Movie Review: 9August 31st, 2009 by Gabrielle Faust received 4 Comments »
A Word From Gabrielle Faust, Movies, Reviews
**A few spoilers are contained in the review below…but just a few.
Wondrous, beautiful, terrifying, genre redefining, epic… These are only a few of the words that come to mind when I reflect back on the movie 9 by Shane Acker. Earlier this afternoon I was blessed with the rare opportunity to view this amazing post-apocalyptic animation feat in an advance screening (the film’s debut is not until September 9th) and, I’m not sure what my fellow critics were thinking when they exited Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, but I was in a state of silent awe. While its actual storyline is a rather old and familiar one with a simple and clearly cut plot, the passionate and unique voice with which it is told, not to mention the otherworldly animation techniques that sculpt Acker’s imagination into visible reality, breathes a revitalizing new life into the art of the classic fable. In a world where humanity and machines have all but eradicated themselves after a long and brutal war, a small hope for some sort of new life remains behind in the form of nine burlap and copper puppets. They are the last attempt by the scientist whose invention of a machine called “The Brain”, which its sole purpose was to create other machines independently in its own likeness, began the war that ended civilization, to leave a fragment of life behind so that a new world might begin. They alone hold the key to defeating the machine, which has found a way to resurrect itself amidst the rubble, and against all odds they risk life and limb to save each other and the world from its hungry destructive clutches.
Yes, it is a story as old as humanity itself: a ragtag band of unassuming and unlikely warriors setting out on an adventure to save the world. However, in this instance they are not merely humans or aliens, but completely new beings who have yet to completely understand what they are or even how they came to be left behind in such a cruel and unforgiving landscape. There is a bit of an element of Lord of the Flies in that they are children, in essence, left alone to build their own society without a firm knowledge of how society works or why it fell in the first place. Their innocence is endearing, allowing the self-sacrificing bravery of their actions, and even their moments of desperate self-preservation, to stand apart from the typical motley cru usually depicted in such a classic myth. The animators behind 9 have done an absolutely spectacular job at infusing their characters with an unbelievable depth of emotion down to even the most subtle of gestures. And to think that these are creatures of such a beautifully simple design, barely more than roughly constructed dolls of burlap, lends an even more profound strength to the skill of the animators that they could evoke such emotion.
However, do not mistake this for a feel-good family film, though the ending is as sweet and filled with hope as possible in the shadow of such desolation. This is a very dark and rather terrifying film. From the very first frame the movie leaves you with curled in your seat, breath trapped in your lungs, as the nine are chased through the looming rubble of cemeteries, libraries and refineries by intricate mechanized monstrosities that range from a machine’s interpretation of a pterodactyl to a horrifying cobra constructed of burlap, metal and the severed head of a baby doll. Trust me, this is the material that nightmares are made of and not for the feint of heart.
But beneath the heart-pounding chase scenes and tearful death scenes, is a deeply philosophical exploration, not necessarily of the surface conflicts of life versus technology and good versus evil, but of the true identity of the human soul. The scientist, who is actually dabbling more in the realm of alchemy than science at the point of his construction of the nine, confesses to No. 9 that he has actually divvyed up his soul in nine portions in order to create the little burlap beings. They are all aspects of his soul, each sent out into the universe in hopes of saving the world from complete annihilation. Each aspect is represented by a different number from 1 who is an elderly, overtly logical, entity focused solely on the preservation of their kind, to 6 who is the artistic insane aspect of philosophy and concept, to 9 who is young and idealistic and recklessly brave. The movie explores the idea that we are not whole without our aspects, just as a community is not complete without its weaknesses and strengths of the individual. Each part of ourselves represents a different necessary quality, which gives us an ability to consciously explore the world around us. When combined, each aspect becomes the complete “soul”. This leaves me to wonder where the story of the 9 movie will lead (yes, the ending is DEFINITELY one that suggests a sequel) since several of the aspects die leaving only about half of the original segments of the scientist’s soul. Does this philosophically beg the question that perhaps we have within us multiple personalities all bartering for attention at all times and learning to live in harmony with one another? Or does this mean that perhaps certain aspects, as we evolve and grow, are unnecessary and, thus, we let go of them in order to survive? The stubborn part that will not grow, the childish brutish part that impedes progress, the clumsy part that causes us pain and the insane part that society often makes us rid ourselves of because it cannot understand its message? What happens when these aspects are sloughed off like dead skin? What happens to the whole when these seemingly unnecessary parts of our identities are dead? Are we really complete? Can we thrive, as an individual or a community? These are questions the movie 9 has left me pondering tonight.
9 is one of the most amazing films I have witnessed in a long time. Not only is it technologically brilliant with graphics that will leave you dizzy with amazement, but it is also a beautifully simply and yet, at the same time, a complex tribute to the classic heroic epic. No doubt, Shane Acker is a genius and Tim Burton was brilliant for having spotted the talent and financing the dream all the way to the silver screen. Bravissimo!
9 opens nation wide on September 9th. For more information visit filminfocus.com/focusfeatures/film/9/overview.