Sunday, September 13, 2009


9 [PG-13]
Grade: C
Cast: Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly
Director: Shane Acker

Why does every anime-inspired American sci-fi animation film feel like someone has watched too much Star Wars?

Am I wrong? The new film 9 shows repeated scenes of little cloth people escaping giant fireballs exploding through cylinders. It even has a rising spirits in the firelight ending pulled right from Return of the Jedi. The only thing missing is the Ewok song. I won’t pretend to say that it was missed.

The Battle of Terra was the first to go with the Star Wars thing, yanking its space battle plot quite clearly from the original Lucas favorite. With its stitched-up, fiber-suited mini robots, 9 is less The Battle of Terra than The Battle of Cloth World. That’s a reference lost on those that haven’t reached the age of 30.

9 is a superb looking anime. I mean superb. From the microscope eyes to the zippers on the robots’ stomachs, the detail is staggering. The setting is a near-perfectly clouded apocalyptic junkyard of a planet – like Wall-E without the cheer.

It’s as if creator Shane Acker has put too much thought into the image and not enough into the story. It overuses apocalyptic military-industrial complex clich├ęs that barely stitch it together. A group of nefarious war-making machines have killed off mankind and are on the verge of finishing off our little cloth friends. Only nine or so of our robot Raggedy Anns and Andies are left to fight, led by a robot called 9.

The imagery of 9 will earn it fans. And it has some brilliant little action sequences. But as chase scene piles on chase scene, and tired plot points fail to develop, it becomes tougher and tougher to sit through. It’s a film to admire in ways, and a filmmaker to be excited about. But like it’s story, that remains for a future time.

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