Imagine yourself being in a group of friends who organize movie nights every weekend. It's your turn to host this week and, being the hardcore animation fan that you are, without any hesitation you decide to pick WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) for the movie night. Your friends arrive at your place with excitement, until they learn of what they're in for. The boys laugh at you and tell you to grow up; the ladies are a little bit nicer, but you can tell they definitely aren't impressed. The show must go on, however, so your friends reluctantly honor your decision and begin to watch the TV screen as a trash-collecting robot appears. Ninety-eight minutes later, you have successfully added new members toyour animation fan group.
As an animated movie, WALL-E is understandably appealing to young viewers. But how exactly does it manage to win the heart of millions of viewers of varying ages and demographics worldwide?
A Disney and Pixar Animation Studio production, WALL-E is a 2008 computer-animated science fiction film directed by Andrew Stanton. Since its release, WALL-E has been met with overwhelming appraisal among viewers and critics, with an astounding approval rating of 96% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed $534 million worldwide. Its long list of accolades includes the 2008 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as well as five other Academy Awards nominations. WALL-E also ranks first in TIME's "Best Movies of the Decade," ahead of the likes of Avatar, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Lord of the Rings.
As mentioned above, despite its nature as an animated movie, WALL-E is still able to attract audiences regardless of age. As it is often the case for a Disney/Pixar production, the technical aspects such as design and animation are top-notch. In WALL-E's case, Andrew Stanton takes it to a whole new level by implementing deep layers of meanings behind what is shown on screen. He enjoyed great success subtly mixing profound themes into a supposedly simplistic plot. This essay will dissect WALL-E's plot and analyze the underlying themes that accompany the story.
I. Polluted Environment and the Appreciation of God's Creation
The movie begins with a scene centering around the main protagonist, WALL-E, the lone remaining robot on Earth. He is working his daily job of contracting the trash that humans left behind. But where have the true owners of the Earth gone? They apparently decided to evacuate the mess that they created and moved to a spaceship habitat called the Axiom. This part of the plot represents Stanton's first attempt at critiquing the current lifestyle of human beings. He reminds us that if this keeps up, our beautiful planet may end up in a state of pollution so severe that it could no longer allow for proper living conditions.
A devout Christian, Stanton does not waste this opportunity to incorporate Christian messages through WALL-E, even using the name of one of the characters to hint at the inclusion of Christian themes. EVE, whose name is spelled the same as the Bible's Eve, makes her appearance to accompany the lonely WALL-E, just like how God created Eve as Adam's partner. Through his depiction of the human race's mistreating and abandonment of the Earth, the message Stanton wants to deliver is a criticism on the lack of appreciation for God's creation as well as a reminder to humanity that we ought to remember the Earth is a gift from God, and that He wants human beings to foster it instead of taking it for granted.
II. Technology: Friend or Foe?
Elsewhere in Axiom, the real owners of the Earth are spending their days sipping meals out of cups and enjoying the epitome of sedentary lifestyles. After hundreds of years living in space not having to move a muscle, humans have virtually converted themselves into couch potatoes. Technology, meanwhile, takes care of all the "dirty work." This raises a question of to what extent the role of technology should be expanded in the future. Technology, without a doubt, has the capability to make life a convenient experience to humanity. However, an over-reliance on technology could lead to a dystopian society like the one depicted in WALL-E, where humans essentially turn into robots while robots like WALL-E and EVE actually have more humanistic qualities than the humans themselves.
III. True Love Knows no Boundaries
After hundreds of years of doing the same thing over and over again, WALL-E has developed a personality. Although he's only programmed to contract mechanical trash into square boxes, he begins collecting weird items of trash then using them to furnish and decorate his little "home." In his time off work, WALL-E develops an affection for "Hello, Dolly!", which he watches on an old VHS tape time and time again.
The video gives WALL-E the idea of holding hands and falling in love, and the lonely robot begins to dream of finding someone special. WALL-E's first shot at romance appears in the form of a glistening egg-shaped drone named EVE, who was sent to Earth to check for any signs of life. Following an awkward encounter, WALL-E falls for her. After initial nonchalance from EVE, WALL-E's persistent pursuit pays off.
There was nothing that could stop WALL-E from being with his sweetheart, not even hundreds of billions of miles of space travel, evil robots, or a captain who has lost all concept of what life on Earth was like. Through WALL-E and EVE’s love story, Stanton makes it clear that despite all adversity, love will always come through in the end. It is ironic, though, since the love story revolves around a pair of supposedly programmed and emotionless robots.
A little child can laugh at the animation and adore the cuteness of WALL-E; a grown-up can sit back and ponder the messages in the form of critiques that Stanton leaves in his movie; a couple can enjoy the romantic moments in the heart-melting love story of WALL-E and EVE. WALL-E truly is a movie for all ages, and one that will reign for the ages.
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