If you haven’t yet seen Pixar’s “WALL-E”, you should. I never thought that a little rusty robot could show so much emotion – desire, frustration, pride, loneliness, and most of all love – with so little dialogue. It is a truly poignant and beautiful film. With its implications about the future of human existence on earth and the underlying environmental themes, “WALL-E” is certainly the most intellectually stimulating computer-animated production I’ve ever seen.
While WALL-E compacts unthinkable amounts of trash left on earth (and saves many artifacts, such as a Rubik’s Cube), humans live a pathetic life of leisure on a space station because their consumerist lifestyle is not sustainable on earth. The people whiz about in chairs (they don’t even know how to walk anymore), with robots tending to their every need. Screens appear in front of their faces so they can communicate with other people elsewhere on the space station, they inhale calories through a straw, and they receive haircuts, baths, and other pampering from robots.
Knowledge and culture are evidently absent from the residents’ lives, and they are unaware of what life on earth used to be like. When the space station’s captain asks a computer to define “earth” and “sea”, he is amazed as images of a sparkling ocean and lush, green forest appear before his eyes. As it turns out, humans don’t even know what dancing is. The curious captain asks for a definition and the computer replies, “Dancing: a series of moments involving two partners where speed and rhythm match harmoniously with music.” I take issue with the definition since dancing can involve one person or many people, and rhythm does not necessarily have to match the music (and music isn’t even a requirement for dancing). But setting that aside, what I find more alarming is the idea of a world without dance, not to mention art, culture, literature, history, ethics, and other intellectual stimulation. Will humans really become so dependent on machines to fulfill their needs that they forget how to utilize their brains or move their bodies? I realize it’s only a movie, but as A.O. Scott points out in his NY Times review, perhaps we should start paying attention when “the whimsical techies at Pixar” and filmmakers like Werner Herzog are addressing the same concerns.