Here are nine things you might want to know about the recently released film 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 September 9, 2009 (09/09/ 09). Numerological profundity is less important to this movie than its release date might imply. As with this review, it’s really just for the hell of it, to make things easy and gimmicky.
Revolution No. 9? The numerically chosen one (voiced by Elijah Wood) leads a gang of “stitchpunks” against a few bad ’bots in 9.
2. 9 should not be confused with District 9, the science-fiction parable of extra-terrestrial refugees quarantined in Johannesburg, nor with Nine, a forthcoming musical remake, God help us, of Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2, although such confusions probably will happen anyway and do make you wonder about numerological profundity.
3. 9 is a feature-length elaboration of director Shane Acker’s own animated short film of the same name from 2004, which won a Student Academy Award and was nominated for a regular Academy Award. It employs the vocal talents of, among others, Christopher Plummer, Elijah Wood, Martin Landau, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover.
4. 9 is better off without vocal talents. Acker’s short version of the film does without any dialogue, the absence of which only reinforces its wow-cool factor. The feature-length version, which also employs the screenwriting talents of Pamela Pettler, who wrote Corpse Bride, tends to contradict the wow-cool factor with lots of unnecessary spoken explanation.
5. If you’ve assumed, correctly, that these talking points are listed in 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. That’s because its story is perfunctory. Its creative vision, however, is extraordinary. 9 is not cute, and not a comedy. It is full of mood, texture, technically sophisticated chase scenes and not much else. Being impressed but unmoved would be an appropriate response.
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 dolls made mostly of a thick burlap-like fabric, with lenses for eyes.
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 craven leader, No. 1 (voiced by Plummer), and a credible challenger to his authority, No. 9 (voiced by Wood). 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.