This is about my oldest daughter's first trip to the movies. When she was born we had decided, based on what a friend of mine had done with his son, that we wanted to wait to take her to a movie theater. Aside from the obvious insanity of taking an infant or a very young toddler to a place where they are expected to stay still and quiet for 90 minutes or more, I wanted the experience to be something that was memorable, special, something that we could look back on together with fondness. We chose to see WALL•E, the Pixar movie, about a robot and what happens when he develops a consciousness, chooses a goal, and goes after it. What follows is my analysis of the movie and of my attempt to write this review. I will probably include spoilers of all sorts, so if you don't want to know any of the plot then move along.
When I first watched a trailer the setting struck me as terrible. I saw a barren earth populated only by one robot and trash and thought, "Okay so the environmentalist movement has taken over Pixar, and it is an agitprop film that is anti-man." I had trouble reconciling this view with all of my other experience with Pixar, so based on their reputation of excellence I looked into it a little more. I found I was still annoyed by the background, but the WALL•E character and the excellent animation and sound effects that showed through in a handful of trailers, along with the fact that the negative points seemed to be secondary and not part of the main plot I decided to go ahead and check it out.
Allison was very excited leading up to July 6th, when we chose to go see it. We watched the trailers a few times to hype it up a bit and she couldn't wait to go see this big screen. I think she also really liked the idea of going out with both Mommy and Daddy and leaving her younger sister with Mom-mom. Once we got there she was very interested in the theater experience including the lighted walkways, the seat and especially the popcorn. Once the popcorn was finished the film held her attention pretty well despite the fact that the storyline was a bit complex for a 3 and 1/2 year old. She stood at the rail for about 40 minutes during the show, and only had her interest waver slightly. We have talked about the film a few times since going and I have been able to clarify the whys and whatfors of specific points for her (1). I was satisfied with the wait and the choice we made of when to take her.
As for me, once I got a glimpse of "Buy N Large" and saw the were to *blame* for the wreckage of Earth, I was very annoyed. And then I got a look at the big fat humans that were too stupid and lazy to take care of their bodies but were able to create space cities which can transport thousands of people in ultimate comfort. They can create robots that are very sophisticated and can carry out complex tasks but can't figure out how to dispose of waste properly or grow a plant. I was more than annoyed. However, I was able to just block out these parts that I disagreed with as I intended to go author a scathing review which exposed Pixar for the irrational capitalism haters that they were. As I was enjoying watching a film with Allison I tried to enjoy the story as well.
I found the plot compelling the characters likable and excellently done. I liked the story despite the obvious background flaws. I left it feeling very annoyed at the contradictions in the film. On one hand man can create wonders and can rise up and act heroically, but on the other hand they were unable to walk or not cover every square foot of the planet with 5 feet deep of trash.
So in trying to find the essential flaw in the film, the main root of the insanity, I kept running into the fact that I liked it and it had many good points. I couldn't reconcile the flaws with the strengths. It wasn't until I happened across a review by Jennifer Snow that she pointed out my problem. I was trying to judge the work by non-essentials, by the background, by the fact that it was set in a man made trash heap.
Upon understanding this I relived the experience in my head and saw all the heroic acts by WALL•E as he identified his goals and gave everything he could to achieve them. I saw the other robots that gained consciousness and worked and fought to gain their values, and the parallel to the humans on the ship that gained consciousness when WALL•E crossed their paths and woke them up. I saw the contrast of the actions by the "broken" reject robots compared to the mindless dogmatic robots like the autopilot. I saw the stylistic way the robots were made more real with visual detail than the cartoonish humans by the artists. I saw how the background and how it got that way wasn't the focus, but just where the action happened to take place.
It was after this realization it was possible to write down my thoughts. There was no overt contradiction, I just needed to check my premises. I went there looking for flaws and I sure found them. But if my focus is on flaws then what good can I find or offer? While I would have preferred a different back story, the heroic journey by WALL•E and all of the people and other robots in the movie is well done and is definitely worth seeing.
1. Why? and What for? are just about my favorite questions that my kids ask. It certainly can be tedious at times and I will often challenge them to come up with their own reasons behind things. But I think the asking of these questions might be the most important developmental milestone for a child.