These days, the “producer” tag is thrown around like Lindsey Lohan’s baby sister. It’s a good marketing ploy: pay a well known director to use his or her name so people can say, “a film by so-and-so,” without actually lying. It’s a hype-builder technique, and sometimes the film lives up to it.
Guillermo Del Toro “produced” The Orphanage, and it was almost as amazing as Pan’s Labyrinth. Quentin Tarantino produced Iron Monkey, and I fell asleep for the first time during a kung-fu movie. Martin Scorsese produced You Can Count On Me, and I was mesmerized (granted, it didn’t have much Scorsese flair.) John Carpenter produced the only Halloween movie without Michael Myers, Halloween III: Season of The Witch. So, it’s a hit-or-miss situation. In the movie 9, we miss, but barely.
Who’s the big director for this film? Some guy who did animation for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King named Shane Acker. That’s no small role, considering how seamless the CGI really was in that trilogy, but please, from that to directing a feature-length animation that would be awe-inspiring? Not too well thought out.
The story, as far as I could tell, goes like this: SkyNet takes over the world with their hunter-killer Terminator robots, finally killing off the human race in order to rust in peace for eons. One survivor, a scrawny scientist, creates a gang of rag-dolls called “stitchpunks” to take back what’s left of the world in order to…collect mildew in peace. These rag-dolls, in fact, have been infused with the scientist’s soul using some weird-looking bottlecap, and it is up to the last of them, 9, to gather the group to fight SkyNet’s mother brain, and make the world safe for life to bloom again.
Confused? I was, too, especially when Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t make one cameo.
Visually, the movie is amazing. All of the animation has a full, textured feel that made me think, “Woah, is this claymation with fabric?” This was not the case, but it really was that good. Post-apocalyptic Earth was vast and colorful. Action sequences were intense. In this sense, Tim Burton should be proud to have this movie attached to his name.
The story, unfortunately, acts like filler for a visual juggernaut. It tread a certain middle ground, when it would have been best served on one side or the other in terms of plot vagueness. Let me explain.
9 starts the viewer off in what seems to be another unknown world, just like the namesake rag-doll, #9. This is always an interesting concept, as you learn things as the character learns them, and are always wondering what happens next.
For a while, the movie stays this course. Then, closer to the end, the movie feels the need to explain the history of the world in 20 seconds, completely nullifying the feelings you have at the beginning of the movie. If they kept the movie going on its own terms without the need to slap the viewer in the face with an explanation, this movie would have been amazing. Instead, we get rushed to the end for the big, awe-inspiring soul theme. What a waste.
I give this film 3 out of 5 Terminator references. Yes, a bit high, but it could have been higher. It’s worth a ticket in any case.