Too much sizzle, not enough steak.
Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com
Director: Shane Acker
Voice Cast: Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly, Fred Tasaciore, Alan Oppenheimer
If there’s one thing about 9 that will forever make it stand out amongst its animated peers it is that the film is one the most spectacular looking and sounding films of the last decade. The attention to detail is spectacular, as even the little bits that aren’t significant are astounding to see. As an audio/visual spectacle, 9 ranks amongst the top of the decade for just how good it is. It’s too bad, really, because the film doesn’t have enough substance to it to make it a classic.
9 is a pretty straight forward actioneer set in a dystopia; 9 (Elijah Wood) is part of a group of patchwork beings (for lack of a better phrase) brought into this world after the end of humanity. With artificially intelligent machines having destroyed humanity, a scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) has created nine beings for the aftermath. 1 (Christopher Plummer) is the leader of the group and advocates keeping hidden. 8 (Fred Tasaciore) is his bodyguard, a hulking little ragdoll that enforces 1’s will. 2 (Martin Landau) is the one who first discovers 9, and he and 5 (John C. Reilly) are the creative types who help craft things. 6 (Crispin Glover) has pens for hands and is the creative member of the group. 3 and 4 are mutes who function as the group’s information gatherers and 7 (Jennifer Connelly) is the group’s warrior. When 2 is kidnapped by the machines, and 9 and 5 go after him, it unleashes a whole new wave of terror upon them.
And Acker, who turned this into a feature from an Oscar-nominated short film, there is a surprising amount of help to be found. He has a first rate voice cast, for starters, and top notch effects-laden film directors Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov overseeing the film as producers. You can see the latter’s effect on his work; this is much more polished as a story and as an action-sequence driven then a normal first-time director would have in the genre outside of a Pixar film. This is a very crisp and polished film; Acker has a strong hand as a director and has some top notch people guiding it as well.
The problem begins with his introduction, or lack thereof. Acker heads straight into the action and never relents, not even to develop his characters. We never get truly involved; there’s enough to get involved into the film and care about what happens but not enough to bring out the suspension of disbelief. It’s a credit to the voice cast that the film’s finale brings out enough emotion to make it satisfying in a way. The amusing part is that despite this first rate voice cast, the cast is barely recognizable (outside of Plummer). If one didn’t know better you could imagine a cast of no-names being behind the voices as opposed to a handful of Oscar nominees and a winner.
9 is a film that feels like it will find a cult audience well after its release in theatres. It will probably be for the wrong reasons, however, but as a film it is solid, if not completely satisfying, entertainment.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: 9, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Martin Landau, tim burton, Timur Bekmambetov