9 Review: Armageddoll
Oddly, both of the last two films that our lovely editor here at OTB asked me to review I approached with a sense of dread.
So when his e-mail dropped into my inbox with an offer to see 9 I was delighted to be given something I was looking forward to.
Ever since I’d seen the 11 minute Oscar-nominated short of the same name, I’ve been excited about the beautiful steampunk aesthetic and the complex fantasy world we’d been given a brief glimpse of.
9 could have been so wonderful. With creative powerhouses like Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted) supporting Shane Acker, the director of the short and the feature, and a voice cast packed with the talents of Christopher Plummer, Elijah Wood, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover, everything seemed to be in place. Not so.
The feature film retains its little brother’s spectacular visuals and action sequences. 9’s tiny sackcloth heroes look charmingly soft and have a pleasing ragdoll feel in their movement and the menacing machines are all glowing eyes and glinting blades.The post-apocalyptic landscape they live in is equally well-rendered, but unfortunately even the greatest beauty cannot hide an essential lack of substance. It becomes glaringly obvious that 9 was expanded up to 80 minutes but the story wasn’t – it’s a semi-developed mythology with elements of Terminator, Harry Potter and Nightmare Before Christmas all thrown into the same pot.
Worse still, 9 lacks the character development that made the weird creatures of the Nightmare Before Christmas so appealing and gave them such a lasting following. These zip-up heroes aren’t given enough humanity, so whilst they might interact in a pretty cute way, the audience never forms any real connection to them with the result that any suffering they might experience doesn’t have the affect it should.
That said, 9 is a decent film, it just never finds its feet in order to fully realise its potential, which is a real shame. Its beauty makes it a film worth seeing, but don’t expect to be left entirely satisfied.