50

In the movie WALL•E the Buy n Large company intiates the five year plan "Operation Clean-Up" to clean Earth and make it habitable again. Eventually the plan is deemed a failure and directive A113 is issued, declaring Earth a lost cause and setting the stage for the approximate 700 year time lapse.

During this time the Waste Allocation Load Lifter • Earth Class robots continue to do their job, that is, they continue to compress the trash into cubes and stack it in nice neat piles. By the time of the movie, the WALL•E we get to know is the only (apparent) remaining WALL•E unit still in operation.

My question is, why is this WALL•E unit the only one that is still operating? BnL technology was clearly built to last (many digital billboards and advertisements still work, automatic doors work etc) and there were lots of WALL•Es involved in Operation Clean-Up (we can see the "dead" remains of many of them in the opening sequences). Since they had the ability to scavenge their dead brethren then there should have been at least a couple more still in operation, considering the stockpile of parts that Wall•E had accumulated.

  • 1
    by apparent you mean within the focus of the film or does somewhere in the film specifically identify him as the only one? I'd guess there are many, but none worth focusing on in the film, or none in a reasonable geographic radius – Kai Qing Mar 16 '16 at 23:44
51

The Wall•E we know is "faulty", the fault being personality, (like that of Johnny 5, short circuit). This being the case, instead of just compacting trash, he shows interest in other things; objects, his existence, and eventually his survival, causing him to scavenge parts to keep him self going, to feed his curiosity for the solitary world he inhabits.

To answer another question someone asked, why EVE probes are still being sent out after A113 initiative to cancel operation recolanise. This A113 initiative is classified beyond the captains security clearance and was sent to the autopilot, therefore the probes must still show to be actively seeking life on earth. Can you imagine if people on the ship knew earth was completely abandoned?

Source: My son has watched the film and extras almost everyday over the past year, causing my brain to absorb useless movie trivia.

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    I'd disagree slightly- the A113 initiative says not to go home. It says nothing about no longer sending out probes. Auto is computer enough to take his orders literally. That's why even when life is shown to begin to return, he sticks to the orders he was given. In other words, if you didn't want him to continue to send out probes, you ought to have said. – Broklynite Mar 17 '16 at 10:29
38

The movie doesn't say, so we are left to speculate. Two obvious possibilities are

  • Luck. Some unit had to be last.

  • Wall-E's peculiar personality traits lead to a more efficient self-care and repair regime. Or possibly the cockroach helped.

I prefer the latter idea.

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    You left out 'wasn't the last'. Maybe there were others. Somewhere. But we never saw them. But I like that the cockroach helped. – Philip from Australia Jan 26 '12 at 3:27
  • Well, he did seem to be the last one near by, but sure. – dmckee Jan 26 '12 at 3:54
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    "Last one nearby" could be considered evidence that they were scavenging the disabled units for parts. And became territorial. And would've attacked other Wall-E units that came near their spare parts... – Izkata Aug 28 '12 at 23:42
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    +1 definitely the cockroach. Also, I agree with you at a fundamental level: it is misguided to seek deep consistency in a movie like this. It thrives on charm alone, for better or worse (I think it's for better!) – Andres F. Aug 29 '12 at 2:05
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In the official production notes and interviews, writer/director Andrew Stanton has consistently said that the essential concept behind the character of WALL•E is, "what if mankind had to leave Earth, and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot?" The Buy N Large corporation initially had a plan to return to Earth. Based on Stanton's concept, it is likely that when their cleanup plan failed they intentionally turned off all the WALL•E units, somehow missing only one.

Source IMDB

  • Well...that just leaves me wondering why, if they had already decided Earth was a loss, they sent the bio-scanning probes back? Aside: it brings to mind the short story "Would the last person to leave the planet please shut off the sun?". – dmckee Jan 26 '12 at 17:09
  • @dmckee Sounds like you have the makings of a new question. – Xantec Jan 26 '12 at 19:45
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    Answer: because the story wasn't thought through to that level of consistency. I find the movie charming in itself and don't care to hear a bunch of retcons. – dmckee Jan 26 '12 at 20:01
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    Although the reason is left unexplained, as a Software Developer I can tell you that odd bugs happen all the time, sometimes it's a race condition, some other times it's a deadlock, and some other times it's just a plain human mistake, and most of the times developers are not aware of that bug until someone brings it up. That said, more than likely WALL-E remained active because of a bug, and there was no one in Earth to point that out, until Eva arrived. If WALL-E units were deactivated remotely, then WALL-E receiver might have been broken at the time of the deactivation. – ILikeTacos Jul 30 '13 at 0:38
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    The EVE probes were still being sent because, for all the humans knew, they were eventually going back. Only the Autopilots knew about Directive A113 (GO-4, as the Captain's and Autopilot's literal go-fer, may also have been in on it, or may simply have been that heavily under Auto's control that it would obey Auto over the Captain). By continuing to send probes, all the other bots on the Axiom, and all the humans, never have a clue. – KeithS Aug 21 '13 at 21:17
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First off, as shown by WALL-E's behavior in the final scenes of the movie, most WALL-Es were not self-aware, and were relentlessly single-minded, managed by human teams as part of Operation Cleanup. The idea, laid out by Andrew Stanton in the commentary, was to set them loose over a wide area, and they'd divide and conquer, gathering up the trash and building the skyscrapers of garbage, which would then be consumed by the big conveyor-belt eating machines and incinerated. However, burning all of that trash had unintended consequences ("rising toxicity levels" as mentioned in the A113 message), and eventually the remaining humans who were managing Operation Cleanup couldn't survive the conditions, and had to leave in a hurry. The robots, it's implied, were never actually turned off; they were just abandoned to their fate by the humans, who assumed all the robots would eventually break down for lack of maintenance.

The one WALL-E left, the title character, has somehow gained digital sentience (and a personality), through some programming abnormality, a fortunate accident, or simply the slow accumulation of knowledge over the 700 years he's been functional. How and when it happened is unknown, but it's implied to make WALL-E unique. By becoming self-aware and able to learn, he has also gained the smarts to stay alive (thus furthering his primary directive) by learning to cannibalize the other WALL-Es as needed. If we accept that WALL-E's sentience and ability to cannibalize is unique among his kind, which it is for all we can tell, then it follows naturally that WALL-E's the only one of his kind still functional, because all others, unable to adapt, would have succumbed to the worsening conditions on the planet over time. The opening scenes show that WALL-E has taken this trait one step further, collecting various things he's found interesting among the refuse.

Andrew Stanton and his art team took pains to contrast WALL-E and EVE heavily in form and function. You pretty much understand at a glance how WALL-E works; tough, sturdy, no-frills utility bot, powered by electric motors, servos and hydraulics, and what was probably little more than a Roomba's programmed intelligence at first. EVE, as Stanton says, is the Porsche to WALL-E's Jeep; fast, powerful, built to survive alone for months or possibly years, programmed from the start with self-awareness and learning capability, and because she represents the cutting edge of human technology as of shortly after the starliners left, which itself is probably hundreds of years beyond our present time, we don't quite understand exactly how she works.

However, until she's exposed over time to WALL-E's quirky digital personality, she's almost as single-minded about her directive as WALL-E originally would have been; while she shows some human emotions, like happiness, fun, and frustration, all before she's formally introduced to WALL-E, she has a job to do, and she knows it, placing her friendship with WALL-E second (sometimes last) in her list of priorities until much later in the movie.

As far as Earth technology being built to last, not everything left behind is still working; in fact the majority of the tech left behind is non-functional. Most of what does still work does so by convenience for the story. The relatively advanced tech that we see still working is primarily in the opening scenes, as a way to tell the audience what's happened to the planet and its former inhabitants, and in the final scenes to allow the docking and unloading of the Axiom from a docking cradle that would have been immobile and idle for 700 years. Most other Earthbound technology that still functions does so to make a gag work, like the singing fish, the iPod and VCR, or the CRT TV and Pong game.

There's plenty that isn't explicitly broken down for the audience, but for what it's worth I think WALL-E's universe is among the more well-designed and well-explained of sci-fi alternate realities, and it does so with precious few words.

12

According to the officially licenced comic serial "WALL•E: Working to Dig you out", our hero was the last active WALL•E unit out of several dozen working from the loader we see in the film. The others suffered damage, injury or just plain ceased working after decades of activity.

Battery Failure
enter image description here

Injury
enter image description here

Wore Out
enter image description here

Our hero seems to have survived the past 700 by demonstrating a willingness to cannibalise his dead comrades for parts, a penchant for creative thinking in emergencies and a deep fear of the elements. It's notable that even when there were other WALL•E units around, he was still the class clown, suggesting that his personality defects weren't due to loneliness.

enter image description here

  • 1
    What are "his personality defects?" I haven't seen the movie in a long time but he seemed like a pretty well adjusted robot to me. – Erik Mar 17 '16 at 17:46
  • @Erik - Defects including self-reliance, intelligence, self-preservation, love... – Valorum Mar 17 '16 at 17:58
  • Who hasn't put a traffic cone on their head and talked to an inanimate object a time or two? :) I'll have to watch the movie again but I always thought WALL-E just enjoyed a good joke. When there wasn't anyone to perform for he performed for himself. You should know something about that or you wouldn't put insinuating link titles in your comments that lead to benign photos. That performance is mostly for yourself because you don't get to see the disappointment in our eyes... :) There is some payoff from the comments of a person who clicked, but that must just be a bonus. – Erik Mar 17 '16 at 18:10
2

How do you know there weren't some Wall-E's elsewhere?

They would only have a small range (or at least confine themselves to an area) so would only be able to harvest other wall-E's for 'Spares & Repairs' for a short while. It's conceivable that more Wall-E will be found, although something tells me that Wall-E's were made long before the billboards and automatic doors and the spaceship were crafted, and just left without much hope of success.

  • Not so much; WALL-E's were created specifically for the cleanup effort; it's inferred that all the technology Wall-E sees during his day existed before him. – KeithS Aug 21 '13 at 21:19
  • @KeithS I agree with your logic, but two points to consider, any society that has to leave the planet entirely probably isn't in a position to create a load of Wall-Es. Secondly, the two technologies look so disparate I have to assume one came before the other. – AncientSwordRage Aug 21 '13 at 21:44
  • Good points. If you have the DVD, listen to the commentary track; Andrew Stanton talks quite a bit about the implied backstory, and how the world they built was supposed to function. BnL had left some employees behind (including the CEO) to oversee Operation Cleanup, and when Directive A113 was issued by the CEO (rather hurriedly), Earth was completely evacuated and the cleanup robots were left to fend for themselves. 700 years later, as far as we know, only one WALL-E is left. – KeithS Aug 21 '13 at 23:06
  • I disagree. Any society that has the ability to build and launch a generation ship successfully surely should be able to produce a large number of relatively simple WALL-E (in comparison) units. From my recollection it was never a problem of running out of resources. Also the WALL-E units were there to clean up the planet so they would have the motivation to make lots of them. – Erik Mar 17 '16 at 17:51
2

What I think is that the other Wall•Es have suffered serious damage. Like, for example, remember that garbage mixed up with sandstorm? Maybe that's what killed most of the Wall•Es, and maybe 1 Wall•E (which is the one who likes Eve) survived because he was SMART.

  • If you have a new question, please post it by clicking the Ask Question button rather than in an answer to an existing question. – Rand al'Thor Feb 14 '17 at 22:46
  • A good answer with some good logic. As above, use the Ask Question button for new questions. Also refrain from adding casual comments in your answers. Welcome, however and enjoy :) – Edlothiad Feb 14 '17 at 22:47
1

It is conceivable that the storms had a role to play in the other unit's demise. Referencing back to some other points made on here regarding the difference in technology between the buy'n'large signs etc and the clean-up units, the premise to the plot (to me) is consistently objectifying the wasteful nature and greed of humans. Take this into account with the systems designed to sell products and this ties in nicely with lazy vastly over-engineered designs (which again reference a culture of wasting resources). This would clash with the systems designed to clean up waste. The Wall-E robots are clunky, almost hurriedly designed with a specific purpose. These units may not have been intended to last long with the 5 year plan and with the core back-story being the excessive build up of waste, it is clear that waste management was clearly not the human's strongest ability (again referencing to greed and excessive un-restricted consumption). With this in mind, the robots may have been under-designed on a minimal budget and the dust storms being a problem that had not been incorporated into the original specification.

So, why was Wall-E the last one left... This could be a mash up of all the reasons given by other writers, glitches in the system, an oddity in the programming or perhaps our Wall-E was the only one to be in the back of a van at the time a storm hit and thus it saved him.

1

yeah, but in the beginning, when he's switching tracks with a deactivated WALL.E, a lot of them are buried, stuck, or have fallen with a large garbage tower, thus killing off that lot. Though, probably incredibly long ago.

  • This is a very short answer and is liable to attract downvotes, although it technically answers the question. Would you like me to convert it to a comment on the question instead? – Rand al'Thor Mar 16 '16 at 21:31

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