Peter M Howard ::

wintermute.com.au

Wall-E

08November2008 [movies]
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In which a child-like innocent opens the eyes of humanity

Much has been written about Wall-E. There’s an obvious message about over-consumption, and what that’s doing to our planet. There’s a more cynical interpretation that says we needn’t worry about the planet, because it’ll sort itself out eventually. But there’s a lot more just beneath the surface.

Wall-E himself is a new Adam, unfallen and innocent. We are told that his humanity comes from his childlike curiosity. In a scene in which he finds a diamond ring in its case, we think he’s fascinated by the shiny, until he throws it away and plays, opening and closing its box — a rejection of the most obvious symbol of status-based consumption.

With his playful curiosity he first awakens Eve (an appropriate name), and then comes to save us from ourselves, to open our eyes. When he literally removes the blinds from over the human woman’s eyes, he sets off a chain of events that lead to the liberation of humanity. Especially poignant are the subsequent scenes in which the only awake humans are mesmerised by sights they had previously been oblivious to — the stars, Wall-E and Eve flying about outside the ship, the ship’s pool and gardens.

There is a message of hope, even in the midst of despair. The ending is delightfully depressing, with the humans reaching a wasteland, and completely lacking in basic survival skills. It’s at this point that technology saves the day, but not, as on the Axiom, as a nanny, but instead as a teacher. The ship’s library contains all the knowledge they need. And in the closing credits we see Wall-E and other robots teaching the humans the crafts of civilisation. The fact that the credit sequence is told using art that reflects the development of (admittedly western) culture adds a layer of beauty and hope — civilisation will rebuild.

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