Movie Meaning Monday: WALL-E Was Meant to be a Warning, Not an Instruction Manual

I won’t lie, I’m a little sad to be on my final installment of Movie Meaning Monday. I didn’t realize how much I really enjoyed making movie reviews, and how rewarding it would feel to finish up a ten-page analysis. It’s a lot of work, and I love every minute of it. I’ll definitely write some more reviews in the future, so let me know which movies you want me to cover!

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Similarly to Coraline, WALL-E is an animated film, which means the primarily viewing audience was children. I grew up with WALL-E, which was released in 2008, and it has always been one of my favorite Pixar movies. As of right now, WALL-E has a 96% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes.

On the topic of Pixar, I’ve always preferred 3D animation films to the classic 2D Disney films. Pixar tends to give their films a more mature, satirical tone, and WALL-E is no exception. It’s similar to George Orwell’s 1984 in that a dismal future for Earth is presented, humans are rendered essentially powerless, and a “male” figure is the savior of society. (The reason I put “male” in parenthesis is because WALL-E isn’t a human, he’s a self-aware robot and therefore doesn’t really have a gender. Somehow, though, we know he’s a “male” robot).

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Another interesting aspect of WALL-E is the constant references to the 1969 film Hello, Dolly!. More specifically, WALL-E shows sequences of the numbers “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment.” Upon further research, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” was included because Barnaby’s plight for companionship matches WALL-E’s aspirations, and essentially foreshadows his upcoming adventure. “It Only Takes a Moment” represents WALL-E’s understanding and comprehension of love, as he clearly experiences strong emotions when he watches the scene. According to the composer of Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman, the incorporation of the selected songs into WALL-E was “genius.”

The movie takes place in the 29th century, where Earth is abandoned and completely polluted with a garbage. Seven centuries earlier, megacorporation Buy-N-Large (BnL) evacuated all humans onto gigantic starliners to live, while thousands of WALL-E robot trash compactors were assigned to clean up the mess. Eventually, all WALL-E robots stop working, except for one. This WALL-E has somehow become self-aware, and intelligent enough to take parts from other units to keep him alive. It’s already a depressing movie, and we’re only fifteen minutes into the film. Nice!

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One day, while rambling around on the disgusting wasteland that is Earth, WALL-E comes across something he’s never seen before: a singular, healthy green seedling, which he returns back to his little trailer home. A day or so later, another unexpected thing happens: an unmanned BnL spaceship carrying an EVE probe arrives on Earth, and begins scanning the debris for signs of growth and plant life. WALL-E becomes quickly infatuated with EVE, and though she initially ignores him, they quickly become friends. Later, while giving EVE a tour of his trailer home, WALL-E proudly shows EVE his plant. Because EVE is primarily programmed to search for plants, she immediately transports the seedling inside of her, and then shuts down into standby mode. WALL-E freaks out, and repeatedly tries to awaken her, but she’s shut down cold. After a while, the ship that originally dropped off EVE returns to retrieve her. WALL-E clings onto the ship and comes along on the journey, where the ship then reattaches to its main starliner, Axiom.

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Aboard Axiom, humans have become obese and weak due to microgravity and constant dependence on technology. Nobody has left their floating chairs in years, making for a whole lot of fat ‘n’ lazy. Honestly, it doesn’t seem far off from our own future. Even the ship’s captain, McCrea, is too immobile to actually the run ship. He leaves most of his duties to AUTO, the robotic autopilot for the ship. Because the starships haven’t returned to Earth in literal centuries, nobody, including McCrea, actually knows what will happen when an EVE probe comes back with sign of plant life. It’s soon revealed to us that a positive probe will trigger a hyperjump back to Earth, with the assumption that Earth is now habitable again. However, upon inspecting EVE’s compartment, it is revealed that the plant is now missing.

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Because EVE doesn’t actually have anything, she is deemed faulty and taken to a Diagnostics center. WALL-E, in his naive, concerned nature, assumes that EVE is actually being tortured, and wrecks havoc on the Diagnostics to try to save her. Oh, WALL-E. So pure-hearted and strong-willed.

The next part is kind of hard to explain, and while I’m sure you could pop over to Wikipedia for a better explanation, I’m going to try my best. EVE, now thoroughly annoyed with WALL-E for constantly f*cking up, tries to send him back to Earth on an escape pod. Before she can do anything, EVE notices that AUTO, the computer autopilot, is actually the one that stole the plant from EVE’s compartment. AUTO and his first mate, GO-4, are currently in the process of destroying the plant, and thus any evidence that the Axiom can return to Earth.

Alright, let me interject for a minute to share my unpopular opinion. I know AUTO is supposed to be a “villain” or whatever, but really, is his plight to stop Axiom from going back to Earth really all that bad? Does THIS LOOK SUSTAINABLE TO YOU?

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Nonetheless, WALL-E saves the plant from being destroyed, and he and EVE happily reconcile. EVE brings the plant back to Captain McCrea and shows him videos she recorded of Earth, causing him to conclude that they have to go back to Earth and renew life. This, of course, pisses of AUTO, and he reveals his secret no-return directive, issued after BnL concluded in 2110 that the planet could not be saved. AUTO mutinizes, electrocutes WALL-E and shuts EVE down. After throwing the robots down the trash chute, AUTO traps McCrea in his quarters and prepares to take over the ship.

Of course, that would be kind of a depressing movie ending, wouldn’t it? EVE somehow manages to reboot herself, and she and Wall-E finally bring the plant to the ship’s “Holo-Detector.” Tragically, AUTO crashes himself into WALL-E and effectively breaks him. Yes, after that entire imperious journey, all it takes is a smash from another robot to kill WALL-E.

The good news is: an angered McCrea deactivates AUTO, and EVE starts the hyperjump back to Earth.

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Back on Earth, EVE tries her best to bring WALL-E back to life. Although she is able to restore him, she’s broken hearted to discover that his personality is now gone, and he has reverted back to factory settings. Sorrowfully, EVE kisses WALL-E goodbye, which somehow manages to re-spark his memory and bring his personality back to life. WALL-E and EVE rejoice, and meanwhile, humanity takes their first steps on Earth. The final sequences of the movie show humans and robots working together to learn how to plant, fish, farm, and build, and slowly, the lifeless planet once again becomes a green paradise. And that’s it, folks!

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Similarly to The Truman Show, which is another film I analyzed, WALL-E is presented to us as a form of social criticism. Although the film is a Pixar animated film and primarily aimed at young audiences, it’s still a mature, societal concept that all ages will be able to relate to. To me, the four biggest themes of WALL-E are pollution, consumerism, religion, and the dangers of technology. Pollution and consumerism are mostly interlinked- after all, it’s the mass consumerism of Buy-N-Large that probably lead to the environmental waste on Earth. Ironically, consumerism and the morals of Disney go hand-in-hand, so I appreciate WALL-E for essentially making fun of itself. In a world where society is screaming at us to buy-buy-buy, WALL-E is a terrifying reminder of what our future could potentially look like. It’s not really officially revealed what country WALL-E is employed on, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the movie is specifically a middle finger to American buying habits and ethics.

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While WALL-E habitually picks up the trash left behind, he himself finds himself fascinated with human nostalgia. Zippo lighters, hub caps, plastic sporks, and even a bra all fascinate WALL-E, and make us, the audience, laugh. The element of nostalgia is also pretty clear in the inclusion of Hello, Dolly!, while wistfully giving us a portal into a simpler time on Earth.

As for religion, EVE is one of the biggest metaphors for Christianity. The director of WALL-E explained he named EVE biblically on purpose, because WALL-E’s loneliness reminded him of Adam. Although WALL-E obviously takes place in the future, in some ways, it represents the beginning of a new life, and a new start for humanity. Additionally, EVE uses the plant as a way to tell humans that they need to move away from the “false God”- Buy-N-Large. In one particular scene, when the the robots are teaching the alphabet to the infants aboard the Axiom, they say “B is for Buy-N-Large, your very best friend.” It’s similar to the McDonald’s franchise, which uses brand loyalty to force consumerism on the public.

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The religious metaphors even extend to the Axiom itself, which has been compared to Noah’s Ark in the Bible. After disaster strikes humanity (which humanity has brought on itself), the creatures of Earth are forced to save themselves by aborting land. EVE represents the dove with the olive branch (except in this case, it’s a seedling), sent to notify Noah (Captain McCrea) that life has returned once again.

The other biggest themes of WALL-E, and perhaps the darkest, is the representation of technology and robots, specifically their relationship with humans. When robots take away our work, they also take away our ambition and need to actually achieve anything/build relationships. Why should we have to put in the work, when the robots will just put it in for us? Like I said, I don’t think of AUTO necessarily being the prime villain; I think technology as a whole is the true villain of this movie. Hell, above even that, I think Buy-N-Large, consumerism, and humanity could be considered the real villains here. Didn’t we essentially do this to ourselves?

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As the robots become stronger, we become weaker. Each measurement of power we give up goes directly into their hands, and it’s all our own doing. Corporations like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft ease us into signing away our data, and effectively take away our power without us even realizing it. That being said, I don’t think the movie is trying to completely vilify robots. In the last scene, for example, humans and robots are seen working together positively, in an effort to restore life on Earth. Advanced technology can be an extremely positive force, but only if we work with it. As soon as we start working for it, we lose the thing that makes us most special: our ability create.

I love the nostalgia of this film, its unique animation, and its challenging themes. I understood the message when I was eight, and now, eleven years later, I still resonate with this film. If you haven’t seen it yet, first of all, why are you reading this? Second of all, you absolutely have to watch it. WALL-E is the perfect combination of humor, science-fiction, social commentary, and even a little bit of romance between two robots.

Although I’m posting this on the 25th of February, I’m actually finishing up writing it on the 11th. Like I said, I’m sad to see Movie Meaning Monday go, but I have tons of exciting things planned for March. The March mini series is going to be called “Women Crush Wednesday,” where we will have a chance to explore some of my favorite role models throughout the years. I’m also planning another collab, a Spring lookbook, aaand.. I’m dyeing my hair teal again! (For those of you who don’t know, I used to have teal hair in high school, and I’ve always missed it). I think teal is going to look super cool with the pin-up style, don’t you?

Thanks for tuning in for this week’s movie review!

Coming up next: Ways I “Cleaned Up” My Diet

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