from Pantperthog to Knockando

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"I don't want to survive - I want to live!" (Wall-E film review)

I've been surprised by the core messages of a few films recently, and Wall-E was no exception.

By now just about anyone with a passing interest in films will have heard/read/worked out the gist of the plot: a cute little cleaning robot struggling to make sense of the mess the planet has been left in meets a sleek explorer-bot and falls in love. Everyone is raving about the animation (how many more times can Pixar raise the quality bar?), and the brilliance needed to write a film with virtually no dialogue for the main characters. The best description I've read so far was in the Times, which described the hero as "the lovechild of R2-D2 and ET".

There have also been plenty of comments about the 'environmental message' and the criticism of corporate consumerism, the latter being ironic in a Disney film, which is all about corporate branding and selling Wall-E toys to the masses. But there are also some human characters in the film, mollycoddled into roly-poly flab-sacks by their robot attendants until they've forgotten all about Earth.

In a sinister scene stolen from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the humans discover their servant robots are actually preventing them from returning to Earth because it's deemed too risky. But the captain realises humans need to take responsibility for their mess and sort things out. He asks whether they should do nothing, then says: "I've been doing nothing my whole life." In a face off between the sentient auto-pilot and the captain, the auto-pilot insists the humans stay off-planet, because here they will survive. The captain responds by saying: "I don't want to survive - I want to live!"

That line really made me think as we walked back to our car afterwards. We so often take our freedom for granted - Cath and I were free to go out and watch a film, which other people were free to make, and distribute, even though it contained a critical appraisal of our society's self-destructive tendencies. We had the freedom of so many choices - to drive or walk, to go out or stay in. We could do what we wanted in almost total safety. Actually, that's something many world citizens would aspire to, or dream of... or wouldn't dare to even dream of, for fear of those in authority.

And I was struck by how valuable and precious freedom is. There's a line in a Midnight Oil song, which they've borrowed from somewhere, that 'it's better to die on your feet than live on your knees'. And, of course in America, where they take liberty seriously (and then take liberties with it!) one of the main rallying cries in the War of Independence was 'Live free or die'. Because to live in chains is to die a long, slow death.

I'm not sure the writers of Wall-E meant to inspire such thoughts. But they did. And it was a cracking film too.

Jongudmund's rating: 9.5/10 It don't get much better than this!

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