9

It looks like I forgot the rest of the title, doesn't it? Released on 9/9/09, showing at my local theatre in auditorium 9, and it cost me $9.00 to get in, because my local theatres aren't showing matinees anymore. Okay, technically they are, but at times that are so inconvenient for me they might as well not be. They did sell me a largish box of SweetTarts for only a dollar, but still.

Anyway, this is only a 79 minute movie, which seems weird. When you remember, though, that it's basically a 79-minute-long special effect, you get some glimmering of how long and complicated the making of this film might have been -- it took between three to four years. And it is based on an 11-minute-long short film, so it's already been expanded quite a bit.

It's the future, or maybe the present; but either way, it isn't the world you'd recognize. Somewhere around 1934, technology took a weird science sort of turn, and a war broke out between man and the very machines meant to help him. (But what can you expect when people build "machines of peace" that are mostly just giant walking guns?)

Like in Terminator, things don't go so well for the humans. So when 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood of Lord of the Rings fame), the tiny rag doll of the title, finally wakes up, he finds a desolate world that he doesn't understand at all. Luckily for him, he meets 2 (Martin Landau, from Sleepy Hollow and at least 157 other things), a rag doll gadgeteer who reinvents things like lanterns in micro-size. After encountering a freaky mostly-machine thing called simply The Beast, 2 is carried off and a wounded 9 wakes up again to find himself in a cathedral, hiding place for others like him.

There's 1 (Christopher Plummer, of Up and at least 175 other things), the fussy, cautious leader; 5 (John C. Reilly, The Aviator, but that wasn't his fault), 2's assistant; 8 (Fred Tatasciore, apparently a popular voice actor), the muscle of the group, who must be at least a whopping five inches tall; and of course 6 (Crispin Glover, who also voiced Grendel in Beowulf), the crazy one who nobody likes to talk about, or to.

Whew! And I haven't even mentioned Jennifer Connelly as the voice of 7, the ninja of the bunch; or the twins, 3 and 4, who don't talk but read up a storm. Since the humans died, it's only been them and The Beast, and though it's only the size of a housecat, when you're maybe three inches tall, that's huge. Plus it's very freaky looking. Did I mention that? It's got half a real skull in its metal head, and it's disconcerting. Anyway, 1 encourages a healthy fear of The Beast, and no one dares to disobey.

Then 9 comes along and screws everything up.

When a friend of mine, new to roleplaying, was learning the GURPS system, she thought it would be fun to take the disadvantages Curious and Impulsive. Yes, they're just what they sound like. As you might imagine, it didn't take long before she touched the wrong thing, set off a trap, and killed more than half the group -- not including herself. Well, 9 has Curious and Impulsive, too, and that's what sets off the second part of the movie -- and believe me, the second part is a huge, awful mess. And no matter how many times the others ask him what he was thinking, 9 never gives any real answer. It's like climbing Mount Everest because it's there, I guess.

It's a fascinating movie to watch, even though it lacks any real plot. The look of it is amazing, with all the details that go into the characters -- the texture of the fabric, the different fasteners each of them have, even the individual little stitches holding them together. The machines are scary. They're all dark and spooky, ranging from the size of largish spiders that swarm everywhere; to giant bird-things that are basically just a lot of very sharp metal objects attached to black wings; to the Machine itself, the one that started it all.

But it really is just one long special effect. It raises some metaphysical questions at the end, so even if you don't think it's too scary for the under-thirteens (it is, though, trust me), don't bring them if you don't want to have to answer a lot of questions about souls and whether or not little walking, talking dolls go to heaven.

So it gets three idols. I hate to go higher -- once the technology progress and the novelty wears off, this will be a cute, quaint little film at best -- but it was entertaining, so I hate to go lower. It will probably lose something on the small screen, though, so best to catch it in the theatre unless you have a really giant screen TV. And that right there is probably the most telling argument for not going any higher than three.

Originally posted 9/2009. It's already reaching the quaint stage.

Image: 
9 faces an evil AI 10 times his size armed only with a flashlight.

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