By: Judson Rusk
The Tim Burton produced 9 was on my list of “must see” films for the summer. Of course, my local theater didn’t get 9 (not to be confused with Nine, a musical coming out this winter with Daniel Day-Lewis and Fergie), but instead we got Inglourious Basterds. And we all know how I feel about that. So after I moved down to Washington for college, going to see 9 was near the top of my priorities list. We I got to see it last week, and I was kind of underwhelmed.
Under no circumstances would I say that 9 is a bad movie. And maybe “underwhelmed” is also the wrong word. It was just a drastically far different movie that I was expecting, and not for the better I think. Now, with that in mind, I’ve been putting off writing this review for a while now for the soul reason that I couldn’t figure out how to describe what it was that I was expecting. I’ve got something for you now, but I’m still not completely satisfied with it, but I’ve got nothing better. If that changes, I’ll let you know. So here it goes…
I think I was expecting 9 to be more of a dark version of Toy Story. Needless to say, it wasn’t. I was expecting a movie with a lot of character development, a defined villain, and a clear beginning, middle, and end. 9 let me down on all of these things. But here’s my problem, none of them let me down ENOUGH to make me really dislike the film. I have nothing huge to rant about. I have no funny little tid bits of the movie to poke at. I have no extreme dislike for any of the characters, I’m just….meh.
9 begins with sack boy #9 waking up next do a dead scientist, and deciding to go out for a morning stroll. He meets another sack boy, 2, and after a brief conversation, a giant monster appears, knocks 9 on his ass and carries 2 away to some unknown location. From this point on we meet the other sack people, including 1, the chief of the survivalist colony, and 8, his personal body guard. When 9 arrives at the colony (they never call it that in the movie, that’s just what I’ve dubbed it in my head) the movie takes a turn towards a very common cliché. The daring young hero goes against the corrupt leader to venture into the belly of the beast to attempt a daring rescue. It felt like the start of the climactic end of the film, except we were only about 10 minutes into it. And I guess that could be my biggest complaint about the whole thing. From this point on, the entire film made me feel as if I was watching the end sequence; an end sequence that went on for the entire film (literally this time, not metaphorically like The Return of the King).
In most films, by the time you reach this particular end sequence, you have already come to know all the characters and have become fairly familiar with the central conflict in the film, but we hadn’t. With Pixar really dominating the animated feature film world at the moment, I believe that I might be a little bit spoiled. Pixar has animated features down to a science to the point where in WALL-E, the main character doesn’t even talk, and yet we still come to feel like we know him very well. That’s because Pixar is incredible at character development. Most all their films follow a 3 act system. In act one they introduce and build all the characters with a brief introduction to the main conflict. Act two puts that conflict into effect. And finally act three is the resolution. They use this formula over and over again because it works. But 9 didn’t have this. It was a very brief act one and a very long act three. Consistently through this whole movie I had the same feeling that I get when I walk into the middle of a movie that I’ve never seen before half way through, and just watch how it plays out with no real idea of who the characters were or why they were doing what they were doing.
This, in turn, created another problem for me. I have no sympathy for when a character died because, I simply didn’t know them. So how could I care? It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if only one or maybe two characters died, but this movie kills off main characters faster than George R. R. Martin. The one I cared the most about was when 5 died, and even then all that went through my mind was “Oh no. 5 died. That sucks,…kind of. I guess. Meh.” And at one point in the film we see the dramatic return of 7. Woo hoo, right? Well, it would have been if we had ever seen her before. The film obviously wants you to feel like “Oh thank god, 7 is back.” Except, it was more like “Who the hell is that? Was she missing?” If you didn’t catch on by now, the point I’m trying to make here is that this movie had really terrible character development. It was hands down the weakest point of the entire film (aside from not actually putting in that Coheed and Cambria song from the trailer).
The end of this movie, where only 7 and 9 (not to be confused with 7of9 from Star Trek) are left standing really bothered me for a reason that I think only Mitch will be able to fully appreciate. And I apologize to anyone else in advance for the reference that I’m about to throw out here. After the mechanical nightmare has been taken care of once and for all, all of the fallen characters from throughout the film come back and ascend into the sky in a green and somewhat transparent flurry. It reminded me heavily of that X-Files episode where Mulder figures out that his sister was turned into starlight by the “walk ins.” This instantly made me dislike the scene because of my deep seeded hatred for that particular episode of X-Files. I know that was kind of a off topic side note, but I feel that it had to be said.
So anyway, again, 9 was not a bad film. But I was disappointed with it just because I never felt like I was truly engaged or ever actually fully understood what was going on. For those of you who wanted to see it but still haven’t gotten the chance, I would still recommend going to see it. I can fully accept that this is definitely one film that deserves you to make your own opinion. And after you made said opinion, make sure to send it my way. I’d like to know what you think.