Sharma Howard: ‘WALL-E’ merchandise adds to future junk piles
"WALL-E” has one of the cutest robots on record and enough animated magic to light up the galaxy but, like the machines it makes into heroes, the movie has no soul.
Consider this: “WALL-E” has won plaudits for its imaginative view of Earth 700 years from now, with its endless skyscrapers of unrecycled junk. Yet Disney, which released the movie in conjunction with Pixar Animation Studios, gave theater-goers cheap rubber watches that only helped line more of America’s fading dumps.
Oh, but it’s just a movie, right? Why should it be held up to such a high standard?
Exactly because it has been hailed as an animation breakthrough — something on the order of Al Gore’s documentary about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Well, the inconvenient truth here is you can’t palm off a children’s movie as a cautionary tale about the dark future of mankind and then contribute to the dark future of mankind while you reap the accolades for your courage in tackling the subject in a children’s movie. It’s this kind of disconnected sense of responsibility that got us into this global mess in the first place.
Disney and Pixar are masters of marketing, but this kind of moral sleight-of-hand must have made it difficult for all but the crassest publicist to avoid cringing as he contemplated the millions of WALL-E toys the companies will sell worldwide to support the movie.
Imagine how many of these will end up polluting the biosphere in one way or another.
I realize the rest of the world is over the moon with “WALL-E,” but I tired very quickly of the lack of dialogue — one of the praises my friend, a movie critic, quickly pointed to when raving about the movie, asserting it is sure to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture this year.
The stunted dialogue between the two robots, WALL-E and Eva, consisted of the two learning how to say each other’s names. Trust me, it was annoying. Then there was Earth, devoid of human life but effluent with the remains of an excessive consumer culture. If you are looking for family entertainment, this is just depressing.
When humans do appear, they are larvae-like, having lost bone mass from their state of hovering in easy chairs instead of walking, waited on by a fleet of robots, sipping oversized cups of drinks they surely don’t need through straws.
Although the movie ends with humans returning to Earth and claiming independence from robotic control (ah, a new type of pilgrims!) after being relegated to a limbo state in space on board a mammoth space center, I was left cold.
The only aspect of the story I found intriguing was the love story, if you can call it love when it involves two computers.
WALL-E is a battered bulldozer-type computer that shovels refuse and compresses it in his chest into tidy squares he then ejects and stacks. The reprise from the dreariness is his colorful lair where he hoards items that intrigue him or are useful. He’s not sophisticated or brilliant. But he is resourceful, purposeful and, later we find, he is kind and loyal.
The probe that comes to Earth is sleek (she flies) and complex, a bit temperamental, in fact. Her name is Eva (the archetypal woman). She’s smarter, and her job seems more, well, high-tech.
I found this thematically intriguing. We are in an interesting societal shift — it is becoming more acceptable for women to have a superstar career, and even be supported by a man in a less traditionally nurturing role, the salt-of-the-earth type (pun intended).
This thread of social commentary was more subtle than the dire collision course with the consequences of our excess the movie portends.
We all know it would help if we recycle, exercise and avoid super-sized meals and drinks. And, of course, spurn plastic merchandise for children destined for landfills a week later.
Reach Sharma Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org