Monday, July 14, 2008

What's all the fuss about Wall-E?

A.O. Scott of the New York Times insists that the new, animated, children's movie, Wall-E, is "is a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in." What are those darker implications? That "[c]onsumer capitalism, anticipating every possible need and swaddling its subjects in convenience, is an infantilizing force."

Picking up on the same perceived message, but from a vastly different point of view, Jack Markowitz asks in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review if the kiddie flick's "producers realize how much they are, perhaps unintentionally, promoting an anti-market -- even anti-American -- world-view?"

So is Wall-E a profound parable or dangerous propaganda?

The truth is that this flick, which my wife, son and I sat through on an overcast Sunday morning, is something less impressive than fans and critics alike would have us believe. That is, Wall-E is a disappointingly mediocre movie.

Fifteen minutes into the slow, gray, dialogue-free first part of this cinematic misfire, we almost walked out -- not because be were offended, but because we were painfully bored. My kid squirmed, I shifted in my seat and my wife shot should-we-go glances at me over the tot's head as we waited for something, anything, entertaining to happen on-screen.

Fortunately, Eve -- the female robot and love interest -- showed up, bringing actual color and action with her.

Don't get me wrong -- as has been noted elsewhere, the animation is impressive. Pixar has done some cool stuff on-screen.

And the robots are cute and fun. The love story between them is sweet and they show commendable qualities like courage, compassion and individual initiative.

As for the political content that has folks cheering or jeering depending on whether they've declared their fealty to team blue or team red? Well, it's a lot more simple-minded than the reviewers would have you believe. I mean, "don't litter -- a lot, anyway" and "get off the sofa, drop the slushie and turn off the TV" are about as much message as I see my kid taking away from the movie for the next decade (he's not yet three). I don't think those are especially controversial or objectionable messages.

There is an anti-business element to the story, since something called Buy n Large has apparently taken over the world, branded everything and enabled people to be fat, wasteful slugs. But it seems to be a relatively benign sort of corporate rule, enforced more by convenience and screaming deals than the iron fist of oppression. It's also too over-the-top to take seriously, especially when presented by those anarcho-syndicalist collectives (not), Pixar and Disney.

Which leads us to the one really offensive element I found in the movie: the treatment of people as gullible, slothful cattle, incapable of resisting even the mildest inducement or exerting any independent effort or thought if offered a few luxuries. I mean, really, if that's your view of human character, you should just confine your elitist nonsense to scribbling "Kill Your TV" in chalk on the streets of the nearest college town and spare the rest of us the inanity.

Honestly, the only people I can imagine displaying such an exaggerated herd mentality are the twits rushing to endorse or denounce a movie that isn't worthy of all the energy that's being expended.

I hope somebody releases a good children's movie soon.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Fortunately, Eve -- the female robot and love interest -- showed up, bring actual color and action with her."

I think you meant "bringing actual color and action with her." For future reference, be sure to PROOFREAD your articles before posting them. Maybe then people will take you seriously.

July 25, 2008 11:50 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

Why, yes, oh ill-tempered editorial type. That should be "bringing."

By the way, you misspelled your name. It's: A-S-S-H-O-L-E

July 25, 2008 12:04 PM  
Blogger atomicsmith said...

Hi there, just stumbled on this post. Thanks for putting it out there.

It appears to me your reading the film as a kind of dualistic morality lesson. The logic seems to be, "because the film relates to our current situation, it must be taking 'a side'."

How can a film that suggests monopolies should be avoided be anti-market? How can a film that rejects centralized authoritarianism be anti-American?

Check this out:
While I don't whole-heartedly endorse this authors reading, I think the emphasis on deeper symbols is right on. This film isn't pro- or anti-anything. It's a metaphor for the situation(s) we're in individually, spiritually and globally - Lost in space, trying to find home.

As for taking a dim view of humanity, did you finish the film?? The humans wake from their haze, and take a stand for what is right and return to the Earth. We can only hope the humans on this spaceship will do the same.

I would very much appreciate your response.

July 28, 2008 6:30 PM  
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^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 19, 2009 1:14 AM  

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