RSS Feed

Review – 9

Click poster for more info.

Click poster for more info.

With the voices of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer. Directed by Shane Acker. Rated PG-13 for violence and scary images. 79 minutes.

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.

The first question for any narrative film is “Why are you telling me this story?” If the filmmaker can’t answer it, the film is likely to fail no matter how good the performances or how clever the dialogue or how dazzling the visuals. In the case of 9, Shane Acker has adapted his Oscar-nominated short film from 2005 into a feature length work, but hasn’t come up with a reason as to why we should care about what we see. The result is an impressive looking film that leaves us unsatisfied.

The story might be considered the dark side of “WALL*E.” It’s a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity is gone and only the machines are left. Our hero is a little mechanical doll (voice of Elijah Wood) who has a number 9 on his back. We soon learned that the reason for that is that there eight such dolls who have been activated before him.

When 9 discovers the others, he finds they are led by 1 (Christopher Plummer), who takes a conservative view towards survival. Rather than confront the gigantic machines out to destroy them, 1 prefers to keep them in hiding. 9, naturally, is prepared to take a more direct approach, especially since 2 (Martin Landau), who rescued him, has been captured by one of the machines.

9 takes us through the wreckage of the world and slowly uncovers the truth, aided by the heroic 7 (Jennifer Connolly) and the meek but game 5 (John C. Reilly). You may already get a sense of what the problem is here: the characters are literally ciphers. We may get some details about this one or that, but in the end they’re all mechanical dolls, without any of the depth of, say, the characters in “Toy Story.”

Acker might be able to get away with it if his story was strong enough, but it isn’t. Without giving too much away, 9 has uncovered a device that brings one of the most horrifying machines to life, and their battle with it consumes much of the movie. Unfortunately, when we get to the end, there’s no big payoff. The plot is resolved, in its way, but we’re left with the survivors as the inheritors of the Earth. Those wondering how they will reproduce are already showing more insight than the filmmakers.

Both Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov are billed as producers (the latter the Russian director of the incredible “Nightwatch”), and one can see why these two highly visual filmmakers were taken by this project. Acker has created a textured world that seems like the apocalypse as imagined in the 1930s. This is a world of machines gone mad, not of nuclear destruction.

If only they had pushed Acker and Pamela Pettler (the screenwriter credited with expanding Acker’s story) into putting themselves in the position of theaudience trying to make sense of it all. Watching “9” you’ll likely ask why you should care about what you’re seeing on screen. Unfortunately, the film never seems to be able to answer that question.•••

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.


About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

4 responses »

  1. “Those wondering how they will reproduce are already showing more insight than the filmmakers.”

    Why would you expect the dolls to reproduce? They have already restarted life on the planet with the final sacrifice in the end.

    I’m not too surprised when my wife and I had to explain this to someone nearby, but I’m a little surprised that this little nugget has eluded a film critic.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      I don’t see how they’ve “restarted life.” They’ve released the recaptured spirits of the other dolls. The final image is of the pseudo-family of remaining dolls. Your interpretation is nice, but it’s *your* interpretation. It’s not what’s actually on screen.

      And I’m not the only critic who noted this flaw in the film’s conclusion.

      • But that is not the final image. The final image was what was seen in the raindrops. Didn’t you wonder why there were raindrops on the “camera lens” of an animated movie? I was starting to wonder why the director made such a strange choice until I saw the souls of the released dolls multiplied many times over. It was a brand new primordial ooze.

        And yeah, that’s my interpretation, but it’s an obvious interpretation–as obvious as concluding that the child psychologist at the end of the Sixth Sense is a ghost. What else would you conclude from the little glowing things in the raindrops? I’d be curious to know.

        I’d say that’s exactly what’s on screen when the focus is placed on the raindrops…why else would the focus be placed there?

        I don’t doubt that other critics note this “flaw” in the conclusion, but the flaw is in the critics’ conclusion and not the film’s. I thought the film presented the conclusion of restarting life very reasonably. I suppose it could have stayed on the screen longer, but there comes a point where filmmakers have to stop holding the audience’s hand and explain every little detail. The movie was enough of a sledgehammer with the antiwar message; it didn’t need to belabor any more points.

  2. @Above: While the primordial ooze thing is nice and all, and kind of like a ray of light at the movie’s conclusion, Nine does pretty much say ‘this is our world now’. Theoretically the dolls could live for a very long time, but even mechanical bodies would wear out. I had both thoughts at the end of the film – the ‘oh, I guess in another million years humans might evolve again’ as well as ‘there are four of these dolls and no way for them to put souls into any other dolls they make, so that doesn’t seem like much of a future – untold years with three other people (two of whom are almost the *same* person) for company? Wow.’

    I agree completely with this review. While the film definitely had its strong points (99.9% of them visual) I spent the entire time feeling completely detached from the whole thing. I just had no idea why I should care about any of it. Considering that the story starts out with all of humanity dead and a handful of tiny dolls as its cast, you’d think they’d take extra care to make sure the audience had a reason to connect to it. Instead the whole thing came off as really pretentious and full of itself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: