Synopsis: In 9, A living rag doll becomes a hero in a post-apocalyptic world.
Release Date: September 9, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Animation, Drama
The world of 9 is a blissful nightmare full of fantasy, adventure, and animation nirvana. Beholding the artistic craft and creativity of this original piece of filmmaking is the blissful part, the nightmare however, is never being allowed the full experience due to the lack of compelling narrative. It is true that the movie’s apocalyptic landscapes, empty with fire, metal, and remnants of a perished society are horrifying, but what’s really scary is how the filmmakers chose to forfeit any trace of dramatics. As the viewer follows the film’s tribe of survivors in their quest, one feels as if he/she is simply watching someone play a video game: going from one level to the next, fighting stage bosses in order of increasing difficulty. There is nothing wrong with video games, there worlds have proven to be just as immersive and inventive as anything out there, but conflict occurs when trying to play a single-player game in a multi-player environment. The audience wants to play too, but that becomes an impossible wish when a movie has no real question of why, no emotional exposition, no motivation but to beat the game. 9 succeeds in welcoming dark maturity to audiences craving anti-Disney animation; it’s a shame that this visual splendor doesn’t have the sophisticated storyline to match.
The war-ravaged vision of a world taken over by machines, more creepy-crawly than terminator style, is grimly fascinating. This is not a world suitable for children; this is made apparent at the beginning of the film when #9 sees a deceased mother embracing her dead child in an aged car. This sight of melancholy morbidity sets the tone for the rest of the production design. There are hanging knives and scissors, jagged pieces of wood waiting to spring up from the floorboards, and not to mention sharpened pieces of scrap metal as the appendages of some very terrifying creations. There’s “The Beast”, which is a skeletal rabid dog, a bat-like creature with robotic claws for a beak and a harpoon for a tail, a snake with half the face of a doll that can literally sew its victims into its skin, and the mother of all, “The Great Machine”, a spider-octopus monster where not only is every tentacle capable of stabbing you to death, it can suck the soul out of you. The desolate terrain itself, “the emptiness”, matches the horror of it all. Oil drills raping the earth in the background accompany the World War II inspired images of rubble and demolished granite, and quite silently, the audience member disturbingly makes sense of what anti-industrial commentary this film presents. There are books scattered throughout the ruins, used more as objects to lean on than to read; through the production design we fear how human civilization can one day become extinct. Through its production design the film finds its self at its most powerful.
Near the beginning of the film the character #2 observes the craftsmanship of #9: “So much thought…details”. The audience marvels at the thought and details as well, not of #9, but of every carefully constructed frame of animation sculpted onto the screen. The CG meets stop-motion style gives the film an ethereal quality. There is just enough computer-generated imagery to emulate a cold wasteland full of rusted metal and sinister machinery, but enough stop-motion technique to highlight the texture and life given to dolls made of tarnished cloth. From particles of dust to heavy ash falling onto the ground, from every shutter blink of an eye to every bit of light able to sneak in through a cracked ceiling, nothing but admiration and respect is felt for the animators of this film. The shifting skies alternate between ghostly greens, black smog, and the occasional orange of the fire-stained morning. Because of the passion put into this project, no matter how deliberately ominous the canvas presents itself the viewer cannot help but see the beauty of things to come.
Building on the same analogy, this movie’s action sequences come quite close to being video-game cool. One must decapitate the first boss, team-up in strength to defeat the second, and figure out the puzzle to defeating the final boss. There are also plenty of thrills that come from jumping through the air, running from a massive barrel Indiana Jones style through a torched tunnel, and fighting in a war field packed with explosives. The action may not be built up quite enough to reach that particular level of oomph, but for an animated entry, most of us will be satisfied by the simple sight of fire and metal.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Shane AckerJinko GotohJim Lemley
- Producer(s): Pamela PettlerElijah Wood (voice of 9)
- Screenwriter(s): John C. Reilly (voice of 5)Jennifer Connelly (voice of 7)Crispin Glover (voice of 6)
- Story: Martin Landau (voice of 2)
- Cast: Christopher Plummer (voice of 1) Nick KenwaayRobert St. PierreFred Warter
- Cinematographer: Deborah Lurie
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA