The production values are high: art direction, cinematography, special effects. The photography is heroic and breathtaking. The part of the soundtrack that has a memorable hook was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. That for the creature is a reprise of what Jerry Goldsmith wrote for Alien.
The tantalizing questions posed by the film might lead to greatness. David, the android with coconut milk blood and a fetish for blond movie stars, is an analog for the Xenomorph. Does he feel hurt at the indifference of his human creators. Is his status as a sub-human and the pain that causes him meant to echo our relationship to the Engineers, who appear to have been responsible for our genesis?
The fountain of youth enriches this story of eugenics. Are the canisters of DNA key to Weyland's regeneration? If he is about 100, how is it that his daughter, Theron's character, looks only 30? Again, the curious moral implications of this angle make the story so much more interesting than a mere alien invasion.
What was the motive of the Maverick Engineer at the beginning of the film. Did he populate the earth with his DNA to evolve a species capable of saving his own race from the seemingly indestructible Xenomorphs?
Did the Engineers evolve the creature as a biological planet cleanser, a deity or a flawless survival machine?
If the answers to these questions can be handled intelligently, we look forward to more in the saga.
So why do Nine at all? Perhaps because there are wonderful musical numbers with standout performances from Nicole Kidman (a dead ringer for Zsa Zsa), Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson & Stacy Ferguson. Marshall is best at presenting their talents for musical theater, with Hudson's star turn being the biggest surprise (she is better at doing the Modonna thing than Madonna). Cotillard's footage is so good it seems to be from some other film altogether. In the final count, Nine is not a total loss if you view it as a look book for what the modern musical can be on film. And all these actresses should be proud to have it on their reels. They should just leave out the boring parts, which are many.
It would have been so much better with all the music included and a warm-blooded male lead. Banderas gave such a spectacularly involved performance on Broadway that it apparently made him sick for a large percentage of the run. Why wasn't he good enough for the movie...box office? Warm and outgoing, his character would have seduced the viewer along with his many screen divas. Gerard Butler also might have saved the day, as he is the best of all who have played The Phantom of the Opera, infinitely charming, even when the role is not up to his talent. The Daniel Day Lewis casting was catastrophic. An actor of extremely limited range, his trademark introversion doesn't work here, and he seems to suck all the energy from every scene he's in. Hepburn's emotions might have run the gamut from A to B per Dorothy Parker, but Parker would have dubbed this over-rated actor the king of Zs. Those black little dead eyes! In fairness, I really did believe he would bash someone's head in to save a nickel, as he did in There Will Be Blood. But that's probably more because he was genetically programmed for that role, than because he gave an Oscar-worthy performance. The Italian film director envisioned by this script needs to interact with the other characters with palpable chemistry and have much more personal charm (or at least a pulse) to be believable as a bombshell magnet.