Low Impact Living: Wall-e — Robotic Ode to Environmental Protection

Spoiler Alert… Jessica discusses the movie in full. This post was originally published on Sunday, June 29, 2008.

As I waited in line on opening night on Friday to see Wall-E, I thought it would be something of a robotic version of Nemo.  Having loved Nemo, I was excited to detach from my work-week stress load and calmly watch the movie.

Little did I know I was in for one of the most moving, gorgeous, and dare I say “important” movie experiences I have had for a long, long while.  This movie is a blatant and powerful indictment of our environmental destruction, and it is also a completely entertaining and warm love story. I humbly encourage everyone to see it.

**While this will be a glowing review, please scroll down to read my two complaints about the film as well.

Wall-E is the last remaining trash-collecting robot left on an abandoned planet Earth. He roams the smoggy, trash-covered landscape of our destroyed planet, crushing refuse and hanging out with his only friend, a plucky cockroach.  But Wall-E has a video of Hello Dolly that he watches on endless loop, and he longs for something more:  singing, dancing, and inter-personal (or inter-machine) contact.  In short, he is love-sick.

Where have all the humans gone? We learn that they were forced to flee their dying planet over 700 years ago in a huge space-craft called The Axiom.  On the ship they have become obese, immobile blob-beings who can only sit in their spaceship deck chairs and consume what is shown to them on their personal video monitors.  The scenes on the Axiom are scarily reminiscent of present-day Las Vegas: the over-fed humans are detached from their daily cares and are free to sit on their backsides, consume, and be constantly entertained.

I won’t spoil the plot for you, but let’s just say that a beguiling robot named Eve comes from the Axiom down to Earth in search of life forms.  She and Wall-E meet and indeed find a little sprout of a plant growing in an old boot.  Life blooms on Earth, love blooms for Wall-E and Eve, and great changes befall the humans quietly sipping their smoothies on the Axiom.

But I do have two beefs with Wall-E:

  • Why did Pixar pass up the opportunity to help people learn what they can do to become better stewards of the planet?? The movie is an inspirational environmental call to action, and yet there is no mention of HOW or WHERE people can learn to cut carbon emissions, save water, reduce their trash production, etc.  Why didn’t Pixar put up a simple screen with “ten recommendations for loving planet Earth” at the end of the film– or a link to a site with educational information? It pains me that MILLIONS of people will see this movie and learn nothing about what they can do to save the planet!
  • I also find the message at the end of the film a bit troubling. The humans return to Earth and it seems as if everything will just be hunky-dory. Yes they have some clean up to do, but it won’t be that bad.  I was sad to see that Pixar took this easy out; we don’t need to be telling Americans that our environmental practices can be swept away with some kind of simple big broom.

Please share your comments on what you thought of the movie!

  1. Nimic

    Thanks to the lack of a spoiler warning, you just gave away the end of the movie out in the open on my RSS feed. Next time, consider putting a spoiler warning and a more link…


  2. Robin

    I saw the movie, too. It was much better than I had anticipated after what felt like two years of boring previews before every kids movie we went to.

    I was glad that the movie didn’t hit you over the head with the environmental message. It did just enough. It could make the average person think “Wow, could it really be headed toward this?” without leaving the theater feeling like they just saw a documentary on the “Our doomed planet.”

    Sometimes Pixar is very good at subtle messages like the environmental message in this one or the value of a stay at home mom in The Incredibles. But other times, like in Cars, I feel like I’ve just been to a school assembly. The subject of the assembly in Cars – No one can make it alone. We all need others.

    I would have felt very disappointed if I had walked out of WallE feeling like I just walked out of a school assembly, and I’m an environmentalist. I think that the average person would have felt like it was just another green message hitting him over the head.

    Instead, they got the subtle message and a very entertaining movie. I think that goes a lot further in getting people to think.

  3. Low Impact Living

    Folks I did not give away the ending of the movie! You’ll just have to see it to find out what happens. 🙂

  4. Kendra Holliday

    I can’t wait to see this movie! I’ve heard it is less formulaic than previous animated films. I fell in love with Toy Story and have not been wowed by any of the movies that have followed. Maybe this one will win back my heart.

  5. Nena

    I’m excited about the movie in general, but I’m annoyed that they had to attack fat people to get their message across. Yes, I get that they’re making a connection between misuse of the environment and misuse of our bodies. But that’s not the only thing going on with fat people, and I’m sick of having to say that. Eddie Murphy, I’m looking at you…

  6. AL

    The message is strong, people are intelligent to get it, Disney and Pixar didn’t feel it was time to proselytize the audience.

    I’m glad they poked at fat people too. Having been one most of my life, I’m paying for it now, but like a reformed smoker or alcoholic I have gone way over to health side and can say it is never too late to make positive changes. Take another look at the ending!

  7. Paula

    Definitely think there is a disconnect and a lot of confusion out there, and know many are asking the same questions wondering what they can do. UPonGREEN “UP” is trying to address this issue since a solution is desperately needed. UP will provide you with a 14 point action plan (criteria) you can easily implement and if you are able to attain 9 out of the 14 you can become a member of UP and have your personal Eco-Profile (the actions you attained) listed on our web site. Businesses are also getting UPonGREEN and not only listing their initiatives on our web site through their Eco_Profile, but they also can communicate their actions to their business associates and customers through an UP ID. These can be placed on entrance doors, front desks, teller stations, etc. This is a powerful tool to help educate anyone who enters the establishment on what that company is doing environmentally and socially, and also provides their visitors with ideas of actions they too can implement. The idea is that this will empower others to do something as well. Take a look. Hopefully it will help provide you with a plan and you will be inspired to “get up on green”. http://www.upongreen.com

  8. Liz

    I agree that they could have popped in an informational screen, I suspect that was avoided to keep from being too preachy. The truth is, I don’t think that movie was meant to make you go out tomorrow and start cleaning up the planet, I think that movie was aimed squarely at Pixar’s real audience, children. The book “Black Beauty” which I read when I was six, provided no information on how to get involved in animal rights groups (and even if it had, it would have been a hundred years out of date), but it did have a profound affect on how I view the treatment of animals, and I carried that away with me into adulthood. I think, and hope, that the real impact of a movie like Wall-E will be felt in 15 years when the children who were touched by it become consumers and voters.

    The “clean-up” segment at the end struck me as a parable. It seemed like the intent was to say that the damage to the human race was correctable, that even after becoming fat and numbed to everything but their own needs, they were still fundamentally human. The film was, after all, as much about the human condition and the sometimes devastating impact of Western culture as it was about the environment, and it seemed like that was what was being addressed in the ending sequence.

  9. Marcy

    I also agree on that. the movie was the best pixar movie that i have ever seen since finding nemo.and i was a huge fan of ratatouille and when i went 2 see ratatouille i thought this movie was going 2 suck i thought he fixed things i didnt realize that he cleaned up the earth. i am an extremely green person, and i cried when i saw all the trash!Its like what have they done? some EVIL company called buy n large takes over the world and causes people to set their minds on consumerism and buy everything then throw it away. i also hated how the humans bacame morbidly obese cuz buy n large made robots to wait on the humans hand and foot. they become stupid and can barely read. which brings me to the thought, will the humans become like this? and they also are self centered.during the whole movie, i didnt really pay attention to wall-e i was more concerned about our earth and if that does happen. so i had 2 see it again and it was so captivating and so beautiful that even my grandmother loved it. the animation is so detailed and the message flows well, that i give this movie 1,000,000 stars! THE MUSIC IS ALSO BEAUTIFUL

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