Wall-E, though a salutary Pixar flick from afar, is in fact, part Brazil, part Batteries Not Included and part Idiocracy. It's dystopic all right but that's not to say it isn't cute. Think Cuteoverload.com with robots instead of kittens and you'll get the idea. It's been established that human beings (us!) are pretty crummy to our surroundings. We soil our earth and scum up our oceans. We litter on scales both large and small. We'd rather have perfectly sculpted bangs than an Ozone layer. For many years, Hollywood has struggled with making films in which we seem okay, in which human beings can be heroes. Movies like My Best Friend's Wedding and Moscow on the Hudson, for example. But lately, thankfully, Hollywood has seemed to wise up. Or at least one studio in Emeryville, California called Pixar.
When robots first began to appear on screen, they weren't very cool or nice. Let's not beat around the bush, Gort was a bit of an asshole, a big metal bully. But by the time Jessica Tandy was being evicted from her apartment building in 1987's Batteries Not Included, robots were cute and helpful. Still, even in that movie, human beings weren't all that bad. Who can hate Jessica Tandy? (If you are raising your hand, you simply further prove my point that humans are crappy.) Sure there were villains, played Puerto Ricanly by Michael Carmine (RIP), but humans won out in the end. That was in the 87. Concurrent with the rise of robots, was the demise of humanity. 1985's Brazil, for instance, always comes to my mind when I think of the moment when people really jumped the shark for good. But then again, Tom Stoppard (who cowrote the film with Terry Gilliam) always seemed to prefer paronomasia to his fellow men anyway.
Mike Judge who wrote and directed Office Space and Idiocracy is the most prescient prophet of our people's shitty future. It started with Beavis and Butthead who were meant to be satires but were mistaken as heroes. He followed up with Office Space whose main thesis is "Idiots are in charge. Do all you can to escape." By 2006's Idiocracy, Judge had pretty much given up any hope. The future will be dumb and trash-strewn. Live with it.
The film was never widely released.
Momentum has been building in film for a complete banishment of human beings from roles of protagonism for a long time. Studios have struggled with what to replace us with. They've tried everything from Brave Little Toasters to Ants to Ogres to Toys to cute little table lamps. By and large, people like these non-people but people like objects. Why watch an Olsen sister when you can watch a clock radio played by Jon Lovitz?
Wall-E, is hopefully the first herald that the studios (or at least the smart ones) have finally said, "Phooey on humans. Robots are where it's at!" We, with our heart pulses and disregard for the Earth, are a fleeting flock. In a few years time, one hopes, People will go out of business and we'll be reading about how Eve and Wall-E (Wall-Eve) adopted their fifth robot child from Robotswana on the cover Robots Weekly. I, for one, will be keenly looking forward to it from my trash-strewn capsule.