Friday, June 27, 2008

Global Warming Friday: Wall*E

Let me start with my main complaint. We discovered, as the ticket-taker handed back our ticket stubs, that the first however many kids going to see Wall*E got a free watch. Scooter was overjoyed to be given a prize even before the movie began, so he clutched it tightly. I have dutifully set it and figure we were planning on trying to teach him to tell time (with the current short cut of using digital), so what the heck. Except... the watch is basically one of those rubber wristbands with a little display inset, made in China, and the battery cannot be replaced. In other words, destined for the landfill. For those of you who have read about the movie, the irony should be obvious; for the rest, you'll figure it out pretty quickly.

Watch aside, how great was this movie! I'm generally a Pixar fan anyways and find that they are able to work at multiple levels, providing entertainment for kids and parents alike, but this film transcends their usual fare. And somehow, before I started reading reviews today to decide whether or not to take Scooter, I hadn't known about the environmental element of the story. I knew there were two robots who fall in love, but had no idea about the larger narrative.

A partial summary, being as un-spoilery as possible: Wall*E is basically a robotic garbage compactor. For several centuries, he has been working through the garbage that covers the Earth's surface. His only companionship is, of course, a cockroach. Some of the opening scenes, establishing the routine of Wall*E's lonely existence reminded me of I Am Legend--without the sense of impending danger, just that Wall*E has found a rhythm that helps him deal what might otherwise feel like a pointless existence.

When another robot is set down in his neighborhood to search for any signs of vegetation, Wall*E quickly falls in love. His desire to be with her is what sets up the drastic change of scenery for the second part of the movie.

Much of the movie is dark, as it presents a dystopic vision of what could happen to our planet and us. The opening scenes make it clear that humans have turned to alternative energy sources, but in the end are overwhelmed by the trash produced in a consumerist society. But it is not without hope, and the closing credits make more concrete the possibilities that are suggested at the movie's end. (Not that I got to watch them all, as I had a 5-year-old repeatedly asking, "Is it the The End?")

As we walked out of the theater, Scooter said that he loved the movie. But take that with a grain of salt, as he followed what has become his usual pattern: eagerly order popcorn and find a seat, wonder through ads and previews when the movie will start, proclaim self scared of stuff that isn't all that scary, sit on one mother's lap, switch mother's or move to behind a mother (the better to be protected from the movie), request a couple times to go home, ask if it's over yet, insist that the movie was great. Still, we continue to take him to kids' movies, at least in part for the practice.

He came out of the theater talking about the different robots. And I figure that's what he'll most remember. But I know, from past experiences, that some of the message has crept in there too and they'll reappear at surprising moments. Plus, I can now refer back to the movie as a touchstone when we encounter moments that resonate with its lessons. In particular, different aspects can be used to discuss the saying, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." But there are also messages about education and how much we miss if we're always buried in the computer screen (and yes, ironic that I'm now buried in my laptop to write this, but it did make me want to step away for a bit). There are several more complex topics introduced as well, particularly the issue of the role of corporations in our lives and the power of advertisement. Even some politics, especially if you want to dissect the suggestion at one point to "Stay the course." Throw in the usual bits about love and perseverance and doing what's right. This one will provide fodder for many areas of discussion.

But back to the watch. I can't help but wonder how much crap tie-in merchandise I'll be seeing in the stores. There are surely a thousand different product ideas, mostly cheap plastic and made overseas, that have been dreamed up for this movie, encased in layers of cardboard and plastic. I'm plenty guilty of purchasing such items, though we've slowed down a bit in this department. But whether or not I personally pass over these items, it's disappointing to think that a movie with such a strong message might be perverted in such a way.

Maybe I'll be proven wrong. (Disney, please prove me wrong.) Maybe the Wall*E's of our future won't be compacting plastic watches and figurines that look just like them.

1 comment:

Purdue Matt said...

global warming is a hoax.