A Film Review: WALL-E

To celebrate the holiday season at GreenBlue, we watched WALL-E as part of our monthly environmental film screening in December. WALL-E, a computer-animated science fiction film by Pixar set in the distant future, takes place in a world that has become engulfed by trash due to decades of mass consumerism, and as a result the planet has become inhabitable and humans have been evacuated to live in space. The film follows a trash-compactor robot named WALL-E who was created to clean up the planet. One day, WALL-E discovers a fledgling plant growing among the trash—does this mean Earth can sustain life one again? To find out the answer (and to follow his lady love, robot EVE), WALL-E embarks on a journey through space that ultimately decides the fate of humankind. A few GreenBlue staff members provide their insights on the film.

President & CEO Lance Hosey: Around the time of WALL-E’s release, Lance Hosey provided a commentary on the film for his monthly column in Architect magazine. Below is an excerpt of his article “Blight Future: Does WALL-E Foretell Our Future, or is Idiocracy Closer to the Truth?”

Sustainable design aims to safeguard the future of the Earth as environmentalists worry about the effects of melting ice caps, ozone depletion, and species eradication. Even bleaker, however, imagine a future where our garbage has piled so high and wide that there is no room left for anything else—including us.

That is the premise of WALL-E, the latest bit of genius from animation studio Pixar. Hundreds of years from now, the entire planet has become an immense landscape of litter. Humans have long since quit the Earth, which is left to be tended by the title character, an adorable little sanitation robot whose name stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class. Fritting about in this vast junkyard, WALL-E painstakingly stacks up ziggurats of trash, skyscrapers of scrap, whole cities of refuse.

Is a waste-filled future so far-fetched? In the United States alone, some 40 million plastic bottles get tossed out every day, and only a fraction of this is recycled. Until it shut down in 2001, the Fresh Kills landfill on New York’s Staten Island threatened to become the highest elevation on the East Coast. A footprint of nearly five square miles and 650 tons of rubbish shipped in daily made it possibly the biggest manmade structure in the world, larger in volume than the Great Wall of China. Fresh Kills opened only 60 years ago—what will the world look like several centuries from now? Read More

Director of External Relations Erin Malec: If you haven’t yet seen WALL-E, you may be skeptical that an animated film about a trash compactor robot in a post-apocalyptic worlds could be so human. But WALL-E is one of the most touching and heartfelt films I’ve seen. It’s R2D2 meets The Lorax with an unconventional love story thrown in.

I love that the film shows us the best and worst of what humans have to offer. At our worst, it’s sadly easy to imagine how our obsession with bigger and more—regardless to outcome or impact—could destroy the world. And the film also shows us the potential for our best, whether it’s our capacity for love via two charming robots named WALL-E and EVE, or our ability to hope and make the future better as seen through a single green leaf.

Communications Designer Stephanie Fishwick: I had seen WALL-E when it came out in the theatre and loved it. I remembered that it was a powerful message and a beautiful animated film. I’m glad I was able to watch it again during our monthly film screening. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t watched it in a while I would suggest giving it another viewing.

WALL-E is a film with a very clear message: We make and use too much stuff and if we keep going down this path, eventually our planet be overwhelmed with toxicity and threaten every life form to extinction. The way the film plays out this heavy-handed narrative is, surprisingly, not overbearing because it does so with the use of cute robots you can’t help but love. Employing clever story telling, WALL-E gives us a glimpse of our planet literally full up on trash. Recliner-bound humans live in space on a cruise-type ship Star Trek style, but so not. In one compelling scene the captain goes down a rabbit hole of “Wikipedia” like references, learning about the earth and his ancestors; dancing, pizza and farming are among some of the things that awaken a desire in him to take humans back to earth.

I would say that the film is an artistic representation of a common message we are all accustomed to hearing and delivering as people passionate about sustainability. From a messaging standpoint it is interesting to think about how art and film can be used to further tell this crucial story without being cliché or muddying facts. What is clear to all of us is that something has to change. I found myself thinking at the end of WALL-E, “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t ever happen?”

Read other film reviews from GreenBlue’s monthly environmental film series.

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