It's a love story about two lonely robots that may very well represent all that is left of life on Earth, a science-fiction fable about what makes us who we are. It's a tale, according to writer/director Andrew Stanton, about "a little machine with a soul [that] over time finally asks that question: 'There has to be more to life than what I'm doing.' "
"WALL-E," Pixar Animation Studios' latest opus, is certainly all those things, but it's also a movie that "presents a wonderful message about environmental stewardship and conservation," containing "unsubtle jabs at corporate megapowers, out-of-control branding, insidious advertising and rampant consumerism," as CHUD.com's Devin Faraci pointed out in an editorial on his site Monday.
The movie deals with a Waste Allocation robot left on Earth to dig the planet out from under mountains of trash, while what's left of humanity passes the time as gelatinous blobs of flesh in a luxury space cruiser. Both the planet and the people from it are victims of rampant, uncontrolled consumerism.
Given that premise, Faraci and Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere.com have both chided the film's talent, beginning with Stanton, for reportedly refusing to acknowledge the central themes of 'WALL-E' as anything other than byproducts of a Disney love story.
Maybe some of the voice actors didn't get the memo?
"It absolutely is a cautionary tale," said Fred Willard, who appears in the film as the CEO of the insidious Buy n Large, the company seemingly most responsible for Earth's sorry state. "You can suddenly say, 'Boy, it looks a lot like scenes we're already seeing around the world,' with all these floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and natural disasters, which are caused a lot by our economy and damaging our resources. I hope it implants in young people's minds to keep our planet clean and be more conscious of the environment."
"It's also something that is very realistic," added Kathy Najimy, who voices Mary, one of the spaceship's inhabitants. "It's not like 40 billion years from now, we may have this problem. We have this problem right now, if you're talking about the population of junk on this Earth and what WALL-E does for a living."
Stanton himself, while insisting that making an environmental film was not part of an "agenda," acknowledged to MTV News that "WALL-E" had elements that made it somewhat of a warning.
"It's science fiction, not science fact," the director said. "[But] I think that all really good sci-fi films make certain observations about ourselves that just seem like a little bit of a truth about us. You use that to tell your main story ... to amplify the story."
In fact, the only actor with whom MTV News spoke who refused to recognize the film's environmental message was Pixar good-luck charm John Ratzenberger. Asked if he thought the film was cautionary, he said, "No. I think it's fantasy."
But at the end of the day, not putting the environmental message front and center is a good thing, Najimy and Willard said, because the message is front and center in the movie — and it's the movie, not the voices behind it, that has the potential to shape audiences' minds forever.
"It's not scary, and it's not without solutions. I don't like to pose a problem just for the sake of fear," Najimy said of the environmental message. "I like when I'm shown what the problem is or might be and then the ways that I can be part of fixing it."
Check out everything we've got on "WALL-E."
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