In the continuing tradition of post-apocalyptic adventures, 9 posits a world where humanity, indeed all organic life, is gone, obviously our fault. Let’s say that 9 takes place about 10 years after The Road and 75 years before Wall-E; or else right after the spaceships left to mine Pandora. It’s actually shocking how many movies 9 reminded me of in every scene, despite appearing to be entirely original. It’s got adorable sack boys wishing they were playing Little Big Planet instead of scrambling to survive in Huge Hostile Planet — and doing so in some quite scary sequences for something ostensibly for children.
Our stitchpunk heroes, known only by the numbers drawn on them by their late human creator, struggle amongst themselves to live in their empty world. It’s about three weeks after the Rise of the Machines and there’s not a naked human hero in sight — well, not alive. Corpses we have plenty of. I am used to seeing corpses litter the landscape in movies, but in a children’s film, not so much. Kids grow up so fast these days.
The production design — from the evil machines and expository materials to our burlap protagonists — is wonderful. If I were only rating on visuals I would give this film four and a half stars. The story starts out intriguing, trips over a philosophical arc (then puts it back where it found it), and then ends up being unsettlingly like Knowing, or maybe Coccoon. When the machines turned on their unsuspecting creators, the story had some interesting potential (albeit one adequately explored by the contents of any Blockbuster Video). But really — even after decades of filmic and literary foreshadowing and the clear SS-helmet design of the chassis of the main War of the Worldsish killing machines — who didn’t see this coming? In real life, Japan even has a product called HAL that they make at the company they named Cyberdyne. Are we even trying to avoid these consequences?
How can these sewn soldiers be alive and what is that dealie-thing they found and who made that crazy awesome cat skull robot beastie and why would it need prey in the first place? You will never know. So, I think our lead bag, 9 (Elijah Wood) has to go get the thing and take it to Mordor — no wait – and rescue Sirius Black, but then he opens the Labyrinth and lets in the Nothing and how will they ever get back to Kansas? And how exactly are 9 (well, fewer) bags of sentience a threat to a machine the size of the Cloverfield monster?
Maybe you can’t tell, but I was pretty disappointed. The look is gorgeous, but so have been a lot of movies (most of which are in this one). 9 didn’t knock me to sleep like Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, thanks to innovative camera work and pretty decent pacing, but it did completely fail to capture any sense of interest or purpose after the first few close encounters. I think if I were not diligently taking notes for this very review I might have folded laundry or something to pass the time. This film felt like a long movie cut down without any of its creators’ permission and important scenes got excised at random, like something about souls vs. intelligence being the stuff of life and maybe something else about the characters, like anything. 9 is a beautiful movie to look at and a clumsy story with a weird ending.
Release date 9/9/09
Time in minutes 79
Director Shane Acker
Studio Focus Features