Film Review: Wall-E: Critical Analysis

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Wall-E: A metaphor of creation and a fall from grace

In our modern day society, religion is often depicted as the enemy of science and technology. Science is viewed as mechanistic and the antithesis of creative, humanistic responses to struggle. The film Wall-E challenges this notion in its tale of the birth and growth of a small robot that is analogous to the creation story of Adam and Eve. By creating such an implied story of origins, Wall-E implies we must rethink our relationship between humanity and technology. Ironically, the little robot is the most human creature in the entire film, much more so than the human beings who have become lazy and unaware of the beauty of the world's creation. Through his naive and diligent exploration of the world, the film suggests that Wall-E is the most human of all beings in the world of the film. He alone has a strong work ethic, impetus to live, and a single-minded determination to care for his fellow creatures, including the feminine robot 'Eve.'

The creation narrative of the film in many ways embodies the first chapters of Genesis. In the film, the earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to the garbage that has covered it over the years. The title robot Wall-E is sent on a mission to clean up the earth. Wall-E is optimistic and cheerful when embarking upon his tasks. He finds many valuable (in his eyes) things in the rubble -- from his perspective all of the artifacts of the lost civilization are meaningful. Wall-E is 'naming' the objects just like Adam named the flora and fauna of the new world when the first man was born. Although the viewer of the film can appreciate the humorous irony in the discrepancy between how Wall-E perceives the objects in the rubble and how those objects actually are in our own contemporary life, Wall-E experiences everything as fresh and new.

This is another example of how Wall-E becomes a kind of 'Adam' or new, untouched human being in the landscape of the earth -- he is the only creature that can survive, alone and lost, amongst the remains of what was once our planet. Wall-E's encounters with the spoiled planet are paralleled with Adam's encounters with the new world of Bible. Like Adam, Wall-E has no human father or mother -- he is entirely alone in the world at first and must create his own identity from whole cloth. Also like Adam, Wall-E is given the task of being the world's caretaker (a task which later human beings shirk, of course, resulting in environmental degradation). In the Bible God says: "…be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Genesis 1: 28). God gives stewardship and responsibility to human beings but in Wall-E, the only creature which takes on the awesome responsibility of managing the planet is the human-generated robot that is more industrious and athletic than the human beings which created him.

There is a certain irony to this, of course: the reason the world is so untouched and unspoiled at the beginning of Wall-E, so devoid of human beings is because humanity has destroyed the world. Wall-E's world is pristine, serene -- and lonely, much like Adam's world before the injection of Eve. The world may be more moral and less disturbed than when humans inhabited the planet but complete and utter stillness is not a solution to the destructive nature of humanity, either. Just as the earth before the creation of the animals, Adam, and Eve, there is a desire from the divine, creative force to fill that void with activity, and the little robot Wall-E fills that need.

Then to further complicate matters, another robot named 'Eve' intrudes. Eve is charged with finding out if the earth is still inhabitable, but Wall-E does not know this. Instead, Wall-E anthropomorphizes Eve and tries to protect her. Wall-E becomes completely besotted with Eve and cannot abandon her. When Eve finds evidence of life she sends a message to the people who created her to come back. The small plant is the Tree of Knowledge which Eve uses to alert her mother ship and bring back humans (the fall from grace and the ejection from the Garden of Eden). Although Eve begins the film as a kind of tempting figure, bringing back ravaging humans to the planet they formerly destroyed on one hand, she also is able to gain humanity from her exposure to Wall-E (and ironically not through her exposure to humans). Eve gradually (much like Wall-E) begins to take on a personality over the film. Although Eve and Wall-E are 'created' beings (much like Adam and Eve themselves), this does not mean they cannot develop and eventually use free will in a manner that shames the passive human beings who are hyper-reliant on technology simply to be mobile.

The humans of the world of Wall-E are so completely debased from their original incarnation, they cannot even move on their own. They require motorized scooters to move about. They are rendered prisoners of their own bodies and seem unable to fully appreciate their capacity for emotion or caring because they are so absorbed in their existences. Thus, in the new world of the future as depicted by the film's creators, human beings have become distorted both in form and in terms of how they relate to the earth. As one reviewer noted regarding the controversy stirred up by the film: "Interestingly, the film has become oddly controversial in the States. Its humane message and concern for ecology have been criticized in conservative quarters as a left-wing attack on corporate neglect and the depredations of big business. Cute is OK, but Kyoto isn't" (French 1).

As well as critiquing human stewardship of the earth, Wall-E also suggests the possibilities of creation in the sense that all is not lost. Even a robot such as Wall-E, through gradual exposure to the concept of feeling and emotion can begin to take on human characteristics and the overstuffed human beings of the film are shown at its very end reconnecting to the earth through farming and are finally able to move their limbs once again, freed from their motorized scooters. One of Wall-E's most treasured artifacts is a film (Hello Dolly) that depicts love and dancing, suggesting the connection with physicality and emotion that has been lost but can be regained and reborn again.

The ability of the best parts of human life to be retained within even the hearts of robots is dramatically illustrated when Wall-E first meets Eve: he wants to hold her hand because he has seen it on television and feels love and longing for her. When Eve is taken away, Wall-E clings to her, desperate not to be alone any more. "Wall-E belongs to those creations of scientists and artists like Frankenstein's monster and the androids in Blade Runner, Geppetto's Pinocchio and Pygmalion's Galatea, who become vulnerably human. As in all Pixar movies, things and animals are all kinder, more likable than the humans they encounter" (French 1). The robots of Wall-E, primarily by virtue of their engagement with the earth, seem more human than the humans themselves. "The residents of the space station, accustomed to being tended by industrious robots, have grown to resemble giant babies, with soft faces, rounded torsos and stubby, weak limbs. Consumer capitalism, anticipating every possible need and swaddling its subjects in convenience, is an infantilizing force. But as they cruise around on reclining chairs, eyes fixed on video screens, taking in calories from straws sticking out of giant cups, these overgrown space babies also look like moviegoers at a multiplex" (Scott 1). Wall-E thus functions as a Biblical, cautionary parable of the dangers of technology designed to 'hit home' with the viewers in a very visceral manner by contrasting Wall-E's single-minded determination to love Eve, which is so much more compelling and human than the human being's focus on consumerism, television, and slurping down huge drinks. When Wall-E flits in and out of the chair-bound human beings of the film, the viewer is struck by how much more kinesthetically active he is and how much more 'human' he appears, in comparison to their sloth.

Wall-E's behavior continually highlights the irony of human waste of the earth, in contrast to the appreciation the robot shows for its miracles. One of the first scenes shows the robot embarking upon his hard work of excavating and compacting garbage. Wall-E is shown nearly running over a cockroach and then respectfully asking the bug to get out of his way (in a manner very different from the ways in which most humans treat animals). Then he moves through the bleak, post-apocalyptic world full of garbage, stopping periodically to examine the items he finds that are interesting. With no frame… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Wall-E: Critical Analysis.  (2014, May 6).  Retrieved June 26, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/wall-e-critical-analysis/6186679

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