Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wall-E / Consumerism

  • Post-apocalyptic wasteland

  • Consumerism run amok in a world ran by a corporation

  • dull color palette and virtually no dialog for the first half hour

Sounds like the spawn of Children of Men and Mad Max. But certainly not the stuff of a Pixar film for children.

Surprisingly, it works. Like Pixar has done over the last few years, they've proven that they can combine the most incredible animation around with real stories and real messages and both adults and children will get something out of it.

Wall-E follows a small robot, named Wall-E, on an abandoned earth overrun with consumer waste. His job is to clean up, compact, and make some kind of order out of it. His only companion, a cockroach. Everywhere are the signs of the government/corporation B-n-L (Buy and Large, which, amusingly, has its own website) which runs Earth. Similarities to Wal-Mart are coincidental. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

All humans are now located on a cruise ship in space and have been for 700 years. They are awaiting the opportunity to re-colonize earth after it becomes habitable again. Their lives are spent consuming, watching advertising and not lifting their fingers to do anything.

Fred Willard, in a turn as CEO/President of BnL/Earth at the time that the humans leave Earth, is amusing in his role as the captain of a sinking ship, even exclaiming "Stay the course". Similarities to George Bush are coincidental. Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge.

I won't ruin the movie by giving the plot, but suffice to say there is a love interest for Wall-E and their is a mission for him to save both himself and, hopefully the human race. Grade: A

As often happens in my life, subject matter always seems to come in bunches. A couple days earlier, I had just watched the great documentary, The Corporation.

It explains the early beginnings of the corporation, an entity largely created for the common good. And the subsequent perversion of it and granting of "person" status by our courts. A person entitled to many protections but without the obligations that normal people have. A FBI expert on psychopaths analyzes the various things that describe a psychopath and how they eerily mirror what a corporation does:

  • callous unconcern for the feelings of others

  • incapacity to maintain enduring relationships

  • reckless disregard for the safety of others

  • deceitfulness (repeated lying to and deceiving of others for profit)

  • incapacity to experience guilt

  • failure to conform to the social norms with respect to lawful behaviors

There are a bunch of great interviews with people like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Howard Zinn but, by far, the most damning evidence of what is wrong with corporations are by the very people that try to protect their existence, Milton Friedman and the heads of several conservative think tanks. They freely admit that the corporation should have no responsibility beyond making a profit.

Lastly, I want to mention a couple of great articles on the glorification of consumerism that I recently read:

Dedicated to the Pursuit of ‘Stuff’ by Michael T. Dolan

... We’ve been duped and deceived by the culture of capitalism. Through sheer greed and an arrogant sense of entitlement, we think we should have as much stuff as we want. Not only do we feel entitled to it, but even sadder, we feel it is essential to our happiness ...

... That stimulus check from the Treasury is like the dime glued into the mailer from a charity organization trying to guilt us into sending them some money right back. Here’s a grand or two; do your patriotic duty and install that home theater system ...

The Gospel of Consumption by Jeffrey Kaplan

... concern that led Charles Kettering, director of General Motors Research, to write a 1929 magazine article called “Keep the Consumer Dissatisfied.” He wasn’t suggesting that manufacturers produce shoddy products. Along with many of his corporate cohorts, he was defining a strategic shift for American industry-from fulfilling basic human needs to creating new ones.

“... By advertising and other promotional devices . . . a measurable pull on production has been created which releases capital otherwise tied up.” They celebrated the conceptual breakthrough: “Economically we have a boundless field before us; that there are new wants which will make way endlessly for newer wants, as fast as they are satisfied.”

... If we want to save the Earth, we must also save ourselves from ourselves. We can start by sharing the work and the wealth. We may just find that there is plenty of both to go around.

"The two big mistakes were the belief in a sky god -- that there's a man in the sky with 10 things he doesn't want you to do and you'll burn for a long time if you do them -- and private property, which I think is at the core of our failure as a species." -- George Carlin in NPR interview


CyberKitten said...

Wall-E looks like fun. I guess we'll be seeing it pretty soon.

Prince Caspian and Hancock first though..

wunelle said...

Interesting quotes there at the end.

I saw Wall-E a couple days ago, and my review is trying to percolate. I haven't figured out what to think of it, which probably means a second viewing is in order. Given my love of all things Pixar, I feel confident that I'll come to love it.

dbackdad said...

CK -- We saw Caspian a few weeks ago. I'd be curious to hear your take on it.

Wunelle -- I still haven't seen Ratatouille. It'd be the only Pixar movie I've missed.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: We saw Caspian a few weeks ago. I'd be curious to hear your take on it.

I'll let you know. I wasn't overly impressed by the first film & this one isn't supposed to be as good. I guess I'll find out sometime this week.

dbackdad said: I still haven't seen Ratatouille. It'd be the only Pixar movie I've missed.

The animation is outstanding. The storyline is very thin though. the best Pixar movie for me is still The Incredibles - by a *long* way.

Jeff said...

I would definitely like to see Wall-E, hopefully sometime this week.

By the way have you ever seen the documentary The Yes Men. It's basically a few guys who go in to WTO meetings acting as spokesmen for the organization. They come up with ridiculous ideas to see the reaction of the audience. It's a pretty funny and rather scary movie.

dbackdad said...

CK - I love Incredibles too and it is either my fave or 2nd, behind Wall-E. Wall-E is the most lyrical in style and most infused with an adult message.

Jeff- I have not seen that. Thanks for the recommendation. I've heard of those guys, though. Aren't they the ones that did a presentation saying that they would make bio-diesel from human fat and the presentation was actually taken seriously?

Laura said...

Hmmm. I had no idea the movie was supposed to be this poignant. We're going to see it this weekend. I'll let you know what I think...

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: We saw Caspian a few weeks ago. I'd be curious to hear your take on it.

Just got back from Prince Caspian. Thought it was reasonable but rather dull and predictable. As usual the SFX were very good. The storyline was pretty weak though. The Christian stuff was rather subdued and (mostly) buried but became pretty obvious from time to time. On the whole the acting wasn't up to much.

We actually discussed the battles mainly - as well as Peter's poor leadership skills [laughs].

Didn't really float my boat. 4/10

Anonymous said...

Awesome animation. The character is so cute and the movie is full of surprises. Pixar always creates magic and that is evident in this movie. Its a pure entertaining movie that people of all ages would love to watch again and again.
Watch WALL·E Movie