>> 9 (6.5/10)

9Shane Acker’s CG-animated 9 would have been a must-see when I was in my late teen’s/early 20’s.  The dark visuals (nothing says “I am sooo dark” like the discarded head of a baby doll), Tim Burton’s co-producing credit, and the Playstation-ready action sequences would have guaranteed my butt in a set on opening day.  Frankly, I’ve been surprised by my fully adult self’s disinterest in the film.  I can recognize that this is something that might’ve grabbed my attention during a different time in my life, and I wonder what it is that I’m missing now that causes me to be so indifferent.

9 is a shaky blend–an artistic triumph and a mediocre movie.  Acker’s screenplay (co-written by Pamela Pettler) lets down his amazing post-apocalyptic vision with a script that is too repetitive (when it’s not being nebulous).  The hero, 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), wakes up in a world without organic life, where eight other burlap homunculi like himself hide away from killer patchwork robots fashioned from knives, old bones, and scraps of cloth.  9 is the only one of his kind with the curiosity to figure out just what their purpose is on this desolated Earth, inspiring some of the others (Jennifer Connelly as 7, John C. Reilly as 5) to follow his charge.  From there, the film follows a basic pattern for the bulk of its running time, wherein 9 discovers a kernal of information about his origin, then the heroes fight an evil machine, then repeat.

The ending just sort of happens, providing a dissastisfying touchy-feely metaphysical conclusion to an interesting science-fiction tale.  I thought the wrap-up was so abrupt and so ponderous that I felt like I’d missed a portion of the film.  9 gets more narratively wobbly as it rolls along, and it’s a shame that a film this unusual can’t cross the finish line without losing its wheels completely.

Granted, there’s never been a movie quite like 9, and I can applaud it for that.  It lacks the fairytale quality of something like Coraline, so it’s not exactly a kids’ flick, but it also doesn’t have the storytelling oomph that adults might be looking for in a thoughtful science-fiction piece.  What it does have going for it are appealing character designs, graceful animation, and enough artsy quirk to make it worth your time.  It’s a solid, unusual feature debut for Shane Acker, and I’m definitely interested to see what else he has to offer.  I just can’t muster up anymore enthusiasm than that.

Have I been desensitized, in the wake of Terminator and The Matrix, to portraits of a bleak future in which mankind is dominated, then exterminated by their own machines?  Probably so.  Acker obviously put a lot of work into 9, but not where it needed it the most–sacrificing the emotional depth he’s trying to acheive for just one more video-gamey action scene.  The younger me probably would’ve forgiven that.  The 33-year old me can’t.

6.5 on a 1 to 10 scale


1 Comment

  1. I was so messed up when it was over, I felt like it should still be going on because i did not feel like it ended. Its like the cameras finally after years of working on there own finally ran outta juice. Elijah’s voice over bothered me alot too, he was very disconnected from what was going on. I enjoyed it but i could have waited to see it at home.

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