2010-05-17 16:12

What it's about:

A doll awakens to find himself alone in a run-down workshop, and without a voice. Wandering around a seemingly desolate and empty world, he stumbles upon a small community of dolls just like him, each named in numerical sequence. He discovers that they are living under threat from a creature called The Beast, which is only an inkling of the dangers that exist just beyond their hiding place.

What we thought:

It is refreshing sometimes to see something original and non-Hollywood, especially since animated features are so plentiful these days. Dreamworks and Pixar may be very good at what they do, but their products do suffer from the notion that animated features are supposed to be family- (and especially kid) friendly.

So leave it to Tim Burton, whose previous animation projects include The Nightmare Before Christmas (writer) and Corpse Bride (director) to again be involved in something different for audiences to mull over. As producer alongside Timur Bekmambetov, they’ve contributed to an intriguing, if not perfect follow up for Focus Features’ debut animated effort Coraline.

The good news for director Shane Acker is that there’s a reason to watch 9 – for its visuals. The design of the film is stunningly beautiful – there’s just no arguing that point. Shot for shot, it almost does enough to keep you glued with the sound down, it's THAT mesmerising.

Besides the ruin and rubble of the world they inhabit, the dolls themselves are sufficiently anthropomorphic without being specifically derivative.  To that extent, even the voice acting is pretty good – what you’d expect, I suppose, from an experienced voice cast.

But on the downside, the film is thin on plot, which contributes to a strange conundrum: As a story, 9 would be easy enough for young children to absorb; it’s a fairly simple "the thing is out to get us" structure, padded out by a couple of outlandish action sequences and chase scenes. Well, "padded" meaning that that’s most of the movie right there. A little more exposition would have possibly been nice, though it would have needed a fairly significant rewrite.

Because what exposition there is, is way over the heads of kids – hell, even most adults – as it wanders into vague esoteric references about souls and freedom and cowardice and mechanisation as to resolve a mostly unnecessary motivation for all the terror. How we went from fighting a scrap-alley technocrat to an epiphany about soul and spirituality is a bit of a leap, but it happens in the space of about 30 minutes in this movie.

Moreover, the violence is surprisingly brutal, especially in scenes where "The Brain" does manage to catch a number (no pun intended). Any movie that makes me grimace in sympathetic pain with a digital character is not going sit well with a seven-year-old. So that audience sector is out. In fact, the PG 13 rating is very well advised.

No doubt the film will live as a fine example of visual artistry in the medium. It is not at all a terrible effort, but it will leave you wondering what might have been done with John Lasseter’s approach to story and character.

As it is, you could picture Harold and Kumar enjoying this movie, but only in a mental state that excludes the possibility of even rudimentary criticism, if you follow my drift.

Violent, beautifully animated, esoteric and playful – this is classic euro-animation for the next generation.

Bern 2010/05/18 12:00 PM
I'm not sure how much Tim Burton was involved though.. Remember this film was Produced by him.. Not directed....
CTheB 2010/05/18 1:07 PM
@Bern - producers have quite a lot of input to a movie. There's usually a lot of their money involved, apart from anything else. As I understand it, a producer is, to some extent, a sort of project manager. They'll be working on putting together the team that's going to make the movie - director, casting director, etc.
Capital Q 2010/05/18 4:36 PM
That's correct, and depending on the producer and contract has even got a great say as to the look, sound and final cut of the movie.
Joe 2010/05/18 4:54 PM
The function of the producer is not set in stone, it depends on the arrangement between him or her and the director and other artistic functions. One thing is certain, though, and that is that the producer would probably have the final say in the overall direction the movie takes, what the final cut would consist of and some other editing and art directing decisions. Remember that, after every day's worth of filming is done, there is a whole other set of functions being performed to put together the final edit. All these things take place while the director is off directing the next set of scenes.
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