By Jonathan Kiefer
Here are nine things you might want to know about 9:
1. There is no more reason to structure a review of 9 as a series of nine points of conversation than there is for the film to open nationwide on 09/09/09. Numerological profundity is less important to this movie than its release date might imply.
2. 9 should not be confused with District 9, the recently released science-fiction parable of extraterrestrial refugees quarantined in Apartheid-era Johannesburg, nor with Nine, a forthcoming musical remake (God help us) of Fellini’s masterpiece 8½.
3. 9 is a feature-length elaboration of director Shane Acker’s 2004 animated short film of the same name, which won a Student Academy Award and was nominated for a regular Academy Award. Such distinctions earned Acker the attention of Tim Burton, who became one of this film’s producers.
4. 9 would have been better off without the vocal talents of famous people—or any people. Acker’s short version of the film does without any dialogue, the absence of which only reinforces its very formidable wow-cool factor. The feature-length version tends to contradict the wow-cool factor with lots of unnecessary spoken explanation. It reminds us how little the movie actually has to say.
5. If you’ve assumed, correctly, that these talking points are listed in approximate order of importance, you may also have noticed with concern that we’ve gotten more than halfway through them before describing what the movie actually is about. 9 is not cute and not a comedy. It is full of solemnity, texture, technically sophisticated chase scenes and not much else. Its creative vision, however, is extraordinary.
6. What it’s about is a familiar post-apocalyptic scenario in which machines have gotten the best of humans by exterminating them and laying waste to the planet. But hope is not lost: There are little puppets. The dolls were created and imbued with life by the same human scientist who invented the machine that began the destruction of civilization.
7. Importantly, the machines manufactured each other, but the dolls were made by human hands. It is clever that a film so rich with computer-generated imagery should emphasize the tactility of its central characters.
8. The characters’ names are the numbers inscribed on their backs. They have a wizened but rather craven leader, 1, and a credible challenger to his authority, 9. The others have other numbers and, accordingly, other qualities.
9. Finally, we have a film that craft-fair hipsters and sci-fi nerds can take each other to see on first dates. And if they go on opening day, their anniversary will be especially easy to remember.
Directed by Shane Acker
With Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C Reilly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14