9 (2009 movie) review…

9 (2009 movie) review after the break…

9 (2009 movie) review…

Nine sack-filled humanoid robots must survive an onslaught of evil non-humanoid robots in a post-apocalyptic world in “9,” a 2009 CGI-animated film.

“9” started out as a visually impressive short film and, once granted a larger budget and longer playing time, became a full motion picture. Unfortunately, it’s the shorter film that leaves the longer lasting impression.

Both the movie and the short film are cut from the same cloth – See one and there are few surprises in the other. Indeed, the short film plays out like a synopsis of the full-length movie so if you don’t want to spoil the movie or short film for yourself, don’t watch either… Or, for that matter, read this review because I’m about to spoil the heck out of both.

In the world of CGI films, few stray into a realm harsher then a PG rating. “The Incredibles,” a Pixar-backed CGI film, garnished a PG rating because of it’s slightly more mature themes of suggested marital infidelities and other tense scenes (including a stress-filled sequence involving a missile locked onto a small jet airplane). Needless to write, “9” deserves it’s PG-13 rating with tense action sequences involving bad guy robots reeking havoc with the lives of our nine protagonists and it’s consequences. The only reason why blood isn’t spilled in this movie is because our protagonists lack the liquid; In it’s place, though, is a green flowing light through their mouths and eye sockets. In this movie, there are casualties.

The nine robots in “9” each have their own peculiar design which makes for easy recognition – “1” is the overly cautious and conservative leader in danger of being mistaken for a snobby religious leader; “2” is an elderly scientific brainiac; “3” & “4” are mute book nerds who always work as a team; “5” is 2’s apprentice who, because of a war injury, has only one eye; “6” acts like a slightly crazed shaman who draws sketches and knows a little more about the entire history of the struggle then he’s letting on; “7” is the spunky, combative “female” (yes, did you not think there’d be at least one, even in this kind of movie?) who wears a bird skull for a helmet; “8” is a bulky, less intelligent enforcer of 1’s rule & “9” is our average-looking main protagonist.

The movie makes the mistake of trying to flesh out the main questions left unanswered (although also unposed) from the short film – Why is there a post-apocalypse? Where are the humans? Why are robots fighting one another? Why only nine “good” robots? Why does “5” have only one eye? Where the short film is tight and leaves few unsatisfying questions, the movie feels overly long and leaves few satisfying answers.

Chief amongst the flaws of the movie is a fundamental storytelling mistake that never should have left the proverbial drawing board – NEVER make your protagonist guilty of causing intentional harm to another good character. Ever.

In “9,” the character 9 purposely joins two objects together that, in essence, causes the direct death of one of the good robots and the main villain to be resurrected. In fact, this one action alone eventually causes the death of six of the good characters. This plot point is inexcusable! Anyone who actually thinks about the story of “9” immediately has little to no sympathy for the 9 character because his direct actions cause most of the bad events in the movie to occur!

Another main fault of the movie is the “false climax,” where by we all think that the main villain is dead but, really, it isn’t. It would be excusable if the “near-fatality” was plausible (ex. the main villain plummets down a cliff but manages to catch a branch that no one can see and climbs back up) but the incident here is that there is a massive explosion that levels an entire building. Clearly, if a building made of concrete and steel can be thoroughly decimated, one would think that an evil robot made of less sturdy components wouldn’t have a chance. Me thinks someone watched the ending of the movie “Terminator” one too many times but even the director of that film, James Cameron, had an alibi – The robot was from the future and at least his fleshy outer shell had been completely wiped out. Here, there is no excuse except to keep the film going another fifteen or so minutes and to thin the herd of 3 additional characters.

Finally, the mysterious “artifact” that brought the machine alive is never explained. Why does the artifact need to be turned against the villain for the villain to be destroyed? A huge explosion should have killed the villain and an artillery shell nearly seems to kill the villain as well. What’s so special about taking the artifact away from the villain and “using” it against the villain? It makes no sense. The rationale given (that the “killed” good robots are “trapped” inside of it) has no payoff because, at the end of the film, they are all revealed to be “ghosts” that simply vanish up into the air where it starts to rain. Will the rain sprout new robots like the surviving good robots? This was very confusing and very unsatisfying. The ghosts are finally “free,” but to do what? Couldn’t the villain be killed and THEN the artifact removed? I didn’t get it.

Visually, the movie is impressive and the style of the film was appealing. While I was put off that the film is set in a thinly-veiled England (why not just a generic setting? Or why not just come out and place it in England complete with English actors?), the movie performed well enough to distract me from pondering if the location should have been a hindrance and that’s a positive.

“9” is a movie that, like a talented citizen who turns to being a crystal meth user, has made some terrible decisions in it’s history. That’s too bad – What could be weeded out of the movie was quite nice but that’s only if you’re willing to forgo the reality of what the film actually is. Choose the short film instead – In that version, “9” is actually someone whom you can root for and the short film simply makes more sense.

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