Wall-E: A movie retrospective


Wall-E is a good movie. I think so. Many people think so. It’s got 8.4 stars out of 10 on IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes audience members give it a 89% fresh rating. (Rotten Tomatoes more-official reviewers give it closer to a 96% fresh rating.) I feel pretty confident in my opinion. Some people might find it a bit preachy. Those are probably the same people who think that a dying tree in a field would be preachy.

You see, back when I was very young, cartoons were pretty-much-required to have some sort of moral tale. Each story was crafted to enforce an important life lesson. (Support friends, maintain honesty, work together, report criminals to the authorities, or failing that, throw them into a barroom mirror.) Since I consider Wall-E a cartoon, along the same lines as the cartoons from my youth, I feel at home with the idea that Wall-E carries a moral tale.

Spoiler Alert: The Moral Tale for Wall-E is that everyone should shoulder the responsibility of caring for the environment. This sounds pretty preachy when you just write it out, but Wall-E as a movie does what a movie should do, and shows you instead of telling you. Specifically, you see a wasteland, populated by not only mankind’s regular constructs, like skyscrapers, but also towers made entirely of compressed garbage, mostly in the form of consumer products.

I have read reviews of watchers who watched the movie with children. The important part is that even if the child doesn’t remember the moral tale, at the time they watch the movie, they clearly understand the moral tale. They see how irresponsible consumerism can ruin their surroundings. Even at the end of the movie, those towers of compressed garbage haven’t gone anywhere. One collapses, making a big mess.


I wonder if anyone else noticed that the rampant consume-and-discard cycle was still alive and well on board the starliner (civilian cruising spaceship) where humankind had retreated from the planet. They just blew that stuff out the airlock, which implies that the starliner must engage in regular mining operations to keep the consumer engine running. That begs the question: Why were they blowing garbage out into space? If they have to gather the material anyway, it’s better to organize the trash zone and mine it for resources directly, also known as recycling.

If anything, this movie wasn’t preachy enough, and needed to enforce the idea of recycling as an alternative to discarding. That would have been a very easy change to the movie. The only difference is that during this particular moment of danger the heroes would have been in danger of being chopped up and melted down, instead of being blown out into the void. Who knows? Such a change might have inspired some children to become scientists to figure out more methods of recycling.

Ultimately, science fiction’s greatest calling is to inspire the next generation to improve themselves and invent neat stuff.