Thursday, December 31, 2009

On DVD: "9"

Shane Acker’s 9 is an oddly beautiful film with a unique, specific look and style—I haven’t seen a film quite like it before, and in this era of remakes and sequels and sequels to remakes, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Its computer-animated vision of a dark, treacherous post-apocalyptic wasteland is striking, a kind of Mad Max by way of WALL-E, and the character design and animation is downright stunning. The visuals are so strong, in fact, that you wish they’d been more evenly matched with a compelling narrative. (not surprisingly, one of the producers is Tim Burton, who's struggled with this problem throughout most of his career).

Pamela Pettler’s screenplay is a letdown—the overall concept (Acker gets the story credit) is intriguing, but the storyline proper is thin, a series of to and fro lumbering, and the dialogue consists primarily of short, dull declaratives. The voice cast (including Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connolly, and Martin Landau) do their best to inject some personality into their characters, but those numbers on their backs end up pretty much being their defining traits.

There are scenes here that work—the celebratory sequence, with its smashing use of “Over the Rainbow,” is splendid, and the ending is rather wonderful, in its own haunting way. In that scene, 9 finally makes a connection with its audience that transcends mere aesthetics. That doesn’t happen before then, however. Ultimately, it’s a film where you admire the craftsmanship and the skill of the filmmaking, but you just can’t quite engage with it on an emotional or intellectual level.

"9" is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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