Details, people, details
Posted by aogWednesday, 16 July 2008 at 17:14 TrackBack Ping URL

Gah! In the movie Wall • E the humans didn’t flee Earth on one ship but on an entire fleet of ships. Did none of these critics actually watch the movie?

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Hey Skipper Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 00:15

Ummm … so?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 09:43

It bugs me that people reviewing the movie can get such a basic thing wrong.

Hey Skipper Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 11:25

Sorry — I thought you were talking about the movie itself. Simple mistake, though. The focus on just one ship kind of swamps the existence of all the rest.

This OJ assessment:

Indeed, properly considered, the film is a re-enactment of the Fall and, while you aren’t likely to read it in Disney press material, Wall-E is Satan.

confirmed for me whether he saw the movie, or not, he didn’t need to — he is a one trick pony.

My family and I loved it.

As apparently did the rest of the audience, which made for by far the most crowded theater I have been in for some time.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 11:33

My family saw the movie as well, and liked it enough that Mom was persuaded to get the kids a remote control Wall•E toy the next day. But I still think OJ’s assessment is basically correct.

As for the movie, there were a number of big backstory plot holes, but I’ve decided to let them slide because it’s just a movie that doesn’t take itself overly seriously.

Hey Skipper Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 11:45

You mean the assessment that the movie is a re-enactment of the Fall, etc?

I’ll bet if you were to pass that one by the movies creator’s they would look at you with a mixture of bewildered amazement and incipient fear.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 15:15

Yes to both.

Hey Skipper Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 17:44

Sorry, that doesn’t wash.

Those elements of WALL-E that are even glancingly related are a near inversion of the fall, and the rest bear no resemblance whatsoever.

The movie is primarily a cautionary tale of the perils of consumerism. And that has what, precisely, to do with the fall?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 17 July 2008 at 20:35

Well, the people live in what they see as paradise, containing endless delights and boundless plenty even though it’s just a small garden / ship. Wall•E destroys that by bringing them a tree of knowledge, despite the Seraphim / AutoPilot (both of whom are but obedient servants of a greater master) efforts to thwart that. As a result, the people are cast out of paradise in to a desert in which they must earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, plus a (new / re-awakened) sexual awareness. The new place is not one tended and tamed by a higher power, but one that must be painstakingly improved by human design and labor.

What elements do you see that are inverted?

Hey Skipper Friday, 18 July 2008 at 01:38

Well, the people live in what they see as paradise …

What in the movie led you to that conclusion? You are assuming a fact not in evidence.

Life on the ship is all they know. Most don’t even know there is a pool, or stars outside. They have so succumbed to lassitude that they have nearly become hermaphrodites (one huge question the movie left unanswered: from whence the children?).

Which is where dramatic irony comes in. While there is no telling what the residents think about their existence, since they have absolutely nothing to compare it to. After all, while my memory is a little foggy, the Captain is something like the 6th pictured, so the passengers are at least five (very long lived, around 150 years) generations removed from direct experience with Earth. In contrast, we observers know it to be anything but paradise. So far from paradise, in fact, that the passengers, instead of being immortal, are likely a couple generations from extinction.

As opposed to the (allegedly) real paradise in Genesis.

That is inversion one.

Wall•E destroys that by bringing them a tree of knowledge …

Details, AOG. Wall•E doesn’t bring them the plant — and you conclude it is a tree how? — EVE does. What’s more, in complete contrast to Satan, Wall•E provides the plant completely ignorant of its significance. Beyond that, the plant is merely a single fact. Going from there to “the tree of knowledge” yanks the analogy well past the breaking point.

Those are inversions two and three.

… despite the Seraphim / AutoPilot (both of whom are but obedient servants of a greater master) efforts to thwart that.

This is where “proper consideration” collapses most ignominiously. In Genesis, the greater power is God.

What is the greater power here? Humans. Otto is merely trying to carry out his instructions as best as he understands them, given the collisions between artificial, quasi-human intelligence and computer literalism that provide much of the movie’s humor.

So, unless humans are elevated to God-like status, which character fulfills God’s role?

And how does humans in place of God not invert the whole story of the fall?

Inversion four.

As a result, the people are cast out of paradise in to a desert in which they must earn their bread by the sweat of their brow …

Beware passive voice, it leads to sloppy thinking.

Cast out by whom, or what?

The passengers make their own choice to leave the ship. Presumably, and there is no information to the contrary, a few, some, or many may well have chosen to stay on board.

Active decision to leave, vs. cast out.

Inversion five.

… plus a (new / re-awakened) sexual awareness.

I’m willing to grant a vague similarity here, but only at the cost at avoiding the most obvious explanation: the re-awakened sexual awareness is but one example that they are leaving the lassitude borne of modernity and consumerism into which they have unwittingly immersed themselves.

So the cause of their being in (not) paradise is of their own making. The choice to leave it is their own, based upon a fact demonstrating the choice is available, the obtaining of which was due to a specific plan on the part of their predecessors.

That is like the fall how?

The new place is not one tended and tamed by a higher power, but one that must be painstakingly improved by human design and labor.

The new place is the same place. No inversion here, just irrelevant.

So, the passengers choose to leave a death trap based upon a fact their human predecessors went to great pains to discover. The pre-determined goal to return to Earth is almost thwarted by the pre-determined goal to protect the passengers — human fallibility creating the conflicting goals. Wall•E is acting on a whim. EVE is acting as directed by the higher power that, in the fall, directed exactly the opposite. (making that inversion number, oh heck, I’ve lost count).

Of course, in OJ land, all those inversions mean it is precisely about the fall.

Which is about what you would expect out of a one-trick pony.

cjm Saturday, 19 July 2008 at 09:50

reviews getting details wrong bug me too, if only because they make me question everything else in the review. if wall-e is some kind of allegory it’s probably by accident — hollywood isn’t known for its subtlety when it is propagandizing.

Ali Choudhury Sunday, 20 July 2008 at 14:16

I just came back from seeing it. Brother and sister liked it but didn’t think it was up to the level of previous Pixar movies. I’m a little surprised by the criticisms of this as environmentalist propaganda when it’s more anti-laziness than anything. The film’s celebration of hard work, compassion and selfless love are quite un-Hollywood.

David Cohen Monday, 21 July 2008 at 12:15

Ebert always gets some fact wrong. My wife and I have made a little game of watching the movie, reading the review and noting what’s wrong.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 21 July 2008 at 19:41

Life on the ship is all they know

Unlike, say, Adam and Eve, who were worldly cosmopolitans capable of judging the proper place of the Garden in the hierarchy of quality. And Adam and Eve didn’t even attempt to reproduce until they left the Garden. The real essence of paradise in the Garden sense is the lack of necessity of work, effort, or suffering in order to live. That the people on the ship had in abundance.

you conclude it is a tree how?

It looks exactly like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. How do you know it’s not a tree? But this goes to your point previously, which was how ignorant the passengers were. So knowledge is, in fact, essential to the entire plot. One might also note that, solely because of the plant, the captain learns enormous amounts about Earth, and decides to go back precisely because he has his knowledge. If you’re going to insist on literal correspondence, you’ll next be telling me West Side Story has nothing to do with Romeo and Juliet.

That is like the fall how?

Because it was Eve’s and Adam’s choice to gain knowledge as well. In both cases the departure from paradise is directly caused by the protagonist’s choice to know of things they don’t need to know. As a result, the people leave paradise and now have to work for their sustenance. For me, the no work / work distinction is the most important distinction of paradise vs. not. What’s yours?

Hey Skipper Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 01:35

And Adam and Eve didn’t even attempt to reproduce until they left the Garden.

Since the passengers on the cruise ship were at least six complete lifetimes removed from life on Earth, they came into existence how? (never mind the nursery load of babies).

The real essence of paradise in the Garden sense is the lack of necessity of work, effort, or suffering in order to live. That the people on the ship had in abundance.

Except that isn’t what you said: they saw life on the ship as paradise. They most certainly did not. However, that isn’t the most fatal flaw in this part of the fall reasoning. Genesis’s purported paradise was just that. In contrast, Axiom was a death trap.

How do you know it’s not a tree?

I don’t know that it isn’t; rather, I’m not assuming a fact not in evidence. Of course knowledge is essential to this plot, as knowledge is essential to a great many plots, without making them allegories for a Biblical tale.

Because it was Eve’s and Adam’s choice to gain knowledge as well.

Eve’s choice? Did you see the same movie I did? It was no more Eve’s choice to search for, and return if found, a sign of life on Earth than it was Wall•E’s choice to be a trash compactor. BTW, who is Adam?

As a result, the people leave paradise and now have to work for their sustenance.

Again with the passive voice. As opposed to the fall, the passengers’ (presumably) overwhelmingly choose to leave Axiom; they were not driven out.

For me, the no work / work distinction is the most important distinction of paradise vs. not. What’s yours?

For me, the definition of paradise does not include being in a gilded death trap.

Humans exiled themselves from Earth onto what were essentially lifeboats awaiting the time until they could return. They made the choice — although it was undoubtedly a Hobbes choice — to leave, and they made the same choice to return.

There is no god, or satan in this tale. It is kind of like Romeo and Juliet without Romeo and Juliet.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 08:21

they came into existence how?

Plot hole. Just like the people Adam and Eve meet after leaving the Garden.

Except that isn’t what you said: they saw life on the ship as paradise.

Then my phrasing was “inartful”. I don’t seem the Axiom as a death trap, since, as you noted, new generations were being produced.

For me, the definition of paradise does not include being in a gilded death trap.

Your assumption of extinction is also an assumption without facts in evidence.

Eve’s choice?

I would think the use of the phrase “Eve’s and Adam’s” would make clear the Eve to which I was referrring. The Captain combines, plot-wise, the roles of both Eve and Adam from the Bible.

There is no god, or satan in this tale.

Wall•E takes the role of Satan, and the CEO of Buy N Large (or the corporation as a whole) takes the role of God (with Wall•E being a “fallen angel” of the corporation). I expect that you’ll object that Buy N Large wasn’t omnipotent or omniscient, but I consider those minor details from the point of view of plotting. Could that be the basis of our differences? For me, plotting is all, and external philosophical points are irrelevant (e.g., the basis for the passengers opinion of ship life).

cjm Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 15:36

Skipper: I know you have your views on religion, and am not trying to change your mind there, but it seems like you are taking a bit of a “head in the sand” position here. maybe conflating “seeing” the allegory and “believing” it? i haven’t seen the movie so i can’t comment directly on aog’s thesis. usually when hollywood wants to introduce religious symbolism or metaphor they have the central character (who is always a christ substitute) stand with his arms spread to form a cross. typically they are killed while in this pose.

Skipper: have you seen any episodes of “Swingtown”? It’s set in 1976 and there are a lot of airline pilots and stewardi in the cast. Not sure if it’s your cup of tea or not but thought you might find it entertaining.

it’s funny how satan in the bible seems to be (at least in genesis) a kind of sneaky but not particularly powerful character. somewhere along the way, satan goes from being sort of scavenger to this omnipotent force of evil. guess it plays better on the screen.

Ali Choudhury Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 05:29

I saw the movie and reckon Skipper’s take is the right one. The humans in Wall-E voluntarily left a boring, spoon-fed environment to do something challenging, fun and fulfilling. They weren’t kicked out of Paradise for being disobedient and probably wouldn’t be too concerned about earning brownie points so they could return to the spaceship.

Hey Skipper Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 20:09

AOG:

Your assumption of extinction is also an assumption without facts in evidence.

Did you see the progressive degeneration of the Axiom’s successive Captains? Do you remember the description of what had happened to the passengers’ bodies over time due to micro-gravity? Does the movie give any reason to suspect that progression has any end other than in ultimate demise?

This relates to notion of life on the Axiom as paradise. You have completely missed the concept of “dramatic irony.” In this case, the dramatic irony comes from the audience having a more accurate perception of life on the Axiom than do its passengers. No matter what they might think of it, we know it is anything but paradise.

Which, at the risk of repeating myself, is why this cannot be a reenactment of the fall. We know, regardless of what the passengers think, that they are not in paradise.

I would think the use of the phrase “Eve’s and Adam’s” would make clear the Eve to which I was referrring. The Captain combines, plot-wise, the roles of both Eve and Adam from the Bible.

Well, actually, it wasn’t the least clear. When assert, without explanation, that the Captain combines the roles of Adam and Eve, then it gets real easy to lose track of the players without a score card.

As with Wall•E, you should explain each character’s knowledge and motivations when assigning analogs.

Wall•E cannot be Satan, because Wall•E has nothing remotely approximating Satan’s knowledge, motive, or intent.

The Capt cannot be Adam and Eve for a whole bunch of reasons, but the most primary is this:

2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Without this stricture, the fall makes no sense whatsoever: it is absolutely critical to the story.

In Wall•E, by stark contrast, the Captain has been commanded to return to Earth when Earth is capable of once again sustaining life.

In other words, for the CEO of Buy N Large to take the role of God in a reenactment of the fall, the CEO must have directed something like 2:17.

In order for the Capt to be a composite Adam and Eve, he has to have received something like 2:17 from the CEO.

You say plotting is all important, yet you have ignored the most salient plot point of all, because 2:17 is nowhere to be found in the movie, never mind who uttered or heard it.

++++

cjm:

This has nothing to do with my view on religion: the fall is a story which Wall•E either reenacts, or does not.

Clearly, I think as a combination of cautionary morality tale and love story, Wall•E cannot possibly be a reenactment of an existential account.

By all means, though, see it for yourself. It is an excellent, sui generis, movie.

Then, having seen it, I would be very interested in hearing your take.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 20:42

Skipper;

Did you not see the final speech of the Buy N Large President? There’s 2:17 for you. The original order was replaced with an order to not return to Earth. And yes, that is absolutely critical to the story.

Hey Skipper Wednesday, 23 July 2008 at 23:39

The original order was replaced with an order to not return to Earth.

Why?

In what respect does BnL’s saying to stay away from Earth — which is not the tree of knowledge, after all, since you have already filled that square — resemble 2:17? (NB: be careful your answer doesn’t put parents’ cautions to their kids not to play in the street/don’t run with sharp objects/don’t touch the stove in the same bucket as 2:17.)

And yes, that is absolutely critical to the story.

Why is it critical, and to whom?

Does the character to whom this is critical in the movie have any analog in the fall?

(NB: if it is critical to the story, something must disappear in its absence. What is it, and where does it appear in the fall?)

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 08:31

It’s the same demand to not know. To ignore / not eat from the tree of knowledge. The command that keeps them in the garden. It’s critical because otherwise you don’t have a plot.

Hey Skipper Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 12:28

Huh?

It is not a demand not to know, it is a warning to stay away, just like telling my kids not to play in the street is a warning to stay away, not a command to be ignorant of traffic. What’s more, the warning has an explicit limit to it: until conditions allow coming back.

You have completely failed to account for the craft — built by BnL — that landed on Earth carrying a whole multitude of EVEs whose sole mission is to find signs of plant life, since photosynthesis is essential for humans to survive, then per directive from BnL return that evidence to the Axiom.

The plant is not a tree of knowledge, it is simply evidence. The tree of knowledge in Genesis, in and of itself, as also only evidence. Adam and Eve were free apparently free to look at it, but they were explicitly directed not to partake of it.

In Wall•E, the plant shows up unbidden as a consequence of BnL’s previous actions. No character has a choice not to see it, and the consequences, completely unlike the tree of knowledge, follow merely from the fact of its existence.

It’s critical because otherwise you don’t have a plot.

It is critical, but not for the reason you think.

Presume the last message from BnL included: “We have probes periodically looking for signs of life on Earth. The moment they find something, you are to return.”

Which it could have done, since all that was true.

There still would have been a plot, but it would have sold a lot fewer tickets.

Why? No conflict with Otto (who was acting on BnL’s last directive), no chase scene, no suspense, no humans reasserting their authority.

BTW, how is it that Wall•E is Satan?

cjm Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 12:29

i will go and see this movie and report back.

does the fact that wall-e is a machine and outside of the concept of morality disqualify him from being satan? doesn’t even satan have free will (whereas a machine by definition has no will at all, just as other inanimate material has no will)?

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 13:15

It’s not a warning to stay away, it’s an absolute command to do so, overriding all previous orders, to the extent that Autopilot is willing to kill the captain to enforce it. What was the entire chase and fight sequence about, if not that?

Hey Skipper Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 14:37

It’s not a warning to stay away, it’s an absolute command to do so, overriding all previous orders.

The reason for the warning is precisely the same as don’t play in the street: it is a conditional command that remains in force so long as there are cars on the street. Should cars be eliminated from the picture, say by turning the street into a pedestrians only zone, then the warning, absolute though it may have been, would immediately become completely pointless and void.

Just as it is in the movie: do not, until. And they did not, until they gained information otherwise. Information, by the way, provided by precisely the same agency that made the (not) absolute command. Your analysis completely ignores why EVE — which stands for? — in her multitudinous instances and the ships to carry all those EVEs exist in the first place.

In contrast, 2:17 was absolute, eternal, and unconstrained by any conditions that God himself was doing his best to discover.

There is simply no cramming one into the other.

… overriding all previous orders, to the extent that Autopilot is willing to kill the captain to enforce it.

Because Otto, in his combination of intelligence and literal adherence to his directives concludes that to return to Earth will kill the passengers, which he cannot allow.

Of course, as the movie shows, he is wrong.

In any event, his actions are critical in the sense they provide tension, imperil Wall•E and EVE’s burgeoning relationship, and provide an excuse for a chase scene.

The tension, by the way, is due to the dramatic irony of the situation: we know that for the humans to survive in the long run, they must leave Axiom.

It is worth noting there absolutely no analog to Otto in Genesis — which should not be surprising.

++++

cjm:

does the fact that wall-e is a machine and outside of the concept of morality disqualify him from being satan?

I don’t want to spoil the movie anymore than I already have, so suffice to say that while Wall•E is a machine, within the context of the movie he is clearly not outside the concept of morality.

What does disqualify Wall•E from being Satan are knowledge and motivation. In fact, the movie could have proceeded without Wall•E. Had EVE found a plant straightaway, then the movie would have just as logically have reached its conclusion.

Try eliminating Satan from Genesis.

Doesn’t work does it?

Not only does that mean Wall•E isn’t Satan, it means there is no Satan in Wall•E.

No Satan, no fall, no reenactment thereof.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 15:48

The reason for the warning is precisely the same as don’t play in the street: it is a conditional command that remains in force so long as there are cars on the street.

That’s the original order. But a new order is issued, as the BnL CEO abandons Earth, to never return and suppress all information that would lead to a return. It was absolute, eternal, and unconstrained by any conditions. The BnL CEO explicitly states the how it overrides the original conditional order. That’s why Otto behaves as he does.

If the secret order on tape was just a restatement of the original mission, why play it? Why is it such a big deal to let the Captain see it?

Hey Skipper Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 17:58

If the secret order on tape was just a restatement of the original mission, why play it? Why is it such a big deal to let the Captain see it?

Because conditions on Earth turned out to be so much worse than they originally envisioned. This is another story element that not only has no parallel in the fall, there isn’t anything even tangentially similar. Why play it? Simple. To make the BnL CEO character a parody of Bush, while making a parallel to the Iraq war, which turned out to be much worse than the administration had originally intended. This segment caused some (thoughtless, IMHO) conservatives to decide not to see the movie, BTW, for precisely this reason. Hadn’t you read about it?

To read this as a replay of 2:17 requires explaining the concerted efforts to find out if Earth had once again become capable of sustaining human life. The BnL CEO seems to have done a singularly miserable job of ensuring his abolute order is followed absolutely for all time. I simply don’t see how you can view the order is absolute while faced with the extensive measures, continuing over 700 years, to find out, and return to the targets of the amended order reason to consider it void. Whack-a-moling this into the fall now requires the CEO to be both God and Satan at the same time, doesn’t it?

Read for what it is, though, and those concerted efforts are completely consistent. The CEO made the new order based upon an expectation of how things would turn out on Earth. Stay away, don’t get your hopes up, the situation on Earth is terminal.

He was wrong, of course.

All of which makes the order, no matter how intently put, conditional.

If the secret order on tape was just a restatement of the original mission, why play it? Why is it such a big deal to let the Captain see it?

The big deal isn’t for the Captain, but rather for the audience to see it. The tape provides back story to justify Otto’s subsequent actions, which are in turn required to provide tension, intervene in the burgeoning relationship, and provide an excuse for a chase scene. With, of course, the added bonus of satirizing Pres. Bush. It exists solely to move the story forward in a way the audience will find believable.

All kinds of stories have this sort of thing, without being re-enactments of the fall.

Post a comment