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9 (2009)

by on 2011/10/22

“Sometimes fear is the appropriate response.”

* * * *

When I first saw 9, I was distracted, preoccupied, cranky. Something happened that almost never happens to me when I watch a movie.

I was confused.

I had to ask the lovely and whip-smart Miss_Tree what was going on. I was ashamed. Because I am never ever that person. You know, the one who irritates everyone in the theatre by asking, “Who’s that guy?” or “What’s happening?”

Never.

I watched it again a few days ago. I was attentive, rapt even. And 9 was simply brilliant, beautiful. I don’t know what was wrong with me that first time.

It was not the simply the paranoid schizophrenic LittleBigPlanet that had confused me so much on the first screening.

9 rewards the careful viewer with an intricately, beautifully crafted essay on war, group dynamics and the complexity of human condition.

The art style is chemically configured to appeal to me. The film was a beautiful mélange of stitchpunk, steampunk, arcane symbols, old agitprop news reels, lurching H.R. Giger-esque monsters.

The post-apocalyptic world of grey, brown, rust and black was far from oppressive, in fact there were moments of soaring beauty. Light streaming through a destroyed cathedral’s stained glass window, a reference book rigged with strings and pulleys to trigger old film reels, a vinyl record player sits in the middle of a bomb-pitted garbage dump.

Sensitive, intelligent 9 (Elijah Wood) is the last of a small group of sack dolls, all imbued with the human soul of a doomed scientist. Humanity has destroyed itself – attacked by its own creation – an army of disgruntled robots. Turns out the robots got uppity with the humans and poisoned their asses.

Now the humans are dead.

The fractured little band of sack boys and girls are the only life left in a ruined city. That is, unless you count the terrifying mechanical cats.

The little kingdom is ruled with the tiny iron fist of 1 (Christopher Plummer). He’s a petulant little Etsy dictator backed up by butcher knife-wielding thug named 8 (Fred Tatasciore). Martin Landau (Ed Wood) plays the inquisitive, kindly 2. John C. Reilly plays the one-eyed, shell-shocked 5, 2’s apprentice. Jennifer Connelly (Dark City) plays the bird-skull-wearing, ass-kicking warrior 7.

For tiny creatures with button eyes, made only of sacking, string and zippers, they are all very involving, fully realized characters. The action scenes too are pulse-pounding and cinematic. Adrenalizing chases, dizzying heights, huge explosions, it was as engaging as any live-action film.

Directed by Shane Acker, produced by Tim Burton, 9 is a thing of beauty, insight and artistry. Thank goodness I went back and gave it the attention (and now love) it deserved.

* * * *

Rated PG-13 for scenes in which science (wizardry?) kills, robotic cats, pointy needles and a red-eyed monster that totally ruined the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for me

79 minutes

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