Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"9" - Shane Acker (2009)

Yes, I know "9" is a year and a half old, but it was criminally overlooked, so I want to talk about it a bit here.

First, what this movie has going for it. It has atmosphere oozing out its eyeballs. The look and tone of the film is wonderful. Every frame, every shadow has this wonderful texture to it.
Photo Courtesy: Focus Features

I think my favorite visual might be 7’s bird-mask.

Visually, I was reminded of so many other films. And that’s not necessarily a slam, because the diversity of the sources "9" pulls its inspiration from is staggering. I saw bits of "Blade Runner," "2001," "Dead Space" (the video game), and "Robocop."

At one point I could almost hear Dick Jones’ ED-209 snarling in his robot voice, ‘you now have 20 seconds to comply!’ Oh, there’s no flashback like a murderous rampaging boardroom robot flashback.

And there’s a moment when 9 tells 5 not to look the machine in the eyes. It’s very reminiscent of “Marian, keep your eyes shut!”
And of course, there’s the unmistakable look of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas."

The group of 9 look like a bunch of mini-Oogie-Boogies.

Now to the meat of the film.

I have always disagreed with the notion that books and films with Artificial Intelligence protagonists lack emotional poignancy.

Just in the medium of cinema alone, there’s the aforementioned "Blade Runner" and "Robocop" plus, there’s "A.I.," "Edward Scissorhands," "Frankenstein," "Pinocchio," "C-3PO & R2-D2" and "Battlestar Galactica."

There are people who just can’t get past the fact that these are man-made characters and therefore, they don’t matter or count.

Why the hell not?

We matter, why?

Is it because we were made by God, in His image?

If angels had a hand in our creation, if God had their assistance, would that negate any meaning we have?

So why would life that was created through man not be just as real, just as profound?

Life, by definition can not be artificial.

It’s odd that I just watched Duncan Jones’ "Moon" which could be a companion piece as it really tackles a lot of the same issues as "9" and "Blade Runner."

Back to “9” specifically. At the beginning of the film these characters are more or less uniform. 5 is the exception.

He is interesting and funny and more sympathetic than your average cowardly sidekick.

9 also develops a kind of courage. He becomes a character that embodies kind of what the popular myth of Winston Churchill is.

He has that whole “evil must be stood up to” uncompromising belief that you can’t help but admire.

Another recent film I reviewed here r
ecently, “Glorious 39” featured a couple of characters like that, played by David Tennant and Romola Garai respectively.

There’s this kind of bizarre beauty as they call out each others’ number like names and it gets more and more touching as the film progressing.

They start speaking the numbers with meaning and passion where at the start, the tone of voice when they would speak the number of the others, the purpose was only to identify.

The personality in these faces is astounding.
Putting such character into burlap bags with lenses has me standing in awe of this level of artistry.

The way that 5 looks at you with this noble and terrified and courageous look shows the mark of an incredibly gifted and rare artist who understands the psychology behind aesthetics.

The nature of the beast is intriguing.

Photo Courtesy: Focus Features
There’s this kind of symbolism when 1 sacrifices himself for the good of the collective and allows the machine to absorb him.

I don’t know if this was a spiritual or political statement or both, but it was clear without being too obvious.

And that is a fine goddamn line.
Photo Courtesy: Focus Features
I have not cried since the 4th grade. I remember it very well. But every once in a while, a moment in a film will get me and I realize that if I were capable of tears, I’d be crying my eyes out.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is the most recent example that comes to mind. But when one of these burlap characters perished, my heart just absolutely broke. I was crushed.
Photo Courtesy: Focus Features
There is a very good reason why each of the burlaps, or whatever we’ll call these little guys, have their own solitary dominant trait.

To wax on about these would mean spoiling a couple of key revelations that come at the end of the film. And I know that just pisses some people off.

Suffice it to say that the creator of these 9 survivors had to have been both shaman and scientist in equal parts.

Photo Courtesy: Focus Features

“9” has gotten a lot of mediocre reviews and that doesn’t really surprise me. It’s not an obvious film and most film critics just aren’t that smart.

“9” ranks up there with “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in the realm of philosophical sci-fi.

Anybody who tells you “9” was all atmosphere and no substance simply wasn’t paying close enough attention.

And because I'm not above shameless self-promotion, you can read other film-related entries at The Resident Film Snob blog.

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