9 Review

(2.5 STARS)

9, not to be confused with Nine, the Rob Marshall musical which also came out in 2009, is another in a long line of post-apocalyptic films from the past few years. Two things separate it from films like Children of Men, The Road, and The Book of Eli. The first is obvious—9 is animated (the only other animated post-apocalyptic film I can recall is WALL-E). The second is that the film’s tone and view of humanity are significantly more upbeat than the aforementioned films. It’s a slightly different take in a genre that’s become all too played out recently, but it doesn’t quite work. There’s virtually no direction to the plot—characters simply run around without purpose or reason. This makes the film feel very slight, and after it was over, I couldn’t help but think “So what.”

In the future, a scientist discovers a way to create intelligent beings. Thus, a machine is born whose purpose is to spread peace and create other intelligent machines in its likeness. But man uses the machine to obtain power, and as a result, it becomes hostile. Soon, man and machine are at war with each other, and the latter is developed enough to systematically wipe out the former. Before it does, however, the scientist creates nine beings in his likeness out of junk found around his office. These nine are all that’s left of mankind.

The nine all symbolize a different aspect of the scientist’s personality. The film’s title character (voiced by Elijah Wood) represents his curiosity. When he is awoken, he finds a device marked with unfamiliar symbols. He also meets 2 (voice of Martin Landau), who is soon captured by a vicious mechanical creature. So 9 makes his way to the abandoned chapel where 1 (voiced by Christopher Plummer) leads the remaining nine in lives of exile. But 9 wants to save 2, and he recruits 5 (voiced by John C. Reilly) and 7 (voiced by Jennifer Connelly) to help him. After killing the creature, all seems well, but 9’s curiosity gets the best of him. He discovers something that appears to match the device he found, and joining the two ends up being a big mistake. It awakens THE machine, and if they thought the first mechanical creature was bad, they’re in for a rude awakening. This one is much worse.

For all the exposition needed to set things up, not much happens. There are quite a few action sequences (especially considering the film is only 80 minutes long), but for the most part, they seem perfunctory. It’s the kind of film that starts with a lot of questions unanswered. As a result, we watch the opening scenes with a sense of confusion and frustration. If we knew a little bit more about these characters and their situations, we might be more invested. Alas, that’s not the case, and the film never quite recovers from these opening missteps.

At least the film looks great. It doesn’t have the crisp feel of a Pixar film, but it’s very dark, and the images of endless rubble and blasted cities are appropriately gloomy. But the setting is as far as the darkness in this film goes. Unlike most films in the genre, 9 thinks humanity is resilient. The film says the darkest inclinations of man destroyed the world, but the good in him can rebuild it. 9 ends on a sad note, but it’s ultimately uplifting. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not, but it was different than what I’m used to in films like this.

Ultimately, though, 9 is rather ordinary. Nothing about it made me jump out of my chair with excitement. Parts of it entertained; parts of it stirred emotion in me. But this isn’t a film I’ll likely remember much about in a year, a month, even a week.

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