Old 09-21-2009, 01:04 PM
Shane Acker's 9

9 (2009)

"9" is based on a short film directed by Shane Acker back in 2005, which he expanded into this full-length feature film. The short film is not particularly good, so it comes as no surprise that the feature is not particularly good either. It has the feeling of a film with a plot that is stretched out, which is basically what Acker did.

It begins with the awakening of 9 (voice of Elijah Wood) in a scientist's laboratory. 9 is what I guess you would call a "ragdoll machine." He awakens to a world where there are no more humans, as they have been destroyed by machines. He ventures out into the post-apocalyptic world and discovers others like him, 2 (voice of Martin Landau), 5 (voice of John C. Reilly), and 7 (voice of Jennifer Connelly), among other, all led by 1 (voice of Christopher Plummer). After 2 gets kidnapped by a machine, 9 and 5 go on a rescue mission during which 9 awakens an even worse machine, one that puts all of them, and even their souls, in danger.

There are some things to like about "9." It at least attempts to be a deeper science fiction film than it appears to be. It deals with some important topics like humanity's dependence and obsession with technology and where that might lead us to one day. It's too bad that the film never really sticks with and explores those ideas more thoroughly.

Instead of doing so, the film felt like it became one action scene after another, pausing just long enough for some quick banter about what the next course of action should be. Some of the action scenes were well-animated, but most of the time, it seemed too fast-paced to keep tabs on everything that was happening.

Some people have been praising "9" for its visuals, and they are well-done in many spots. It certainly creates that feeling of the post-apocalyptic world rather well. But after awhile, it feels like the film's darkness was on overload. It becomes bland after having to stare at so many dark colors for this long. Even though the film is about 70 minutes long, this effect sets in rather quickly.

The dialogue left much to be desired. I already mentioned that they discuss what to do next; the rest is devoted to shouting during the action scenes with occasional moments of exploring the important themes that the film tries to bring up. This is mostly in the scene where we are shown the backstory through footage stored in one of the characters, though it is explored again in other scenes too.

The scientist who created the ragdolls created the terrible machine for a different reason than the one the military wanted it for. This machine is capable of creating other machines, which eventually turn on the humans, dooming humanity to the situation with which the film opens. Perhaps this side of the story would have made a more interesting feature film than the story of 9 and his companions.

One minor problem in the plot was how the machine, "the beast" as it's called, gets activated. 9 is the one who activates it, but it's not an accident, and he certainly knows better than to mess with machines that have already destroyed humanity, so it didn't really make sense that he would do what he did.

It's certainly not a bad film. It's just a film that didn't take advantage of its full potential. It had the opportunity to explore a few interesting themes that it brought up with its backstory, but fails to go into them with much depth. Instead, Acker falls back on actions scenes that don't add anything to the story, leaving these themes to wallow in the post-apocalyptic setting. 2.5/4 stars.
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