Sunday, January 03, 2010


The animated film 9 (2009; dir. Shane Acker) offers a bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic future in which machines have wiped out the human race (aka Terminator). The anti-technology message here is familiar: machines will take us over, wipe us out, if we’re not careful. It’s our humanity (whatever essence that implies) that separates us from the technology of our own making. The creator of the über-machine who masterminds the world’s takeover is a well-intentioned scientist who invented robots meant to serve the human race. But politicians, totalitarian leaders, foiled his plan and turned his machines to evil purposes. (It’s the politicians, not the scientists, who are the true villains in this piece). Ultimately, the machines destroy the politicians and everyone else. All that is left are nine small doll-like robots (they appear to be covered with burlap, or something like it). They are named by the number designating the order in which they were made. One of the doll-robots is the excessively cautious and controlling leader of the group. Another resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy. A third is a valiant warrior with a female voice. And there is number 9, the hapless hero who discovers an important secret. The scientist implanted a small fragment of his soul in each of these robots, and together they are meant to defeat the master machine and save the earth. This film is a parabolic fantasy. The plot is slight, almost flimsy, and although visually the film is intriguing and detailed, the predictability of its plot, the familiarity of its main characters (we have seen them all before in other forms), and the shallowness of its themes do not sustain interest. At only 79 minutes in length, 9 seems like a sketch for a longer film. It is rushed and breathless, with numerous turns of plot that defy logic and the laws of physics. It is sufficiently intense (monster robots repeatedly terrorize the main characters, capturing some of them and sucking out their innards) that it would not be suitable for young children, though it seems to have been designed with a younger audience in mind.

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