Pixar’s Andrew Stanton doesn’t think WALL•E -- in which an ambulatory trash compactor with a love of sporks and Hello, Dolly! finds the last plant on a trash-covered earth -- is an environmentalist movie. “People made this connection that I never saw coming with the environmental movement, and that's not what I was trying to do,” he told World Magazine. “I was just using the circumstances of people abandoning the Earth because it's filled with garbage as a way to tell my story.”
Fair enough, but Stanton seems to forget that story components are irrevocably entwined. They’re blood and muscle, bone and sinew, not oil and water. Placing WALL•E amongst a topography where towers of junk dwarf crumbling skyscrapers has implications beyond those merely of setting. Making Eve, the little robot’s love interest, a frustrated, foliage-hunting drone impacts more than just that character herself. Ditto for situating the last-remaining humans in a corporate-sponsored spaceship that’s basically a massive mall. Such story decisions mean environmental messages keep popping up like a green-themed Whac-A-Mole.
But one of the things Stanton never does is confuse the movie’s message with its narrative. WALL•E is first and foremost story-driven -- and what a story it is. It plays one’s emotional range like a xylophone, moving effortlessly from laugh-out-loud slapstick to images of jaw-dropping beauty to poignant parts that wring your heart. (Writers of suspense ought to note that the film’s final moments generate more tension with thirty seconds of silence than most bad guys with big guns will ever do.) The whole enterprise is so excellent that even the most hard-bitten Al Gore critic will likely love it. I should know; I’m about as green as the disposable plastic pen with which I’m writing.
(Picture: CC 2008 by Al Giordino)