Posted by Marc Hodak on June 29, 2008 under Movie reviews | 5 Comments to Read

The movie was pretty good, despite having the most illogical premise ever.

I’m not talking about the robot love story, where machines go against their programming to acquire free will and human emotion. I grew up with Hanna-Barbera. I’m cool with smart-ass robot maids and rambunctious robot pets, so I have no qualms about robot romance. What bothered me is the inexplicable strategy of the humans in this film.

B’n’L, a rapacious corporation-cum-government, has taken consumerist pandering to such obscenely wasteful levels that the earth is no longer fit for habitation. (OK, Hollywood blames the Earth’s environmental destruction on a monolithic corporation; nothing surprising there.) Then, as they deploy robots to clean up the planet, this same company has chosen to build a mammoth, luxury space liner, called Axiom, to transport the people away, with robot servants catering to their every whim. Think Starship Enterprise meets Royal Caribbean. Then, as B’n’L would, super-size it. And Axiom provides this luxury indefinitely, for centuries at a time, even though it was only designed for a five-year cruise.

Maybe I’m just a victim of my aerospace engineering training, here, but it seems obvious to me that a spaceship is a self-contained environment. It has to provide everything needed to sustain the basics of life, let alone its luxuries. It must have a permanently renewable source of energy. It has to be able to recycle everything–water, air, waste of every kind–otherwise this ark would eventually be depleted. (There is a moment where we see that the ship regularly ejects waste from a trash hold into space, but let’s ignore that.)

So, if B’n’L could, and would, create this sustainable, self-contained haven as a space-borne habitat, why couldn’t it have built it as a earth-bound biosphere? I mean, it could be as sealed off on Earth as it would have to be in space, except that it wouldn’t need all that extra propulsion and navigation equipment. Ask Hilton; a land-based hotel is much less complicated and costly than a sea-borne one. At least some people would presumably prefer a hotel to a high-end prison, even if that hotel were on a spoiled Earth. (That was, in fact, a conclusion quickly reached by the humans in this film.)

I can abide retro notions of robots that don’t (quite) take over the world, and Brave New World monopolies that do. I can laugh at human stupidity in a dystopian future, and at human kinkiness in a post-apocalyptic paradise. But I can’t help but notice when people make totally uneconomic choices about technology right there in hand. That does not compute.

  • Maggie said,

    Interesting view. Funny how one’s perspective colors those things. I saw this film with my young niece. We both found it charming, but my particular (minor) concern was how it promoted the romantic but wrongheaded idea of women marrying down. (I’m assuming that the sleek, white robot was female, for some reason.)

  • pippen said,

    I enjoyed the film, despite Hollywood’s gratuitous green stamp of approval all over it. I thought that was a bit much, but what do you expect from Disney?

  • Buck Turgidson said,

    I agree that the film was enjoyable family entertainment and am just marveling at all the people who came away profoundly disturbed by this movie. I think those who did are taking this thing much more seriously than intended. The whole point of the film is the affection between the two robots. All else is setup and comic relief. You correctly point out glaring plot problems and I really don’t think Stanton cares about that. If he wanted to make “2001” or “1984” he would have. A lot of people saw the vivid animation of an empty Earth covered in trash and got all depressed. Sheesh.

  • Tyler said,

    Whats wrong with women marrying down? Have you never been told a fairy tale like the brother grimms stories? There handsome and wealthy princes are marrying poor farmer girls.

    Women strived for centuries to secure their social status with marrying someone richer. But as we are now in an emancipated and equal society “marrying down” shouldn’t be a problem and be acceptable.

  • monolith94 said,

    There are possibilities: perhaps B&L had been building space cruisers before the ecological crisis and decided to retrofit them for long term occupancy? Also, we see that the ship does things without the humans control, like sending EVEs to Earth. It could very well be possible that the ship gobbles up space materials from asteroids, comets, etc. and transmutes them into usable goods.

    My problem is more that around six or so billion people or so would never be able to fit on one lousy spaceship! Still, the movie was great enough in what it was that it’s easy to forgive these little nitpicks.

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