WALL-E has enough plot gaps to fill a galaxy


Rating: Why is there no American flag lapel pin on WALL•E? Are Pixar and Disney (the studios behind this film) unpatriotic?

Spoiler alert! The discussion below reveals plot points.

There are about four months left until Election Day. For president, there are now finally two candidates from the major political parties. The military incursion in Iraq continues. Gas prices are continuing to climb, the stock market is plunging, global climate change is being felt around the planet, and on and on.

And what do we get by way of political discussion? Health care? Energy policy? Iran? Nope. We get copious talk on whether one candidate is more patriotic than the other. Excuse me, but if you go to the trouble to run for president of this nation, that pretty much answers the patriotism question.

To show the extent of this fixation and the perils of failing to ask obvious questions, take WALL•E. Here is a cute and visually stunning animated film from the whizzes at Pixar Studios (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille).

It’s about a plucky little robot left alone on Earth in the year 2700 to clean up the piles of detritus from us sloppy humans (because of the pollution, humans have abandoned the Earth in huge space stations). He scurries around with his friend, a cockroach, scooping trash into his square gut, then compressing it into cubes and piling it up to create Lego-like skyscrapers. As he goes about this task, he collects objects that spark his fancy or fire his imagination and brings them back to a makeshift home.

One day his rounds are interrupted by the thunderous arrival of a ship bearing a sleek scout robot named EVE. She is vastly more advanced than WALL•E and is looking for life on Earth. WALL•E is smitten and hitches a ride on the outside of EVE’s spaceship after she is whisked away following her discovery of plant life on Earth. After a long voyage, WALL•E finds himself on a huge space station (called the Axiom) where humans are gluttonously, lazily and obliviously living out an existence in hover lounges getting fat slurping liquidized fast food and watching personal video monitors. WALL•E and EVE struggle to maneuver through the station fending off evil forces who would seek to rebuff their efforts to document evidence of life on Earth so the humans could return to their place of origin.

The film is nicely paced, dazzling to behold and surprisingly emotional for a story about machines, the plundering of the planet, corporate avarice and obesity.

It’s hard to take issue with this clever little film. In fact, I could foresee plenty of blowback from those who would tear it down or, pardon the pun, trash it. But that does not seem to stymie those who seek to trash the respective major political party candidates for president. So, at the risk of being pelted with rocks and garbage, here is a refuse bag full of critiques, questions and inconsistencies concerning WALL•E (uh, that is, if one were so inclined to nitpick):

• How does WALL•E come to have a spark of sentience while others of his kind don’t?

• What happened to all the other WALL•Es? Why did they go off-line? If they all fell to disrepair, why didn’t WALL•E succumb to the same fate?

• Why would we allow the Earth to become such a mess? Global warming isn’t the problem, but piles of trash. Surely we could deal with choking piles of rubbish before it got so bad it sent us into space.

• Why pile the trash into huge skyscraping piles? How will this help clean the Earth?

• Why is he alone?

• How long has he been doing this garbage collection? If it’s since humans left Earth, why hasn’t he seen previous scout ships and EVE robots in the intervening 700 years?

• How could there be just one cockroach in the lifeless piles of trash? Where are the other cockroaches?

• If EVE is looking for indigenous life on Earth, why doesn’t she detect the cockroach long before the plant?

• Not only are there piles of trash on Earth, but the Earth is enveloped in a blanket of orbiting trash. How could this stay in orbit for 700 years, and how did it get there?

• Why does the mother ship that drops off EVE need to go back into orbit while she looks around for evidence of life?

• Why does EVE have to bring the plant life all the way across the galaxy to the Axiom space station? Wouldn’t that potentially kill the plant, the very life she is trying to save? Couldn’t she just record the evidence?

• Given the scarcity of resources in space, why is there no recycling for the mounds of trash that build up from human consumption on the Axiom space station?

• If the main computer on the Axiom space station is aware of the directive to stay away from Earth (and the humans have forgotten all about getting back to their home world), why even bother sending scout ships to Earth to look for life?

• Given their immature and sedentary lifestyle, how do the humans on the Axiom space station manage to even procreate?

• How come all of the humans on the Axiom space station are white? Where are the other varieties of human life? On their own space stations?

• Why are all the humans on the Axiom space station Americans?

• Is the Axiom space station the only one? If not, where are the others?

• Why does the Axiom space station need to be so far away from Earth? It’s not like they are getting away from evil human-killing aliens.

• How come there are no human technicians on the Axiom space stations? Every machine I’ve owned needed some kind of maintenance, even the machines to fix the machines.

• Why are all the humans on the Axiom space station so compliant? Where’s the rebel movement seeking to overthrow their confinement after 700 years?

• Why would the humans on the Axiom space station choose to go back to Earth when they have it so cushy on the station?

I need answers to each of these questions before I can throw my support behind WALL•E. Short of that, if he’d just find some American flag lapel pin and affix it to his metal shell then maybe I could look past all of these petty faults. Gotta bet there’s such a pin somewhere in all those trash heaps.

Doug Young is, indeed, The Statesman’s outstanding film critic. He also works for Congressman Mark Udall as an environmental policy advisor.