WALL*E director Andrew Stanton has insisted for a while now that he never intended his film to be a political parable — that he meant to tell a love story, and all the seemingly pro-environment and anti-consumerist stuff was put there just to further it along — and critics such as Devin Faraci and Jeffrey Wells have questioned Stanton’s sincerity and honesty in reply.
I have not yet seen the film for myself, so I cannot say how I would interpret it, yet, but today I came across another Stanton interview, this one done by my colleague Megan Basham, in which he articulates possibly the best — or, for me at least, the most appealing — version of his self-defense yet:
WORLD: How does WALL•E represent your singular vision?
STANTON: Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that’s not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world’s programming. You’ve got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.
With the human characters I wanted to show that our programming is the routines and habits that distract us to the point that we’re not really making connections to the people next to us. We’re not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.
So the film is saying that people are like robots that need to rise above their programming to be truly human — to experience love and the “I-Thou” of interpersonal relationships? And all the rampant “consumerism” depicted in the film is not there to make a political statement so much as it is to make an existential statement about our enslavement to our basic, mechanistic, animalistic impulses — our enslavement, in other words, to “the flesh”? (Or to our “passions”, as the Fathers might say?)
Yeah, I can dig that. I can totally dig that.
And now I have to provide links to a couple of my earlier posts on robot-themed films like Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). If this film proves to be in those leagues, thematically, then that would be very cool indeed.