Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mini Film Review: "Wall-E"

This film is a digitally animated story of robotic love and a heroic return to a vanquished civilization. The animation is quite magical and the story endearing, funny, and thought-provoking. It is a popular film worth seeing. It harks back to slapstick and gives a few nods to classic science fiction films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Wall-E is the lone robot left on earth after its inhabitants have left on a space ship/cruise vessel. Wall-E dutifully collects garbage and shapes into bricks that become towers looking like buildings. The earth is mostly junk--except for a very cute and enterprising robot, who has managed to survive for 700 years by replacing his parts from defunct robots. (He also has a pet cockroach.)

The romance begins with an investigative robot named Eve comes to earth looking for...something. When she finds a living plant, she freezes up, horrifying Wall-E, who does everything to revive her. Eventually they are both taken up into space by the ship that deposited her on earth. Their destination is the outpost for the escaped earthlings, who are tended by robots and who have become the ultimate couch potatoes--lounging on mobile recliners, endlessly entertained in virtual worlds, and attended to by robots.

I won't ruin the plot for you, but the story is chock full of heroes, robotic and human. It is a story of fall (through ruinous stewardship of earth) and redemption when earth and humans make (literally) a come back.

Given the slide of culture toward the occult, I was relieved that "Wall-E" contained no New Age theology, as do many other children's films. (I noted this in Unmasking the New Age, back in 1986.) In fact, there is no overt theology, but the sentiment that resonates throughout the film is that the personal dimension of life--real relationships, a real connections with the earth--transcends the allure of technology and unfettered consumerism. Of course, the stars are robots, but they are just as (if not more) personal than the bloated humans that appear much later in the film. The robots display every human emotion thanks to the clever animation. And the cockroach displays emotion as well. The older animation granted personality to animals; the newer to robots. Of course, robots are not and will never become conscious, since consciousness is not derivable from matter alone; but Wall-E and Eva, nevertheless, express much that is human.

Perhaps the film celebrates the rejuvenating powers of earth, which does not terminate as a deserted garbage dump. But it fails to address the question of who made the earth and fashioned humans in his own image and likeness to find their home there. Nor does it speak to why these hapless humans are so poor at tending the garden. The answer to these questions is found in the Bible.

Andrew Stanton, the director of "Wall-E," is interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

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