June 30, 2008


WALL-E a winner for Pixar (Reuters, June 30, 2008)

Animation giant Pixar hit the box office jackpot once again yesterday as its robot love story WALL-E snagged the No. 1 spot during its first weekend of release across North America.

The movie, bolstered by near-unanimous critical praise, earned an estimated $62.5 million in its first three days, said Pixar's Walt Disney Co parent.

Took the boys this afternoon and Brother Dryfoos--who phoned in his review last week, after taking his son-had this one nailed: while there's much talk of the environmental theme and the saccharine robot love story, the crux of the film is the eternal choice of security or freedom.

Indeed, properly considered, the film is a re-enactment of the Fall and, while you aren't likely to read it in Disney press material, Wall-E is Satan.

(I'll put the rest in the extended entry, just in case the explanation contains spoilers.)

Humankind has been floating around in space for 700 years, but is unbothered by the fact because they are taken care of by machines. They live in lounge chairs, staring into electronic screens, a giant drink in their fists at all time. They have perfect security.

Meanwhile, Wall-E gives Eve, a probe that the human spaceship sends out, the first bit of plant life that he's come across in all those years. When she returns to the ship with this tree of knowledge, the previously indolent and uninterested captain suddenly becomes insatiably curious about Earth and determines to return.

The humans follow through on this exercise in newly rediscovered free will despite the sorry state of Earth when they arrive there. The captain even going so far as to say: "I don't want to survive. I want to live." The film ends with him showing people how they'll farm and raise crops to feed themselves--Cain-like--rather than just accept the bounty that's provided. Thus is Eden forsaken...yet again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2008 5:10 PM

Satan is capable of falling in love?

Posted by: Bartman at June 30, 2008 6:39 PM

Heh, as they say.

One of my favorite science fiction novels is The Paradise Game, by Brian Stableford. Its ending:

[The] Paradise Game was fought to a standstill long ago... We know the result. It was Paradise versus civilization.

Paradise lost.


Posted by: Ric Locke at June 30, 2008 6:42 PM

It's truly mystifying how you can have such creative interpretations of books & movies and yet still don't get that On The Road is a conservative book...

Posted by: b at June 30, 2008 6:49 PM

The captain's decision to return to Earth was believable, but the ending was a bit too tidy for my liking. The fatties on the Axiom were suddenly stripped of all their high-tech comforts and disposable liquid meals, whisked back to Earth, and given the enormous task of cleaning up the entire planet. One moment they were enjoying a "Cupcake in a Cup!", the next they were eagerly taking up agriculture. I guess it's kind of a minor quip... The denizens of the galactic cruise-ship were so barely individualized in the film that they can easily be viewed simply as Man, with the captain as their psyche, and your (rather brilliant!) analysis still holds. Actually, I imagine that was exactly the writers' intention. It's just that the humans in the movie reminded me of the folks rolling through Wal-Mart on electric carts, scarfing down nachos or potato chips. It's gonna take a whole lot more than some uplifting number from Peter Gabriel to get these folks off their butts.

I suppose what I'm driving at is that the Freedom vs. Security theme works best in art when it's focused on an individual's dilemma, instead of a ship full of overgrown babies (as Andrew Stanton called them). Either way, I still loved the film. And Wall-E as Satan... Great stuff.

Posted by: Hunter at June 30, 2008 8:40 PM

Satan's problem is loving too much and feeling not loved enough.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2008 8:57 PM

There's nothing conservative about wanting to be Shawshanked by Neil Cassidy.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2008 9:00 PM

I think it was OJ's 2000 Review of "The Coming Anarchy" that hooked me on this site.

In "The dangers of peace," Kaplan wrote:

Avoiding tragedy requires a sense of it, which in turn requires a sense of history. Peace, however, leads to the preoccupation with “presentness”, the loss of the past and consequent disregarded for the future. That is because peace by nature is pleasurable, and pleasure is about momentary satisfaction. In an era of expanded domestic peace, those who deliver us pleasure are the power brokers.Because pleasure is inseparable from convenience, convenience becomes the vital element of society.

“The mass [delicious double meaning for our pre-diabetic culture] man loves gags,” writes Saul Bellow in his introduction to the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega Y Gasset’s 1929 work “The Revolt of the Masses.”

“He is a spoiled child, demanding amusement, given to tantrums… his only Commandant is Thou shalt expect convenience.” Ortega Gasset’s “mass man” is the self- satisfied specialist in a postindustrial society who knows expertly his own corner of the universe but is ignorant of the rest: a “learned ignoramus.”

The mass man, writes Ortega y Gasset, “is obviously interested in automobiles, anesthetics, and all manner of sundries. And these things confirm his profound lack of interest in civilization itself. For all these things are merely products of civilization, and the passion he displays for them makes more crudely obvious his insensibility to the principles which made them possible."

Adam and Eve had a reason for finding "knowledge" (consciousness, actaully) alluring. A spaceship of overfed couch potatoes created that spaceship for the purpose of evading consciousness/knowledge, and therefore wouldn't have the slightest interest in becoming "conscious" again.

Been there, done that.

The apple may signify the will to be conscious. The corn chip, corn syrup, and Zoloft signify our surrender.

Posted by: Bruno at July 1, 2008 12:19 AM

oj: It is completely conservative to point out that that lifestyle is a soul-deadening nightmare and you have to grow up and become an adult.

Posted by: b at July 1, 2008 11:06 AM

"near-unanimous critical praise"

None of whom were small children.

The first 40 minutes scared my 7 year old daughter so much that she dragged her mom out of the theater. After she finished her popcorn, she does have her priorities.

For older children and adults, the movie is fine.
Though my wife found the part she saw dreary and not at all appealing. I liked it ok but not enough to see it again.

Actually the best part was the closing credits.

First Pixar egg.

Posted by: Bob at July 1, 2008 11:06 AM

Our 6 year old thought it was cool, but he's pretty dark and scary himself.

Posted by: oj at July 1, 2008 2:56 PM

Yes, criticism of the novel is conservative. It isn't.

Posted by: oj at July 1, 2008 2:56 PM
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