14
Sep
2009
Review: 9
Review: 9
Jordan
The world is ending. The machines we created (because apparently humanity never watches science fiction, and so doesn't learn that maybe creating self-aware machines will lead inevitably to the apocalypse) are destroying mankind. And one scientist decides to imbue nine tiny creatures with the spark of life. Such is the plot of 9, the debut film by director Shane Acker. The film opens with a starkly deistic and deeply unnerving scene in which 9 (Elijah Wood) literally wakes up to find his God dead at his feet. 9 explores and finds himself in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, all alone and faced with a world that has stopped living. The movie's first scenes are disturbing, inventive, and downright cool. Unfortunately its all downhill from there.

To be fair, this is easily one of the most visually stunning movies in recent memory, and it shows a burgeoning talent from a new director that I think is likely to grow as he makes more movies. The problem in this movie is the storytelling. From the moment 9 realizes he is not alone in this wasteland, and is in fact one of (you guessed it!) nine creations made by the scientist, and that the wasteland around him is populated with vicious robots who want to kill them, the plot drops off. Each of the creatures is so thinly drawn as to be one-dimensional in their efforts. 9 is the idealist, 1 (Christpoher Plummer( believes they should hide from the robots and let humanities sins die out before they create a society, 7 (Jennifer Connelly) thinks they should fight the machines. The other creatures (including John C. Reilly's 5 and Martin Landau's 2) just want to be really nice to each other. Why do any of these characters hold these views? What makes them tick or even motivates them to live? This movie doesn't so much care about trivial issues like "why?" it just wants to pit its heroes against a series of robotic killers and watch them fight, fight, fight!

There is great potential in the set up for 9 as well as in the basic character of each of the creatures. The basic opposition between 1 and 9 could easily be transformed into an ideological debate for the ages, and the question of the point of their existence is one of stunning and startling depth. Yet when I say that this is a movie that likes questions more than answers, I do not mean that it is thought provoking in the way it should be. Instead, it seems that the writer, Pamela Pettler, is too lazy to come up with the answers, and so leaves us with a thinly drawn, ultimately shallow story to be told in bold, beautiful visuals.
And, to emphasize again, the visuals we are left with are stupendous. The world looks bleak, dusty and destroyed, our heroes look frail, weary, and hand woven, and the villainous robots arrayed against them are all kinds of terrifying. The action throughout the movie occasionally feels a bit rote, but its never boring and is always scintillating to watch unfold. Acker directed the movie incredibly well, and he also came up with the story, which as I've said is very good. It seems his biggest problem was leaving the actual screenwriting duties in the hands of Pettler, who turned great material into a series of important and lazily unanswered questions, culminating in an end that feels a combination of heavy-handed and pointless that I never thought existed.


Grade: C+
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