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9 is better than average... but only barely.
The movie is carried by a unique visual style and a great sense of "place." The sack-men (and woman) are refreshingly odd and fun to watch. The post-apocalyptic city is consistently beautiful and dangerous. Desolate without feeling dull.
Unfortunately, the story and characters ARE dull. Not crushingly so... but enough to frustrate. Frequent, obvious plot holes and violations of established world-rules pulled me out of the movie over and over again. Tired clichés abound. I wasn't able to shake the feeling that I'd seen and heard this all before.
And that's a shame because there's a lot of potential here. If only the writer had taken more chances. Why not challenge the audience and defy expectations? Why make a movie that's too scary for kids but too simplistic for adults? Who is expected to enjoy it?
I would watch another Shane Acker movie if one is made (hopefully after he's picked a target audience). But 9 is not a classic.
... that said, it's probably worth watching on the big screen just for the sights and sounds.
I come from the school of early Tim Burton, and Jim Henson- two of my
cinema deities from my earliest memories- and this is the first time in
a long time that anyone has managed to touch on that magic for me.
I'll do my best to convey what a fantastic movie this is, without really revealing too much of the plot- because I think that this movie is best experienced not really knowing anything. You come in the same way the main character does- not knowing anything of this world.
While sitting in the theater, I recalled memories of the intensity and heart of "my first movies" such as E.T., The Secret of Nymh, The Dark Crystal, and Edward Scissorhands- movies that touched upon something that was at once so rooted in human emotion yet so fantastic and unimaginable. I can absolutely say that "9" is now considered one in that catalog of visionary and hallowed movies.
Guaranteed some will have a complaint with the length (a seemingly short 79 minutes considering the scale and impact of the story) but I think that a movie can be an epic without needing to be over 2 hours long, or a HUGE amount of unnecessary back story and origins that's only purpose is to make the story SEEM grandiose. This movie is a complete work of art- from the obviously eye-catching visual style and composition of what you see, down to the basic story and character development that you feel. In 79 minutes this team managed to harness my imagination and senses without having to dumb-it-down for the audience, or use any of the old gags that many bigger studios seem to rely on to sell tickets (thankfully there are NO cheesy gross out jokes to appeal to a typical cable-fed attention span). Instead they took me to places that I had never thought of, but will never forget. My most respectful nod to everyone involved.
Absolutely do not miss this one.
Man I got to tell ya it is so nice to see something different that has the intensity of a mature movie yet lies within the realm of the animated world. Every scene was beautifully done and you can literally hang every frame up on a wall if you so choose to. The story was great, the suspense was amazing. Who ever complained about it not having a story, tell that to the crowd I saw jumping every so often from the intense confrontations. What I also liked about it was the hidden parts of the story. They give you enough information to enjoy the film but yet you can extract more of the back ground thought that went into what we saw in the completed film. For the first time ever I saw half of the audience stay behind after the credits role to not just see who worked on the movie but to debate back and forth about what they thought of it, what the characters represented, what happen in this or that scene, and of course the animation style and technique and how it moved them. Never seen anyone ever do that after watching a movie.
I was looking forward to seeing 9, as I had already seen the original
short film (also called 9) and wanted to see what they could do by
expanding upon the story. Well, after seeing this full-length film, I
can certainly say I liked the computer generated animation....as for
the story, well, it left a bit to be desired. And the problem is that I
can't strongly recommend the film, but if you don't see it in the
theater, then you'll probably like the film less because the graphics
are THE film.
The story is set in an alternate reality. While some of the features look very much like Earth, many of the details are different. There's been a war raging and tanks are definitely of the WWI variety while airplanes are of the WWII style--yet there are also very modern holograms as well. As for the leader, there is some similarity to a fascist dictatorship, but this guy sure ain't Hitler, Mussolini or Franco. It's like Earth, but not our Earth. Oddly, while I could accept this, in this alternate reality there apparently IS a Judy Garland and the song "Over the Rainbow"--an odd blending of the real and the fanciful.
Most of the story, you have no idea what led to this ruined world that is now devoid of all life--no animals, no people...not even bugs. Slowly, some of the details of this apocalypse come out...but never is there ever a full explanation as to what happened and why--just a dribbling of information here and there. What you positively know is that instead of living beings, there are a group of very small and oddly designed burlap covered dolls--with very high tech eyes. Why these dolls are there and their purpose is unknown to them, but some are just happy to hide and avoid the hellish mechanical creations that inhabit the rubble as well.
As for the burlap creatures, this is a shortcoming in the film. While 9 is the "designated hero", he and the rest of them really don't have any personality and a few of them seem like story clichés (such as the "strong and plucky female"). So, when one dies you are left wondering what made that one any different than the one that was killed moments earlier or you are left feeling a caricature died--not something tangible. No real character development occurs nor are their motivations particularly clear throughout the film. Nor, for that matter, does the story answer many questions at all. So, provided this doesn't bother you and you don't mind a vague story with vague characters, you'll enjoy the film very much--it certainly is a visual delight. If you demand clarity, then I suggest you see another film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I might have had my expectations too high when I walked into the
theater. I hadn't done any reading and was under the impression that
Tim Burton had directed it. So when it became obvious 5 minutes into
the movie that once again I was going to be subjected to big budget
stylistic environments and effects sans any kind of real mental
engagement, I was pretty disappointed.
There were so many problems with this movie I don't really know where to begin without rambling. So instead I'll just say that the "good" is all about the visuals. The "bad" is all about my issues with plot and character development, audience education, cheesy dialog and unambiguous morality in circumstances that should force compromise at every turn. Being any more specific would result in a hideously long post, so here are my top 3 gripes:
- The story advances too quickly early on for the sake of setting up the second half of the movie. It left me with an empty feeling akin to throwing away dinner so you can have dessert.
- At the core of our protagonists identities is the idea of a multifaceted human soul (i.e. aspects of our personalities captured in discrete pieces of our immortal selves). Unfortunately, almost no time is devoted to explaining or developing this concept. It's up to the viewer to decide if they care or not and why. Beyond the heavy handed symbolism of the church Stitchpunks vs the university Stitchpunks, there isn't much of a reason you have to. The idea felt like a convenient foil device instead of the meaningful linchpin it could have been.
- The "successful" outcome of the movie is dependent on a wildly lucky string of events. There's no solid story here about bravery in the face of adversity, intelligent heroes, clever plot twists, and a few narrow escapes. Instead you get a chain of formulaic action scenes in which any of a few hundred close calls gone wrong prevents our happy ending. Give me an engaging story, not an account of winning the lottery 5 times in a row. See Secret of Nimh for a reasonably good animated noir counterexample.
Ultimately, I could probably sum up the mass of problems with "target audience confusion". On the surface, it seems aimed at a more mature set of folks (13 years +?) with its graphic wartime theme and truly creepy villains. The development of everything else and the simplistic dialog feels targeted at a younger audience. It probably could have worked well as either. Tone it down, keep it short and sweet for the 9 year old set or lengthen it and spend more time on story, characters, etc for the older crowd. It fails in targeting both.
Much like Shane Acker's short (of the same name), this movie almost
REQUIRES multiple viewings for the viewer to really soak everything in.
The first time I watched the film, my initial criticisms were "That was too short" and "There wasn't not enough emphasis on characters/story". However, after watching the movie a second time, I realized that I had missed a TON of information on my first round. Upon asking other friends what they thought about the movie the second time around, I discovered that they felt the same way.
The first time I watched the film, I felt like everything flew by. It was visual overload, and it just had bad pacing overall. However, on my second viewing of the movie, I noticed that things seemed to go by much, much slower. The pacing seemed better. I noticed character and plot subtleties that I simply did not catch the first time I watched it. I connected more with the stitchpunks, and I understood the story better. The visuals weren't just "Ohhh, pretty!" anymore, they had greater symbolism, and depth.
The movie is, indeed, about 20 minutes too short. Certain characters needed more screen time, and certain points in the plot needed more emphasis. HOWEVER, I found that I enjoyed the movie drastically more when I saw it a second time. I plan on seeing it a third time later this week.
This movie reveals new surprises every time you watch it. If you have seen it once already, and didn't think it was that great, I strongly suggest dropping the $8 and giving this movie a second chance. You may be surprised how much your opinion changes.
The first time I heard about 9 and found out that Tim Burton and Timur
Bekmambetov were co-producing it, I was absolutely on board to see it.
Anything that the guy who directed such quirky masterpieces as
Beetlejuice, Batman, Mars Attacks!, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow got
behind had to be worthy of my time. And then you add the genius of
Russian director Timur Bekmambetov to the mix and to me it was a no
brainer. I was going to see this movie. Burton AND the guy that has
brought us such visually complex and action-packed fare as Wanted,
Night Watch, and Day Watch supporting a movie? It had to be good.
And it was. Director Shane Acker borrows maybe a little more than he should have visually from other such apocalyptic films like Terminator and even Wall-E, but it doesn't end up hurting the film by any means. The scenery and landscapes of the film are beautifully crafted and set everything up for a certain feeling of loneliness and hopelessness. It's more graphic and suspenseful than any children's or youth feature you would take your kids to, so definitely don't let the fact that this is animated fool you. This is not for the little ones.
The voice actors all put their best foot forward and deliver. You've got Elijah Wood as 9, once again convincingly leading a group of survivors in what seems to be an unwinnable war against a much larger foe than they could be expected to defeat. You've got Christopher Plummer playing 1 as an interesting paranoid "keeper of the secrets" which reminded me of the Dr. Zaius character in the original Planet of the Apes films, if you've seen any of those. Legendary actor Martin Landau plays 2, who is a scientist and fixes 9. Then there's Jennifer Connelly, who plays the strong-willed and rebellious 7 who has left the core group of "stitchpunks" to get away from under all of 1's rules. Last but not least, you've got Crispin Glover playing the slightly obsessed and seemingly crazy 6 who has been drawing strange symbols since the big war between the humans and machines.
The film had an interesting plot that got a bit more complex in the end. Part of the complexity had a spiritual vibe to it that I didn't necessarily care for. It just seemed almost out of place and like the director was stretching for something that would make the film more "sophisticated." I was not disappointed in the movie by any means. It was a visually striking piece of film. It was action-packed and fun without dumbing down the story or sacrificing it. If you're into sci-fi, apocalyptic thrillers, and animation I would highly recommend this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shane Acker has a good career ahead of him. At the least, one can only
hope so. His talents expressed here, his first feature adapted from his
short film of the same title, are immense and sharp and clear and dark
and staggering and other words I didn't have time to look up for this
review. He takes a scenario one could be familiar with- entities
battling robotic elements in a future or just another time period, a
desolate wasteland, a possibility of hope on the horizon- but it's
infused with the passion and archetypes of a fairy tale. And even with
this there's certain twists, or unexpected pleasures. You'll see a lot
of critics talk about the lack of a full story, of the beauty of the
animation and look of the film outweighing any kind of story or clearly
defined characters. You can take that to heart before seeing the film,
but a lot of them may have missed Acker's intention here.
These are some archetypes on screen, sure. And one may have seen them in films made by the likes of Don Bluth with the Secret of NIMH or, dare I compare, Henson/Ozs' the Dark Crystal (here the latter's object of purpose is reversed, sort of). But the characters in 9, the ones with personalities, are not complete. The idea in the film is that all of the characters, all numbered from 1 to 9 and called as such, are little robotic creations given life by parts of the soul of a scientist who gave himself up for his creations. Others he made, a 'machine' for it, was also imperfect - so much so that it turned against its creators and did what giant gorram robots do when created with human's own defects. So the characters may appear to be things we very simply identify- hero guy, hero girl, slight comic-relief twins, and the grumpy and ornery older one (#1)- and as it goes on the characters simply are what they are... actually, 1 develops a little more, and in a subtle, captivating way.
But if you're going to see an animated film this year for its distinctive style and design and (yes) cinematography and creations and colors out of the netherworld of a glorious imagination - and it's not from John Lasseter's Disney or Pixar - it's 9. And damn the torpedoes is this movie beautifully wretched to look at! One can see why Tim Burton and Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov latched on to Acker and helped him get the movie made as it is: it's a world like Terminator Salvation, only if it had actual focus and a capacity to elicit a terror in its audience (young or old). The little robots themselves are cute in a rough way, and the robots - and specifically what they do to one of the critters when they capture one of them by sucking out their souls - move and react like inhuman things that do what they should and look and feel like the world really has ended. You simply can't take your eyes off the movie, and it's animated with such an eye for original detail.
At the same time it doesn't aim directly at adults, albeit with a PG-13 rating. I can imagine, or at least would hope to, that a child watching this and being bewildered and confused and mortified and entranced, just as I was watching NIMH or Crystal, and that's a good thing. PIXAR has its wonders, but to see this is to see the A-game upped another notch in the medium and its potential. There are times I didn't even feel like I was watching just animation. Other times, I was taken away like any good fantasy or fable: in the one little moment of respite, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' plays on a record and there's peace... until it's broken. It's rare a filmmaker can conjure something like that, but 9 has that in spades.
This movie feels like it starts in the middle. I don't instinctively
identify with robot rag dolls. So, for most of the movie I didn't care
much about what happened to them because their plight, purpose, and
origin are not explained at all until the movie is almost over. At that
point, I felt like "Oh, okay, if they had explained that in the FIRST
15 minutes of the movie, I might have cared what happens". But they
didn't explain it, and I didn't care what happened.
I won't even go into the conclusion of the "story", except to say that it makes no sense at all and is riddled with holes and ambiguity.
Yes, the animation is very nice. Yes, there are some decent action scenes. Those are the strongest points of the movie. But, honestly, beyond the unique look and style of the artwork, it's the same stuff, the same action, that you see in every other animated movie. Ho hum.
Summary: nice animation, cliché action, underdeveloped plot, and very little story to pull the (over age 16) viewer in.
9 is a rag-doll who wakes up after a war between humans and machines
that has devastated the world and wiped out humanity.He later meets a
group of surviving rag-dolls and he tries to convince them to save 2.9
and 5 go to save 2, but they accidentally awaken a machine known as
Brain.After they escape the dreaded machine, Brain hatches a scheme to
build machines and hunt down the remaining rag-doll survivors.
"9" is like a combination of "The Terminator", "War Of The Worlds", and "Wall-e".With the war, machines, and apocalypse, there's no way you can disagree with that.The PG-13 rating is most certainly deserved.Afterall, the imagery is a bit frightening and will have young kids begging for their parents to take them to see "Wall-e" so they can get all of the disturbing images out of their minds once and for all.As for the movie, I can't say that I was disappointed.With it's spectacular visuals, great action sequences, and convincing characters, "9" is a must-see for those who want to take a visually thrilling roller-coaster.Clocking in at a brief 79 minutes( 72 minutes if you take out the end credits), "9" will take your imagination and put it into a world that will make you want for a sequel.We all know what the title would be, so I don't need to go any further."9" deserves a 9.
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