|“||Sir, orders are "Do not return to Earth."||„|
|~ AUTO to Captain B. McCrea|
AUTOPILOT, or AUTO for short, is the main antagonist of Pixar's 9th full-length animated feature film WALL-E. He is the wheel of the space station Axiom and tries to prevent the Axiom and the hundreds of people living on it from returning to Earth.
He was voiced by the speech synthesis program, MacInTalk.
BackstoryThe Axiom, designed some point after the year 2100, was originally supposed to carry people into space for a five-year cruise while hundreds of WALL-E robots would clean up the trash and pollution everywhere on Earth.
However, Operation Cleanup, as it was dubbed, failed as all but one WALL-E unit (the film's protagonist) broke down, and the living conditions on Earth became impossible.
The Autopilot of the Axiom receives a message to never return to Earth, 700 years before the movie starts. No one else aboard the Axiom hears this message. Therefore, every few years, an EVE probe is sent to Earth in search of plant life that would suggest that life on Earth was sustainable.
In the movie, WALL-E and EVE (the film's protagonist and deutagonist) find a plant specimen, and EVE is taken back to the Axiom with WALL-E in tow. However, AUTO, who is aware of this immediately, sends another smaller probe, called GO-4 (Gopher), his henchman, to take the plant and destroy it.
WALL-E and EVE manage to retrieve the plant from an escape pod that was about to self-destruct (with WALL-E still inside), and they deliver it to the Captain of the Axiom, who desperately wants to return to Earth. However, GO-4 throws the plant into the trash chute.
WALL-E, who was climbing up the chute, manages to save the plant. GO-4 traps EVE, while AUTO electrocutes WALL-E, nearly destroying him. WALL-E falls back into the garbage chute. AUTO shuts EVE down, and throws her into the garbage chute as well. AUTO mutinies against the Captain, confining him to his room.
EVE manages to reboot, and saves WALL-E, who is in critical condition. WALL-E, who has the plant, gives it to EVE, who realizes that if they can get it to the ship's Holo-detector, they can return to Earth and save WALL-E. EVE, holding a nearly destroyed WALL-E, points her blaster at a security robot, who takes a photo and broadcasts it around the Axiom. The Captain, who sees this, realizes there is still hope after all. AUTO sees it too and sends an entire brigade of security robots to stop EVE and WALL-E.
The Captain broadcasts a message to EVE and WALL-E, and tells them where the Holo-detector is. AUTO cuts off the message, and they are confronted by a whole group of security robots. With the help of a group of malfunctioned robots that WALL-E saved earlier in the film, they manage to destroy the brigade of security robots.
Meanwhile, the Captain manages to trick AUTO into coming down into his room. The Captain grabs onto AUTO, who pulls him up into the Command Deck while trying to get him off. In the fray, the Captain manages to activate the Holo-detector. EVE flies towards it, but AUTO, being a wheel, spins and throws the Captain off, tilting the entire Axiom to the side. AUTO then turns the Holo-detector off.
As it sinks back into the floor, WALL-E holds up the Holo-detector, while EVE holds back a huge metal plate that would have crushed several people to death because the Axiom was tilted. AUTO electrocutes the button that turns off the Holo-detector, causing it to slam down and crush WALL-E. The Captain, seeing this, gets to his feet (the first human to stand in 700 years, because technology has advanced that far), and battles AUTO.
The Captain manages to avoid AUTO's electrocution prong, hoists himself up, and switches AUTO's autopilot function into manual. The Captain straightens out the Axiom, EVE manages to slip the plant in the Holo-detector before it completely crushes WALL-E, and the Axiom jumps into hyperdrive and lands on Earth. EVE manages to fix WALL-E, and the two live happily together. It is unknown what happened to AUTO afterward, but It is possible AUTO remained deactivated forever.
Villain... or "just following orders?"
AUTOs role in the movie is a matter of debate. Is he a villain, preventing humans from returning to Earth because he wants control, or is he merely doing everything he can to follow the orders he was given? This issue can be looked upon either way.
However due to AUTO's apparent lack of true sentience (he was always very mechanical) it is very possible he was following program - however when a machine follows program, it can easily be seen as "evil" by human beings since a being that is run purely by logic does not have the capability to understand ethics (in fact ethics is often the opposite of logic) - this means beings that follow program often appear ruthless, authoritarian and even evil: the idea of a being void of emotion is alien to a lot of humans, and thus is seen as negative regardless of whether or not the character itself is "good" or "bad".
Neither logical nor ethical?
Another theory states that he is neither "logical" nor "ethical." However, ethics, which govern proper conduct, must always be in accordance with reason. It can be said that a rational being would interpret mankind's position in the Axiom as physically and intellectually decadent, while their return to Earth shows a realization of duty and a sense of active control over their own fate. Because such a solution is defended in this way, it can be argued as the ethically correct solution for the way humans behave.
Often, a cold and emotionless logician does not factor in some of the subjective values that must be taken into account when considering the conduct of people, but AUTO is not trying to think of the best course for humanity. Thus, he is illogical. He operates logically within the confines of his programming, but this is limited to a single mission: "stay the course," and "do not return to Earth." He only thinks of the most efficient way to keep these things true. Thus, he is not "evil" in the sense that he has malice, or ill-intent for his own self-benefit. No, he doesn't think at all, he just does. He is an extension of an out-dated order from centuries past. He is amoral, though his actions, not the being, are immoral because they would ultimately harm mankind.
Unlike most other robots in the story, AUTO is initially depicted as collected and emotionless, but is eventually revealed to be a desperate and temperamental control freak. His villainous breakdown involves trying desperately to stop EVE, WALL-E, and the Captain from switching him off and plotting a course back to Earth. He was very intelligent but it was covered by the fact that he was impatient. He only spoke what was needed to be said.
- AUTO's design seems to be a mix between a steering wheel and GLaDOS. He shares a trait with the latter in that he is always trying to control his victims.
- He bears an appearance similar to HAL 9000 in the 1968 sci-fi MGM film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Coincidentally music from that film plays when the Captain defeats him.
- The code AUTO gets to never return to earth is A113, a code used in many other Pixar films. It is where Andrew Stanton, the director of the film, and other Pixar staff learned animation. This is the first (and only known) time A113 is used in the film's plot.
- AUTO is the only robot who speaks more in the film.
- AUTO also appears in the WALL-E short film BURN.E.
- AUTO is the only main Pixar antagonist who successfully kills the main protagonist, but still ends up being defeated in the end.
- Plus once back on Earth, EVE fixed WALL-E and brought him back to life.