I saw the most frightening childrens’ movie this weekend, Pixar’s “Wall-E.” The child in the row behind me squealed with delight over every adorable character. She punctuated each screen debut with the character’s name. She faithfully announced Wall-E and Eve each time, convinced we were as excited as she was.
She had no idea I was simply horrified. The shrill screams seemed appropriate. The giddy enthusiasm did not.
Humans have left the Earth behind in an their never-ending trail of trash. While one solitary robot, Wall-E, continues the clean up effort on Earth, Eve comes to scan the planet for any sign of life. She just needs something green and alive. Scan after scan, it seems less and less likely.
The brilliant blue and green Earth as we know it has been left behind as a brown shabby dustbin. The human oasis in space, a huge ship called Axiom, provides “natural” cycles of night and day. When the ship’s captain oversleeps and misses the morning announcements, he simply dials the whole system back a few hours.
It appears there’s a recognized need for the concept of nature without requiring the actual thing itself. Of course, there’s also a statement about human nature and the state of mankind that is alarmingly plausible.
This space cruise was planned for a five-year trip while robots cleaned up the mess the humans left behind. They, however, have been cruising for 700 years in hi-tech La-Z-Boy recliners. All meals are delivered in a cup with a bendy straw and the humans pass the time talking to others via a visual display only inches from their noses. Even conversations with the person sitting next to them are conducted this way. Apparently, everyone is so incredibly comfortable they haven’t asked what happened to that five-year plan.
Their entire existence is a series of video chats without the slightest awareness of their physical largess or the other people on board, unless you count their digital representations. Their social systems are as out of shape as their physical health.
The only characters with a sense of purpose are the robots–Wall-E who faithfully returns to his impossible task each morning, Eve who must fulfill her directive to return a plant to the ship’s captain, and M-O who can’t allow foreign contaminants to dirty up his floor. Throughout the movie, the audience is more likely to relate to these quirky robots than to anything portrayed as human.
The notions of nature and mankind are so perverse as to not be recognizable. And then, at times, to be completely plausible. It’s frightening. There’s a system of government at work in the film too and it completes this spooky picture of perfectly consituted disorder.
The ship’s autopilot, AUTO, controls the Axiom and follows orders programmed into the system 695 years ago. When Eve returns with a plant from Earth, the ship’s robots work together to eject the plant and disregard the captain’s orders to finally return to Earth. The system knows best. There’s no need to be informed by signs of natural life on Earth or to listen to the commands of the people.
This world of disorder is so perfectly constituted it looks like a pretty easy way of life. Is that the axiom of our future existence? <insert shrill scream here>