At its core, Wall-E is all about that emotional connection, albeit the connection between 2 machines, & the lack of human interaction in a wholly connected universe. 12 years later that message is even more prophetic as we interact via facetime, zoom, tic tok & other forms of social media, all in place of being in the physical presence of who we’re interacting with. Sure, the pandemic has had an impact on some of this, but can anyone really say we weren’t headed towards an Axiom existence without it? The connection between Wall-E & EVE is funnier, more romantic & more genuine than any rom com that I can remember because its built on small moments, the type of moments that cannot be transmitted through an electronic connection.
Looking more broadly at the impact of that lack of connection, Stanton squarely places the blame at the feet of big consumer driven corporations, in this case Buy N Large, the ubiquitous entity that owns everything from hyper markets, to banks & finally, in an effort to extend its business model, space ships. The destruction of Earth is predicated on mass consumerism that drives personal satisfaction through buying bigger & bigger, wasting resources for pleasure. As we move back towards the respect for & belief in Science as a tool to understand & potentially head off environmental catastrophe, Wall-E should be looked at an artifact that can either predict our future or as a cautionary tale to understand the harm we’re inflicting on ourselves.
For me, looking at the film again a few days ago, the most immediately important message of the film is the means by which Wall-E attempts to initially connect with EVE, watching a movie. Wall-E repeatedly watches scenes from 1969’s Hello Dolly as a way of understanding human emotions and actions. Dancing, the tipping of a hat & the all-important holding hands, are all signposts of emotion, whether happiness, respect or love. He enjoys the film by himself, much as we are now forced/choose to enjoy classic films in our homes, alone & without the communal experience that is so important. Wall-E shows the film to EVE as a way of bonding over an emotional experience that he wants to share, much in the same way bloggers write about films they love. The shared memory of the movie bonds EVE to Wall-E while he is inanimate in just the same way Wall-E tried to bring elements of the movie to EVE. The shared experience of the movie is the bond that unites them! Until movie theatres open & the invaluable communal experience of enjoying movies in a crowd returns, writing about movies we love is that bridge, but make no mistake, sharing personal interaction, whether indirectly in a darkened theatre, or more importantly face to face cannot come through a screen of any size.
Finally, about a year and a half ago, my now college age son had some friends over to watch a movie & they chose Wall-E. My hope, of course, was that they chose the film because they are all environmentally aware young adults who wanted to enjoy the ultimately uplifting message, but in looking back I hope they took away the message about “the screens”, if only for a short time. They enjoyed the film together in the same space, which is the first key, they interacted to choose it & they laughed & talked while watching it, all important elements in making connections. If Wall-E & EVE can create an emotional attachment through inanimate hands, then surely people can create, hold & maintain connections with skin & bones (albeit in diminishing density). Here’s to Andrew Stanton & his amazing Pixar team for creating a heartwarming & relevant film!