by Willie Krischke – October 28, 2009
“9” began life as an award-winning short film in 2005. It probably should’ve stayed that way. Instead, it feels like a good short film stretched like an old rubber band so that it could be released in theaters and make more money. Someday we need to stop and ask ourselves why films have to be 70-150 minutes long in order to be considered “feature-length,” but perhaps today is not that day.
“9” takes place in a gorgeously visualized, post-apocalyptic world, where the only survivors are 8 inches tall and seem to be made of burlap and clock parts. The film has a lot of fun with the dilemmas of living in a world that’s 20 sizes too big – a lot of its best bits reminded me of “The Littles” and “The Borrowers,” books I read as a kid. Director Shane Acker clearly loves following these creatures around and seeing how they survive in a pretty terrifying world. And who can blame him. It’s pretty fun.
But eventually it becomes necessary to impose a plot structure upon Acker’s beloved creatures, and that’s when the problems start. Whoever is responsible for the script wrote it in about five minutes, borrowing liberally from the Matrix sequels, Indiana Jones, and any other post-apocalyptic and/or adventure movie that was handy. The main character is called 9, and guess what, there are 8 others, each with a big number on its back, and more caricature than personality. There’s a glowing talisman, and a gibberish-spouting prophet, and an evil cat-monster. People need to be rescued, the source needs to be returned to, authoritarian leaders must be defied, etc. None of it feels at all fresh or original, which is disconcerting, because everything looks so fresh and original.
I guess “9” is a kids’ movie, and really, kids probably won’t care about hackneyed plot structure, cardboard characters, etc. I wouldn’t take little children to see “9,” unless they’re exceptionally brave – it’s likely to give them terrible nightmares about cat-monsters– but older kids might enjoy it. It’s a great-looking movie, but in a year filled with great-looking kid’s movies, it comes up short.