Monday, September 14, 2009

Ticket Stubs: 9

In many ways 9 is all about potential and living up to it. Its characters and its filmmaker, Scott Acker, each want to accomplish something personal to them. As an observer to their quest, I can’t help but conclude that they all failed. Yes, the film is stunning in many regards. All who have seen the trailer can comment on its unique visual setting and intriguing cinematography. I hate using clich├ęs, but it’s been a while since I’ve had a perfect example for “style over substance.”

With the right advisor, this movie could have used those components to create a masterful and memorable tale. Instead the movie slowly unveils a mythology that begins as compelling and quickly evolves into something that is insultingly dumb.

9 begins with the birth of number 9, voiced by Elijah Wood. 9 is a robotic sock puppet that was created with special care. His name comes from the numeral painted on his back. He awakens in a house full of potential inquires. Instinctively, 9 instantly goes to the window and finds the entire world in dystopian despair. As he explores he eventually meets up with 1 through 8, who each have their own distinct personality traits. Some of the miniature robots are afraid of this world, while others don’t want to live in fear.

Soon a robotic antagonist emerges, who—get this!—has a giant red “eye” in its center. I have never ever ever seen that in futuristic sci-fi film before. Ever. However, this one rips out souls. Okay, that’s new and rather disturbing. This entrance of this enemy begins the steep descending spiral where plot holes multiply like rabbits and the structure of the film feels like a boring video game. (Go to Level 2 to collect the ______!)

The role of the creator in this movie was, at one point, the greatest thing about this movie. The scientist who created this set of robots is barely on screen, but I kept thinking about him and his intentions. In a world this dark, why would you create life? Were their souls manufactured or immaculate? Is the movie suggesting biblical parallels? If so, with man in a God role, are they implying that God is flawed or is this simply the evolution? The movie could have easily left the audience with these questions, but instead decided to answer all of them in a rather ridiculous way. The party I was with unintentionally laughed and was left in awe of where it concluded.

I’m criticizing this movie quite a bit and I only feel one ping of regret about this. For I don’t know what is worse: a movie not being ambitious at all or a movie trying to be ambitious and then failing. It is very easy to respect one of them, but I have to think about where the audience is a week later. The former will quickly become forgettable, but the promise of the latter can be haunting to those who love movies. So I suppose the next question is do I wish that 9 was less ambitious or more competent?

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of ambitious movies--You know what movie gets a lot of crap for being ambitious? Ang Lee's "Hulk." It really is one of the most grossly underrated movies of the decade. It blends rich, playful action and intimate drama so seamlessly. It's a modern masterpiece really.
    --Max Johnson