Post-apocalyptic action movies have "9" lives

Sept. 14, 2009, midnight | By Natalie Rutsch | 14 years, 9 months ago

Burton and Bekmambetov deliver the same old disguised by fantastic animation

American author Dorothy Parker said, "The only 'ism' Hollywood believes in is plagiarism." In their new animated feature "9," producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov are guilty of reusing stale ideas. But in spite of a tired plot, "9" is entrancing due to its realistic computer graphic animation.

"9" revolves around a rag doll named 9 that wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world. All of the humans are dead because an artificially intelligent super-robot created an army of machines that went to war with the human race. Now the only beings left on earth are numbered rag dolls, including 9. When 9 accidentally reactivates the super-robot, the rag dolls struggle to destroy the dangerous machine, in the process learning about their own creation.

A couple decades ago, "9" might have been an innovative film. But the film loses its shock value because it centers on a technological dystopia, the dangers of artificial intelligence, and a post-apocalyptic world, three ideas that are overdone in films and books. Despite its clichéd themes, unique characters and a fresh plotline could have salvaged "9." Unfortunately, the characters and the plot remain underdeveloped. "9" frequently turns to intense action scenes that, while visually stimulating, gives the film minimal substance. One of the better parts of the film is when 9 learns about the rag dolls' creation. Perhaps if "9" had expanded more on the characters' origins, it would have had fuller characters and a more unique, compelling story.

The characters also suffer because the voice-overs are not particularly memorable. 9 is voiced by Elijah Wood ("The Lord of the Rings"), who fails to give the character a certain spark that could have elevated him to the next level. The only vocal performance that stands out comes from actor Christopher Plummer ("The Sound of Music") as the self-proclaimed leader of the rag dolls, 1. Plummer gives 1 a strong voice that suit's the character's personality. Plummer's voice creates a profound moment when 1 says, "sometimes fear is the appropriate response."

The redeeming quality of "9" is its life-like animation. At the beginning of the movie, a pair of hands finishes making 9. The scene looks almost identical to a live-action film - until 9 comes to life.

The action scenes are breathtaking; imagine "Transformers"-scale fights in which everything is animated. The scenes in which the rag dolls fight with the monstrous robots have extraordinary and intricate attention to detail, which is impressive because the robots are made up of complex machinery.

Despite their amazing animation, the action scenes also create a problem in "9." Coupled with composer Danny Elfman's powerful score, the film gets excessively intense at times. Large and slow, 8 provides limited comic relief, but his humor is infrequent and insufficient compared to the intensity of the rest of the movie.

In certain scenes, it would have been a good idea to tone down the vigor in the film. One of the climatic parts of the film is one of least intense scenes. All of the rag dolls are celebrating because they think the super-robot is destroyed. Elfman tunes down the dramatic music, playing the song "Over the Rainbow" instead. The massive robot rises up in the distance, but all of the noise is muted and "Over the Rainbow" continues to play. It creates an excellent contrast that is cinematographically fascinating.

While some people may not be bothered by the films unwarranted potency, it is definitely something to consider before seeing the film. Parents should heed the PG-13 warning because, despite the animated characters, "9" is not a movie for children. Although it suffers in its general concept and stale plot, "9" is halfway redeemed by its remarkable animation. "9" deserves a five out of ten.

"9" (79 minutes) is rated PG-13 for violence and scary images. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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