Reviewed by: Ethan Samuel Rodgers
|Featuring:||Christopher Plummer (1—voice), Martin Landau (2—voice), John C. Reilly (5—voice), Crispin Glover (6—voice), Jennifer Connelly (7—voice), Fred Tatasciore (8 / Radio Announcer—voice), Elijah Wood (9—voice), Alan Oppenheimer (The Scientist—voice), Tom Kane (Dictator—voice), Helen Wilson (Newscaster—voice)|
|Producer:||Focus Features, Relativity Media, Starz Animation
“The Corpse Bride,” “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”
Mary Clayton, Dana Ginsburg, Jinko Gotoh, Jim Lemley, Marci Levine, Matthew Teevan
“When our world ended their mission began.”
Visually stunning, ingeniously crafted, poorly laid out and sporadic at best, “9” is the cinema’s greatest example this year of how an intriguing premise can be squandered through the lack of ability to construct a sound storyline and is, furthermore, living proof that not everything Tim Burton touches turns to gold.
In the wasteland of what used to be Earth, a small puppet comes to life. The year and location are unknown, like many other things, but the puppet, 9 (Elijah Wood), quickly finds he is in a hostile world, filled with mechanical beasts and robots, machines and danger, where life seems to no longer exist.
Eight other puppets brave this world, led by 1 (Christopher Plummer). They huddle together for safety in a large abandoned cathedral, waiting for the danger, like the war that ended humanity, to sleep. After a string of unfortunate events, 9 and the others find themselves up against a great machine responsible for the death of the human race. Faced with insurmountable odds, they must destroy it to ensure peace befalls what’s left of the world.
So I’m sure you’re wondering what will happen next, right? Unfortunately, that’s really all the information you’re given, save two conventional plot twists and the ending, which is none-to-satisfying, as well. Director and Writer Shane Acker simply ran out of story ideas, it seems. The hour and a half run time is far too long for such a story, and the way it’s told is sophomoric, at best.
Thrust almost immediately into the action, one is pelted with four various climaxes throughout the ordeal, being spoon-fed crumbs of story in boring fashions to keep the charade alive while simultaneously having action scene after chase scene shoved down one’s throat. Granted, the animation is beautiful, every detail carefully examined, while the fight scenes are certainly not disinteresting. They do, however, simply grow boring after the first half hour or so, and without a single subplot to intrigue or enhance the overall plot, the one view storyline sputters quickly.
The story itself couldn’t really seem to decide what its endgame truly was. It was difficult to figure out or predict when the film was going to be over and what the point of the film actually was, until suddenly it was over, and tied neatly with a “feel good” bow of vague symbolism and hope, followed by the credits. Truly, the creators of “9” devoted themselves wholly to the creation of the beings and the world they lived in, instead of the plot or story surrounding it, or convincing us why we should really care about the tiny puppets anyway.
From a moral standpoint, the film is certainly acceptable. No language or sex, though the violence is incredibly realistic. Some of the monsters that chase after the puppets look like child’s nightmares come to life, and the overall tone and setting is dark, ominous, and downright creepy. Characters have their souls sucked out, and are hunted by Terminator-esque robots created to destroy them. This is one reason I see the film missing it’s target audience: the lack of interesting story and subplots that will not keep adults interested is coupled with the violent action that will scare younger children, which leaves “9” with a small demographic to entertain.
The symbolism is an unfortunate deterrent, as well. Not so subtly, 1 (Plummer) is dressed in a cape and hat, almost as a pope or bishop, ruling over the others who are afraid of he and his lackey, 8, in a large “sanctuary” which is indeed a cathedral. 1 is afraid of the outside, of knowledge and science, and of facing his fears for the good of the world, simply out of principal and rules. The constant reference to “the source,” coupled with the fascination over souls and resurrections also played a confusing part in the symbolism of the story, although their true purpose to the story, other than the cut and dry ending, which didn’t really make any sense, eluded me. These instances further cemented my view that not only was this premise that Shane Acker came up with poorly told and carried out, but mildly stereotypical and overdone.
The voice acting is surprisingly poor, as well. Unconvincing dialog from the entire cast is sprinkled throughout to inspire emotion and care, fright and apprehension, but ends up following suit with the story and simply lulling along. Uninspired lines are delivered casually and nonchalantly from start to finish with very few, if any, exceptions.
Were it not for the fantasy world and characters depicted with such creativity, along with their respective antagonists, “9” would be nothing more than a waste of 90 minutes. The animation itself truly saves the film from total demise, but can not redeem the pointlessness of the story Acker so clumsily weaves. While “9” is beautiful in many senses of the word, the development of what began as a short film concept into this major motion picture simply found itself without enough story or journey to support such grand aspirations. Concluded with too many questions and loose ends, and sticking to bland predictable story structure resembling an apocalyptic mix of “Happy Feet” and “The Terminator,” “9” is a film that certainly could have been great, but unfortunately capitulated to be nothing more than an extended piece of eye candy.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.