09 September, 2009

Animated Movie "9" Falls Short

Last night, thanks to the generous folks over at Tor, my girlfriend and I were able to sneak into the screening “9”, by Shane Acker. Heralded as the future of animation, I couldn’t help but notice that the applause when the movie started was distinctly louder than when it ended. My sense of trepidation and excitement bled away within the first fifteen minutes to be replaced by annoyance towards the disjointed story line and shallow characters. While both stylistically and metaphorically “9” is indeed a masterpiece, the overall experience leaves one somewhere between annoyed and confused.

As a longtime fan of speculative fiction, I consider myself a master of the ability to suspend disbelief. Indeed, when I review a book the first question I ask myself is: “How hard did I have to work to believe the story?” A skillful storyteller makes the process painless and enjoyable, allowing you to immerse yourself in a wonderful new world, which in the case of 9 is a meticulously crafted post-apocalyptic dystopia. The process applies equally to movies, where the cinematography parallels written world building and character construction parallels acting. Sadly, it is in the latter that 9 fell short.

9 movie book art

From a technical point of view, “9” painted itself into a corner as far as character construction and depth goes. Indeed, when each doll is intended to represent a specific and unique aspect of the human soul, it is rightfully difficult, if not impossible, to pull off complex characters. The stellar cast of voice actors did an admirable job, but there always seemed to be a certain disconnect between voice and visual. Then again, the stitchpunk beings (Shane Acker’s term) were hardly constructed to express the full range and subtleties of human emotion.

Generally, the movie would have benefited from an addition twenty of so minutes of backstory—preferably before the extinction of humanity—to fill a number of logical gaps, and to heighten the contrast between past and present. More backstory might also have helped explain the sudden leap between the mechanical and the organic; a rushed and distinctly jarring shift in focus that is my main source of disappointment in the movie. All in all, similar to Spirits of the Past for those of you familiar with Japanese anime, there are just too many loose ends and unanswered questions, even though the animation itself is indeed visionary.

9 movie book art

Ironically, I recommend seeing this on the big screen, or at the very least on Blue Ray, because that is how it was meant to be experienced. Plain old television just won’t capture the rich, textured detail and stunning animation. Experiencing a post apocalyptic dystopia from the point of view of the small stitchpunk beings is what makes the movie unique and memorable, an ultimately, well worth your time. Don’t let my nitpicking dissuade you from seeing what is sure to become an instant classic – I know I will be holding on to my movie photobook!

9 movie book art

7 comments:

ediFanoB said...

Thanks for sharing your impressions. I will keep in mind your dislikes in order to compare them with my impression when I get the opportunity to watch the film.

TJ said...

Hmm, I was looking forward to this. I don't know now...

Christine said...

Although I'm not surprised by your criticism- I had some of my own as well- my first thought upon reading your review was of something written in the book (we got a nice book of illustrations and quotes with the free tickets). I believe it was Tim Burton who predicted that this movie's success would be similar to that of The Nightmare Before Christmas in that it would not immediately receive the adulation of fans, but in a few years would be a classic. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

Also, for all Alec's criticisms, I can't recall the last time I stayed awake through a movie that started at 9pm... my point not being that I'm pretty lame, but that the movie was good enough to hold my interest.

ediFanoB said...

Christine, my wife and I normally try to avoid to goto cinema that late. People don't like when you fall asleep in cinema and you start to snore :-)

Harry Markov: daydream said...

I se what you mean. I still think that this will be a great movie to experience. I am a visual junkie and most flashy effects can drive me down Lobe Lane. :)

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The Movies said...

It's a awesome movie.thanks for the post due keep it up.

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