Animated feature convinces with images


WALL-E

Directed by Andrew Stanton.
Pixar, 2008. 98 minutes

The new Pixar movie WALL-E tells a cautionary tale about stewardship of the earth (as well as our souls and bodies) and, in so doing, communicates an important message about how truths in general are conveyed.

WALL-E is the story of a solitary robot left on earth after humanity has rendered earth inhospitable for all life forms. WALL-E has been programmed to compact and stack into neat pyramids the trash and debris left behind by the departed human race.

The film wordlessly (there is no dialogue for the first two thirds of the movie) paints a compelling picture of the need for humankind to become better stewards of our planet, and – in a hilarious ode to our culture’s slide into Brave New World-like passivity – better stewards of our own minds and bodies. Seven hundred years after humanity’s departure, the earth’s landscape is brown and lifeless; there is a perpetual hazy glare; night-time stars are glimpsed only fleetingly.

The movie gives further expression to the long-standing and growing chorus of journalists (Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring) and politicians (Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth) joining those doing hard science to warn our generation about the toll our lifestyles are having on our planet.

What is interesting about this warning in WALL-E is the way in which it is communicated. There is no dialogue for most of the movie; nobody clobbers us with statistics or verbal dire warnings. Instead, we experience a visual depiction of a future that none of us would want for ourselves or our children’s children.

In a July 22, 2008 column in Christianity Today, Philip Yancey expressed how the writings of C.S. Lewis led him to a renewed, deeper faith than the narrow, racist faith in which he was raised. Significantly, it was not Lewis’ formal apologetic works such as Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain that set Yancey on the road back to faith, but Lewis’ science fiction trilogy.

These stories gave Yancey “an intuitive sense of reality;” a God-centred view of what was true and real. This sense was then supported and complemented by Lewis’ other writings. Yancey argues that for his conversion to really “take” it was necessary that the rational, logical arguments for the faith match his intuitive inner longings.

So, what is the role of good storytelling, whether expressed in a good little movie like WALL-E, a sermon, or the lives of those called to live out the God-flavours and God-colours (Matthew 5:13-14) of the world? Food for thought, and the heart.

—Graeme Isbister recently completed 11 years of ministry at Sardis Community Church, Chilliwack, B.C. 

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