpetually use Facebook and shop using the digital screens attached to their wheelfree-chairs. And drink Big Gulps. Human babies live in incubators tended to by robots. Only wall-E displays anything like a familiar "humanity" or a childlike interest in the world around him. If this were not animated, it would be the bleakest, grossest, saddest movie of the year. wall-E lives in a battered bunker, his playthings are beloved, muck-covered cast-offs, and he comforts himself by singing along to grainy videos of Hello Dolly and cuddling his pet cockroach. Then he goes to space and uncovers a plot to keep the blobs away from earth forever because the garbage problem is unsolvable. And he finds love. With another robot. Who is 800 years younger than him. So, as plots go, you know, GLARGH! When I was growing up, I remember my first glimpses of dystopian society: Logan's Run. Planet of the Apes. Westworld. What strikes me is that I was frequently drawn to dystopian film and literature because it was so completely opposite from my own childhood. The order and straightforwardness of my world made these films ludicrous and therefore enjoyable. Although my family believed in a pending religious apocalypse, it was clear there wasn't much concrete about that. Jesus rising in the East like the sun? 1000 years of war? 2 years of food will keep us safe? Oh...kay. I wonder what my kids think about this movie. It's almost impossible to chat with them about the grimmer aspects, and they both think wall-E is cute. Which he is. Scarred little freak. What do you think? Is wall-E part of the Soilent Green lexicon, or more Bugs Life? Did you see it? Did you like it?

11 comments:

Midgard Dragon said...

Why must WALL-E automatically be thrown in to the "kid's movie" camp simply because it is animated? You said it yourself, as a kid's movie, it doesn't fit. Sure, the bots are cute, but Pixar makes films that appeal to everyone, not children's films. More Soylent Green or more A Bug's Life? More like a combination of 2001: A Space Odyseey and *insert favorite love story here*. Perhaps it's confusing you because it isn't any one thing to any one person. It means a lot, in many different ways, to many different people. That is why it's one of the best, that is what Pixar does.

Rebekah said...

Hum. Let me add my own disclaimer for you, Midgard Dragon, that you run a Wall-E blog.

Comedy Goddess said...

My daughter and her friend cried alot when Eve was kind of dead. That scene went on way too long! I was in tears. Who can listen to 7 year old girls sobbing and not end up crying too? It was a tough movie. Not for children I'm thinking.

Mrs. G. said...

Don't forget the Land of the Lost. That was some rough living.

Aunt Becky said...

Um. Wow. That first comment. The movie *was* marketed towards kids, so, um, yeah, of course we'd assume it's a kids movie. It's kinda logical and stuff.

Haven't seen the movie, to get back to your actual question, because (Ms. Dragon is going to love this answer) I don't like kids movies. Hell, I barely like movies. So no, haven't seen it. And I don't need to be depressed, so it's likely that I won't.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I've actually never seen it. Mostly ever parent I know has raved about it, but also commented on the dreary reality is forecasts. I like your review though!

Irish Gumbo said...

Logan's Run. Planet of the Apes. Soylent Green. Yeah, I grok that. I haven't seen th film yet, have heard a lot about it. I think I understand the plot and theme well enough.

It does work on many levels, yes. Kid's movie, futuristic love story, dystopian (bleak) reality. It is a cartoon, yes.

What disturbs me is the subtext, what it says about a consumer-tainment society such as ours, that we could go into a movie knowing all of the above, AND STILL COME OUT OF IT BASICALLY IGNORING THE SUBTEXT: Take any set of grim circumstances, any tragedy, and put a simple, cute gloss on it, and watch people say "Oh isn't that cute, Hello, Dolly!" Problem solved.

It seems to me that there is a parallel in all of the distorted info the government has foisted on the public about the "good news" from Iraq and Afghanistan. 'It can't be that bad can it? Progress, right?'

Yeah, right. Just keep whistling, folks, the graveyard can't be THAT big...

(wow. was that heavy enough?)

Mama Nomad said...

YOU know how hard it is to find a movie that is enjoyable for both kids AND adults. it is such a hard score. the depth of the movie's subtext (which really isn't all that subtext b/c they are basically coming right out and saying hey, consumer douchebag, you are just a few decades off from being a technoblob) depends on the parents ability to connect the dots for children. we have always had in-depth conversation about the state-of-affairs with mayan and she GETS the movie; isadore at this point just likes to say "Waaaall-E...Eeeee-va" in her bot-voice. although i am am a believer that if we straight up scare the shit out of our children and tell them the world is fucked, so you'd better save it, you will get back rebellion and apathy. so i think its better to just set a general, GENERAL and digestable awareness, that there are limits to our resources and the generations will follow. to me, Wall-E sets that appropriate tone.

Jamie said...

I thought Cars was a bit of an odd choice but frankly they pulled it off and it's 100% Pixar. WALL-E on the other hand seems to have gotten away from them. For me, Pixar = elegant and tight story telling and WALL-E unfortunately has gaps (uh, like the end). Dreamworks films have gaps. Hell, Cinderella has gaps. Pixar, not so much. So I was disappointed in their execution of the story given what they've done in the past. And Fred Willard (= every Christopher Guest movie EVER) was too distracting for me, personally. That said, there are some very beautiful, poignant, scenes that tug on the ol' heartstrings (= Pixar). Anyway, wouldn't it be AWESOME if instead of the crap-o garbage service we have in Portland there were tons of little WALL-Es cruising around? Best. Garbage. Service. EVER.

Irish Gumbo said...

"consumer douchebag" - Oh, just ONCE, I would love to hear that phrase used on CNN in a business report! :)

Jstar said...

I liked it. My watching of it was an in-and-out-of-the-room kind of thing, but it did draw me in to sit down for large portions of it...which says a lot for a kid's movie. i thought the cruise ship in the sky was pretty hilarious. the thought of getting hoodwinked into it was pretty scary and original. i guess isaac liked it because he rented it again last night. and at bedtime he talked about the ONE plant. we talked about filling the earth up with trash...so i guess they were successful in making the complexity of the message appeal to various ages.