Wall•E is a remarkable movie. And while it deserves to walk away with Oscar nods for its animation prowess, it also merits a close look for Best Picture.
For me, much of Wall•E's power comes in its gift of images that I've never before seen. I'm thinking of the desolate landscape of future Earth whose majestic skyscrapers stand alongside ziggurat towers of rubble, with little distinction between the piles. I'm thinking of humanity sailing the stars in a giant luxury liner, its people pampered into blubbery obsolescence by ubiquitous machines and corporate anesthesia. And I'm thinking of that ambitious closing-credits narrative that portrays the planting of a new human civilization through an evolution of art forms that sweep across millennia, a story that connects the future and past in mind-bending ways. Mostly though, I'm thinking of the moment in which our audience stood up in a darkened room, stretching bodies in varied degrees of decay, some folks hefting Big Gulp-sized soda cups from their armrests, and reminding me all too closely of the tomorrow foretold by this film. Wall•E is no mere cartoon.
And yet a number of folks dismiss the film as being "too preachy," as some sort of castor-oil message of environmentalism and anti-Bushism. Certainly the creators of Wall•E are making a point. But good for them, I say. These points need to be made. We may look back onto the Bush-years as historians now look back onto the Pierce and Buchanan years before the Civil War or the Hoover years before the Depression, periods in which history seemed like a freight train barreling down upon us, only to be ignored by people lacking vision or courage. In this era, as traditional media of public discourse seem to be derailed by privileged interests, artists are right to use their media to sound the alarm. Wall•E rightly sends us past the movie marquee and into our own thoughts, asking us to consider just what the hell is happening to us.
Nonetheless I plan to see the movie again for more than its "poignancy." I have enough civic homework piling up; I don't need to see a movie out of duty. I'll see Wall•E again (and surely again) to enjoy its collection of clever and humorous moments that create an improbable love story between a garbage compactor with a penchant for Hello, Dolly! and a plant retriever who happens to possess nuclear firepower. And I'll surely return to savor the glorious images of human wit that provide fertile ground for new productions of my own imagination. I'll see Wall•E again because it is a great movie, one that does what all great movies can do. Wall•E amazes us by revealing the fantastic and the ordinary together, showing just how connected they are.