By Nick Will
September 9th, 2009 (9-9-09 in calendar talk) saw the release of two anticipated elements in the entertainment world: The Beatles edition of Rockband and the movie “9”. Part of me wishes this review was about the former.
“9” is the feature version of a short film of the same title created in 2005 by Shane Acker and was published in the 2007 anthology of “The Animation Show.” The version in theaters is an adaptation of the original, a more expansive version. “9” takes place in after the fall of mankind. After being killed by their own a machines, mans’ last hope is a surviving scientist who traps his soul in 9 rag dolls as a last resort to preserve humanity. The story surrounds 9 rag doll characters; each ironically named #’s 1-9, who are fighting a machine named the Beast.
The movie is packed with high intensity fight sequences were 9 and his comrades fight immeasurable odds, including several duels with mechanical beasts ten times their size. Each combat sequence tends to end up the same though: 9 and his friends get beat up badly and happen to defeat the creature through a quick movement. For example, the fight sequence shown in the trailer includes 9 and 5 getting literally torn apart by a giant cat-like machine. In the end of the sequence however they are saved by the mysterious #7, the rag doll featured in the trailer with the bird skull over her face.
That being said, the movie’s plot lacks any real meaning, as we the viewer are lost in fight sequences. There is no clear explanation as to why 9 and his rag-time gang are fighting the beast; it is just shown that they are fighting. Other than a few glimpses into the past, viewers are left wondering how exactly it came down to 9 rag dolls and a giant god-like machine.
The film also lacked in the dialogue department. With voice acting by fan favorites such as John C. Reilly as 5 and Elijah Wood as 9 it is hard to think that you would be bored with the dialogue but, this film’s dialogue bores with gusto. The dialogue in the film is the same banter heard in any post-apocalyptic film, with such a back drop, one would think that emotions would run high. Maybe Acker should have stuck with the silent aspect of the original.
The visuals of the film are however amazing. The art and visual departments did a great job engaging us with the post-humanity staging; the areas were extremely beautiful in a dark way. A specific set that caught my attention was a church of some sort in which the characters take refuge from the beast during the middle if the film. The church itself is well designed, and the way that the lighting and fog effects were added definitely captured the feel of the scene. The film’s characters and gadgets were also delivered well with an extremely steam punk feel. The film looks great but looking good doesn’t excuse bad dialogue and boring plot.
Another thing to mention was the films misleading advertisements. First off, the cinematic previews for “9” featured music by the alternative rock group “Coheed and Cambria” and the film itself contained none of their work. Another thing to point out was a misleading tag the film was given: “This is not your little brother’s animated movie.” To me this was nothing but a film for children. Outside of a few dead bodies shown in the opening scenes, nothing in the film was portrayed as overly violent or dark.
Alright, so there aren’t nine reasons. But, a few is good enough. If you’re looking for a beautiful movie with great animation then this is it, but if plot matters to you then you should probably look somewhere else. Maybe when they claimed that this wasn’t our little brother’s animated film, what they really meant was that not even your little brother could enjoy it.