4 out of 5
Who's in it?: Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly, Martin Landau, Crispin Glover
Who was in charge?: Shane Acker
Who wrote this movie?: Pamela Pettler and Shane Acker
Is it based on anything: A short film by Shane Acker of the same title.
Who put this movie out?: Focus Features
Whats it rated and why?: PG-13 for violence and scary images
How long will this movie take?: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Opened September 9, 2009
It should be mentioned right off the bat that "9," while an adaptation of a short by filmmaker Shane Acker, is something relatively new to the film industry. It is only the fourth animated movie to achieve a PG-13 rating, following "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", "Beowulf", and "Kaena: The Prophecy."
Its scary, yet inspiring, themes and visuals set it apart from other animated/apocalyptic movies even before the first visual appears on the screen. This movie's all-star cast and producers (Tim Burton, whose films have shook audiences for years, and Timur Bekmambetov, the director of "Wanted") earned it immense praise, even before it premiered.
In simplest terms, "9" is a story about the end of the world. When an intelligent machine, built by an inventor known as The Scientist, turns on humanity, it destroys all of civilization by unleashing intelligent war machines that it creates. As humanity fights back, they soon find that the advanced technology is far too much to handle.
In a last effort to save the world, The Scientist creates nine rag dolls, capable of the human thought process, to try and defeat the monster he had created. The story revolves around a rag doll known as 9 (Elijah Wood). As 9 awakes, he finds The Scientist, who gave his life force to create him, dead. As 9 sets out into a post-apocalyptic world, he finds 2 (Martin Landau), one of the other nine dolls. Unfortunately for 9, 2 is captured by one of "the beasts," or robots created by the machine, and taken to the factory.
When 9 meets up with the other dolls, he finds them cowering in Notre Dame church. He proceeds to tell them of 2's plight, in an effort to convince them to save 2. Unfortunately, the other dolls are scared of the outside world, due to 1 (Christopher Plummer), the leader of the dolls, and refuse to help him, except for 5 (John C. Reilly), who as 2's best friend decides that his life is worth risking.
Although he saves 2, 9 awakens the robot created by The Scientist which had laid dormant until a special artifact was returned to its core. Now, as the robot tries to steal the life force from all the dolls one-by-one, 9 must gather the remaining dolls and try to defeat the machine, once and for all.
The story is very original. The idea of seeing the end of the world through objects created by man, rather than man itself, allows for an interesting view of the end. However, the problem is that Shane Acker and Pamela Pettler, who created this bleak and dreary world with such great expertise, failed to make us care about anyone in it. Although this is Acker's first film, Pettler is a seasoned pro. Her work on "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" and "Monster House" should have prepared her so much more for this film.
The motivations, and personalities, of the nine dolls weren't fleshed out as much as they should have been. Moviegoers may find it hard to really feel for, or get into the character of, anyone because things simply jump from one action to the other with very little reasoning.
For instance, 9 at one point decides, for whatever reason, that he has such an emotional connection to 2, after only being around him for perhaps five minutes, that he must risk his life to save him.
This sentiment where these dolls simply choose to do things with little rhyme or reason is apparent throughout the whole movie. Not only that, but many of the details of how things work in the story are never explained.
Praise must be given to the voice work in this movie. Even with the lacking story, the voice actors of this movie make it quite an experience. Special praise must to be paid to Reilly, who shattered his box by stepping into the role of 5. For a man who is only a comedy actor, he takes on a character who is quiet and timid masterfully.
Other amazing performances include Jennifer Connelly, whose role as 7 brings a fire and courage to a character who couldn't survive without both, and Wood, whose portrayal as the protagonist 9 really shines through the absence of detail. All the voices in this movie really bring a human quality to each character.
The animation in this movie is spectacular. The landscapes and figures are so beautifully put together that 'suspension of disbelief' doesn't even begin to describe just how wonderfully real everything looks. The machines and robots are creepy and realistic, perhaps making a moviegoer's hairs stand-on-end as the robots chase 9.
The intricate details of the characters make us truly see each emotion, as if they were really human. The look of each object changes with the emotion of the scene, allowing each character to be completely real throughout the entire process. "9" leaves nothing wanting in terms of visuals.
Overall, "9" is amazing. Although not for children, as its animation may suggest, it really does bring movies something that they haven't had before. Shane Acker paints a picture of the end of the world as one with a very promising future. Although the story itself is lacking, "9" is one movie that you will find yourself watching over and over again, just to make sure your eyes caught everything. A close-to-perfect 4 out of 5.
~ SE (Black Divinity)
Special thanks to anyone who edited this and a thank you to Ryan Davis, the editor of the digitalburg, for all his hard work editing my article.
All movies, TV shows, songs, names, likenesses, or anything mentioned unless otherwise stated are property of their prospective owners.
This review ©2009-2010 Joseph Burge
9 ©2009 Focus Features
Corpse Bride ©2005 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Monster House ©2006 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and GH One LLC.
Beowulf ©2007 Paramount Pictures
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within ©2001 Columbia Pictures
Kaena: The Prophecy ©2004 Samuel Goldwyn Films
Wanted ©2007 Universal Studios
All images courtesy of Google Images.