A friend in ministry once remarked that when you are discouraged, you have to do the last thing God told you to do. You keep doing that thing until someone comes and tells you differently.
WALL-E does this. He’s the last robot left on Earth in the year 2700. Humans have left, and WALL-Es are supposed to clean up the mess we’ve made. Earth is full of garbage because we gave ourselves over to Buy N Large (BnL), a corporation that ran the planet. When Earth became uninhabitable, humans shipped out into the galaxy, leaving WALL-Es to do what they’re programmed to do: clean things up.
All the other robots fell into disrepair, however, and WALL-E is cannibalizing them to exist. He spends his days cleaning up, going home to the only other being left, a cockroach, and his old VCR. He found a tape of “Hello Dolly” and just keeps watching the same scene: young lovers declaring their feelings. WALL-E longs for love and companionship. He seeks meaning for who he is. But there’s the job—the last thing he was told to do—and he does it.
One day, a ship lands near where WALL-E works. Out comes another robot different from WALL-E. This robot is white, sleek, able to fly—and armed with a laser for protection. WALL-E’s first encounter with her almost ends in disaster, but in time he learns she is EVE, a robot sent to explore Earth. When EVE is taken away, WALL-E climbs aboard the ship and hangs on for the journey to where the humans are.
On the ship, we learn that humans are nothing more than fat babies fed by bottles of fast food. They sit in huge La-Z-Boys that float around the ship because they can no longer walk. Buy N Large computers tell them what color to wear, what to do and how to live. It is the end result of consumerism: de-evolution. Is this the end of humanity? Will humans ever go home?
The first third of the movie plays almost like a silent film, with some slapstick comedy in the style of masters like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplain. But the heart of the movie is in how the robot, the piece of technology, is more human than the humans that created him. WALL-E longs for life in ways that humans seem to have forgotten.
WALL-E desires not merely to survive, but to be self-actualized. Psychologist Abraham Maslow conceptualized a hierarchy of human needs, and he placed self-actualization at the top. The humans in “WALL-E,” however, seem satisfied with meeting only their more primitive needs. WALL-E, in contrast, is searching for meaning and truth.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:2, “Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration.” The humans in “WALL-E” lack the desire to move, on all sorts of levels, because the BnL lifestyle corroded that part of them.
“WALL-E” is another fine example of moviemaking from Pixar. It tells a story that needs to be told, and it tells it in a way that brings a smile to the face. Children will love “WALL-E” because it speaks to a genuine human need—a need we must fulfill for our true survival.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: G
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writer: Andrew Stanton and Jim Capobianco
Cast: WALL-E: Ben Burtt; EVE: Elissa Knight; Captain: Jeff Garlin; Shelby Forthright, BnL CEO: Fred Willard; Ship’s Computer: Sigourney Weaver.
The movie’s official Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.