What do you do when your house is filled with garbage, too many residents and not enough food for all? You obviously shift to another house, but it gets complicated when your house is the only known planet that can support humanity.

WALL-E is a 2008 animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It follows the story of WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class), the last operational robot left on Earth who is programmed to clean up the earth when another robot, EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) arrives on Earth to scan for sustainable life.

Greed and neglect by mankind have turned Earth into a wasteland— a world that was full of life was now left for dead, while humans boarded giant Starliners leaving their home behind. Centuries have passed and the humans aboard the Starliners have grown lazy, as they are used to automated machines and robots doing all the heavy lifting.

EVE shows WALL-E an anomaly she found— A precious anomaly in the form of a surviving seedling which shows that the Earth is ready to be inhabited again. EVE takes the plant back to Axiom, the mothership, with WALL-E clinging on. The captain of the mothership is alien to the idea of life blooming on earth and when the plant is nowhere to be found, EVE is declared as faulty.

WALL-E and EVE scour the ship to find the plant to bring it back to Captain McCrea only for AUTO, the robot in charge of the steering wheel to mutiny because it was programmed to prevent humanity from going back to Earth, as they had lost all hope that Earth could be anything else except a dead planet.

This animated film made for children, shows us in the simplest way, that the Earth is dying, but there is still hope. It pits greed, laziness and devastation against kindness, hope and rebirth in the form of its characters. Robots, humans, Earth and the small seedling, all represent WALL-E’s deeper themes and the message this movie carries.

Robots: Laziness

Robots have always been theorised as a steel tool that could potentially replace humanity. The robots in WALL-E have been created for only one purpose— to replace humans to a point where they do everything, while humans revel in unlimited hours of free time till the point where they cannot even walk. They simultaneously earn and lose freedom.

Aboard the Starliners, robots are shown to do all the work. Even Captain McCrea trusts AUTO to steer the wheel for him giving him just an empty title and indirectly obtaining the power and position the captain holds.

Robots are nothing except loyal to their directives and hence, it takes EVE and WALL-E to convince the Captain to return to Earth. WALL-E and AUTO represent opposite ends of the spectrum of the nature of a robot: helping and hindering. It is due to WALL-E and EVE that humanity returns to Earth, but AUTO becomes every human’s living nightmare when it takes control of the entire ship, essentially taking control of mankind.

The movie does not demonise technology. Like any other aspect of the world, technology is both a boon and a bane. It has saved millions of lives, but also has put millions out of jobs since machines can do anything a human does, just faster and at a lower price. The movie warns us to exercise caution. Too much of anything has never helped anyone.

Humans: Greed

Humanity is arguably the biggest variable in the history of the earth. People can be very different from each other, but we all share the same emotions— love, anger, hatred and greed, etc. Our collective greed is destroying the earth, damaging the delicate balance that supports millions of species. We have cut down trees mercilessly, hunted animals till they become extinct or endangered and influenced the climate so much that it has started melting the ice caps.

Throughout history, the constant feature of all the fallen kingdoms is greed. This hunger for many things has seeped into the 21st century. In the movie, greedy megacorporations have caused the earth to rot and humanity escaped the impending doom through Starliners while the rest of the animals suffocated. The only animal shown to be living are cockroaches which are said to survive even nuclear blasts.
Earth: Home and Nostalgia

No other place can compare to home. A place where you can be yourself and be with your loved ones. Even if you visit palaces and castles, your small home calls back to you, draws you in like no other, and for humanity, Earth is that home. We’ve been here for millions of years— adapting, evolving and growing.

The movie shows Captain McCrea watching videos when Earth was still teeming with humans and feeling nostalgic for a home he had never known. It was the place of his ancestors and it called to him— a home which never shifted, a remnant of so many things. Earth has always been our home, the planet where we were born. It calls to us as a mother does, so even if we are away on Saturn, we shall only ever sing and speak of the blue planet.

Seedling: Hope

The Greek gods once gifted Pandora a jar, instructing her to never open it. But how could she not? She was designed by the gods to be overly curious, so she opened the jar, unleashing many evils on humanity such as disease, greed and death as a punishment from the gods, but something remained behind in the jar. Hope.

No one can survive without hope. A little dash of hope is necessary for every plan you make, necessary for every risk you take and necessary for every question you ask. Hope is the main message the movie gives us. That it’s never too late to solve your problems and that the darkness will bring light at the end of the tunnel.

The seedling EVE finds at the beginning of the movie symbolises hope, fragile, delicate and easily breakable— has endured and grown in a wasteland. It acts as a reminder to humanity, asking them to fight to reclaim the Earth, a sign that everything will be alright if you do the right thing.

Every day, we hear news of wild weather, climate change and its horrendous impact yet we do nothing. We ask the young generation to study and score the highest grades but what does it matter when the sky comes crashing down on us? The fight is not over and though we have come a long way, there is still a long distance to reach the destination. Is it easy? No. But is it possible? Yes. There is a lantern of hope in each one of us, a drive to do good in the world. Let’s not let that fire die.

– Parvathy Chaithanya, Vidhan Mandir PU College, Bengaluru

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