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Steve Jobs is disgusted by everyone (WALL-E review)

June 30, 2008

I saw the new Pixar movie, WALL-E, this weekend.  While I’m not going to piss my pants like all the fanboy idiots are doing right now on various forum sites, I did think it was a decent, if not slightly hypocritical, movie.

****************WARNING:  SPOILERS BELOW****************

The movie opens on a stark, apocalyptic scene of Earth.  We start out in space, and quickly zoom into the planet’s thick, brown atmosphere, bypassing thousands and thousands of satellites orbiting the planet.  The camera shows a large city, long since deserted, with mountains of garbage as tall as the skyscrapers themselves in every direction.  Music is softly playing, and we get our first distant views of WALL-E, a small robot, zipping around the city.  We follow WALL-E through a day in his (it’s?) life, which is spent shoveling piles of consumer waste into his belly, compacting it into small blocks, and stacking the blocks into large, building-size piles.  As he goes about his business, we discover that WALL-E likes to collect things from the garbage, such as old Zippos (which oddly still have lighter fluid soaked into the cotton after 700 years…), Rubik’s Cubes, silverware (WALL-E separates the forks and spoons, and in one cute scene, he has trouble figuring out where to put a spork), etc.  He also collects parts from other WALL-E units, which have long ago broken down, leaving our WALL-E robot the sole survivor of planet Earth (along with his cockroach friend).

Being the last living(?) thing on Earth makes WALL-E very lonely.  He spends his nights watching Hello Dolly on his iPod (the battery is still kicking after 700 years?  Is this a sales pitch, Steve Jobs?).  He especially enjoys a scene where the man and woman in the movie hold hands.

One day, a rocket ship lands on Earth and dispatches a probe robot named EVE.  EVE looks very much like a typical Apple product, resembling a rejected design for a shiny, white iMac.  EVE is in search of any signs of organic life on the long-dead planet.  She hunts around all day, and eventually befriends WALL-E, who is obviously in robot love (or robot lust).  WALL-E shows EVE a plant he found in an old fridge, at which point EVE freaks out, grabs the plant, stores it inside of her body, then shuts down, waiting for the ship to come back and pick her up.

WALL-E has no idea why EVE shut down.  He thinks she’s out of power, so he tries to charge her up.  He watches over her relatively lifeless form for days on end.  Eventually, the ship returns to grab EVE, and WALL-E hitches a ride.  The ship travels through space and eventually docks up with the AXIOM, a large, interplanetary cruise ship, which has housed humans for the past 700 years.  WALL-E is suddenly thrust into a future he’s never known, surrounded by robots 700 years more advanced than him, and humans who have become so reliant on technology that they float around in giant hover chairs with speakers and video screens in front of their faces at all times.  Humans have “evolved” into Jabba-the-hut sized porkers with incredibly small bones (due to all that time in space).  Their days are spent in leisure, with robots catering to their every whim.  They are so attached to technology and so used to having video screens in their faces that when WALL-E breaks a few people free of their chair-prison, they suddenly see that there are stars and swimming pools around them that they never knew existed before.

EVE is still shut down, and she is transported up to the captain of the ship (voiced by the under-used Jeff Garlin).  The captain is woken up mid-day by the ship’s auto-pilot computer, a very HAL 9000 looking machine, which informs him that one of the probe robots has returned with some organic life from Earth.  When EVE is opened in front of the captain, we discover that the plant that was inside of her is missing.  The captain figures that EVE is simply malfunctioning and sends her to be repaired.  WALL-E follows her and breaks her out of the repair room.  This causes EVE and WALL-E to be considered as violent renegade robots.  During their escape, we find out that the auto-pilot robot has been acting very HAL 9000ish (I guess his physical appearance was more than a coincidence!).  The auto-pilot removed the plant from EVE’s body before the captain could see it because the auto-pilot is acting on it’s last orders from it’s creator, Buy N Large president Shelby Forthright (played by Fred Willard).  Buy N Large is the Costco-like warehouse company that built the AXIOM, as well as the WALL-E robots.  Humans were only supposed to be gone from Earth for a few years while the WALL-E robots cleaned up, at which point everyone could return.  After several years, it was obvious that humans had done so much damage that the cleanup operation was a failure.  BnL CEO Forthright then sent a message to the AXIOM auto-pilot to not allow humans back to Earth.

WALL-E and EVE eventually uncover the plot and recover the plant before it is destroyed.  They then make it back to the captain and show him.  WALL-E, EVE, and the captain must all fight against the auto-pilot to regain control of the ship and return to Earth so that humans can once again live there.  Humans are forced out of their chairs as the ship heaves to and fro.  No longer tethered to their chairs and video screens, the fat humans start to walk on their own, and they join the fight against the ship.

Being a family movie, WALL-E, EVE, and the captain obviously triumph and return to Earth.  Humans have returned home.

Now, WALL-E is a really good movie on several different levels, which is typical of Pixar flicks.  On the surface, it’s just a good animated flick with a feel-good story where the heroes defeat the bad guys.  But there are other layers to the movie as well.

Artistically speaking, this movie must have been a bigger challenge to the animation team than previous films.  Previous films had dialogue with voice acting from big name actors.  The voices would usually add another level to each scene, creating humor or emotion that might not be fully conveyed by the animations alone.  WALL-E doesn’t have much in the way of dialogue, however.  In fact, for the first half of the movie, only a few digitized words pass between WALL-E and EVE.  This means that the animation has to do much more to achieve the same high level that previous Pixar flicks had reached with art and voice acting combined.  And, for the most part, it succeeded brilliantly.  I never once found myself thinking that a scene was dragging, or praying for some voice acting to move things along.

On another layer, the film should be viewed as a mirror on our current technology use.  With increasing rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc., it’s obvious that we are already in the early stages of the human “evolution” shown in WALL-E.  Will we eventually become fat, amorphous blobs zipping around in hover chairs, favoring video chats over face-to-face communications?  Or will we rise up against our technology and have it serve us rather than become slaves to it?  Is this movie Pixar’s call to arms?

If this movie is inciting humans to put down their iPods for a few minutes and go outside to see the planet before we destroy it with our rampant consumer waste, then this movie has yet another, largely hypocritical layer.  WALL-E is the product of Pixar Animation Studios.  Pixar was bought by Steve Jobs and he served as it’s CEO until it was bought out by Disney in 2006.  He still sits on the board of directors.  Steve Jobs is also CEO of Apple, Inc., which produces the Macintosh computers and iPods and iPhones and all the iCulture items.  In fact, WALL-E has several references to Apple in it’s frames.  When WALL-E charges his solar cells, he makes the same famous “bong” sound that Apple computers make at boot up.  WALL-E watches movies on his iPod.  EVE, as previously stated, looks just like an Apple product (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jobs unveils the iEVE robot sometime in the distant future…) and EVE was designed by Jonathan Ive, who is the designer behind some of the most iconic Apple products.

While watching this movie, I honestly didn’t know what was going on.  Does Steve Jobs want to sell me an iPod with a 700-year battery, or does he want me to stop buying his products so that we don’t destroy the planet with garbage?  When I saw Pixar’s vision of future humans, I also got a very sneaking suspicion that Steve Jobs honestly sees people like this.  I got the feeling that Steve Jobs not only doesn’t like humans, but that he’s actually disgusted by the vast majority of them.  He sees us as nothing more than numbers on sales reports.  We are the fuel that will propel him to the heights of the business world.  Now, I’m not saying that is a fact.  I’ve never met the man and I don’t know his personal feelings toward humanity.  But that was the feeling I got watching this movie.  And that is where the hypocrisy came in.  On one hand, the man is telling us not to become so reliant on technology that we lose the very things that make us human.  On the other hand, he’s selling the technology that is going to enslave me.

All that aside, WALL-E is an incredibly enjoyable movie.  Families will love it.  Kids will want WALL-E toys for birthdays and Christmas (If you don’t buy your kid the life-size EVE with kung-fu laser blaster action, don’t bother coming home!).  Parents will love the fact that they’re not sitting through another mind-numbing, saccharin-rich Disney suckfest.  I feel that WALL-E ranks about 4th from the top as far as Pixar movies are concerned.  The Incredibles is easily the best Pixar film, with Finding Nemo and Toy story falling into second and third.  WALL-E skates in just behind that.  WALL-E was infinitely better than the boring crap that was Cars (an overly obvious attempt to simply cash-in on the NASCAR craze), and much better than the incredibly mediocre Ratatouille.

It does not deserve the inflated 97% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com, nor does it deserve the 9.3/10 stars that it currently has on IMDb.com.  But it is a very good movie, nonetheless.  If you’re a fan of Pixar’s animation style and brand of humor, then WALL-E is one you should make every effort to see.

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2 comments

  1. Excellent review. Do you think they will sell roach toys and stuffed animals too? I think that would be great as then there would be landfills full of these non-biodegradable stuffed roach toys made out of toxic chemicals. Way to go humans.


  2. Actually Steve Jobs is not “saying” anything in this movie, since he did not write, produce or directed the film…

    He just received his share of the millions it raised.



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