This Week at the Movies: Tim Burton’s 9

Will Hazzard

9 (written and directed by Shane Acker) is the latest in a line of animated films to have Tim Burton’s eerie and iconic name attached to the production credits, but do not be fooled by the flashy cast of A-list stars involved in this movie. In more than one way, 9 falls short of its hyped story and in quality when compared with classic cousins such as Corpse Bride and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

A conceptual message is lost due to poor story structure, character development and lackluster voice acting. Viewers will often find themselves confused in the theater and constantly questioning what is going on in the movie. All in all, 9 completely misses the target in whatever point it was trying to prove.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world sometime around World War II in which intelligent machines have wiped out all organic life on the planet. Now, the nine creations of scientists are the only pseudo-human creatures left. The viewer is immediately thrown into the world from the start of the movie.

9 (each character is known only by the number written on their backs) is forced to wander into a world that neither he nor the viewer really understands. Herein lies the greatest problem with the movie: introduction of story and character elements. All nine of the creations are essentially one-dimensional and have virtually no real purpose in this world. Are they meant to revive humanity? Are they meant to forever destroy the machines? These are just a few of the questions that go unanswered.

Even minor events that move the plot forward such as the decision to rescue 2 from the clutches of the machines or to explore the library seem unjustified or just plain random. Even as the action builds, more story elements are revealed and the plot finally reaches its climax, the ending is hollow with no sort of resolution reached and the viewer is left only with a feeling of disappointment.

The voice actors themselves did not utilize the best of their abilities for this movie. Each character seems to half-heartedly mutter the very few lines they have. Elijah Wood, whose voice takes the most prominent role in the film, cannot seem to grasp the tonality the character needs to be believable. Continuously confused between the shy newcomer of the group and being the desperate leader and savior of the creations, the performance is lost. A normally vibrant John C. Reilly has decided to take a more conservative approach to the role of 5 to point of being nearly indistinguishable. Comic relief is completely absent throughout the entire movie and knowing that Reilly was lending his voice to the film, I was hoping there would be some.

The music and sound do not even aid the actors or the atmosphere at all. The sound design mainly consists of the same whistling wind over a desolate plain and the music is basically just a stereotypical trumpet orchestra used to build tension.

The one place this movie does excel in is art design. The landscapes and ruins are very memorable with their use of dramatic lighting effects and gloomy atmosphere. The landscapes fit well with the apocalyptic feel of the movie, but are not bland and unimaginative. The monster machines the nine creations must face throughout the movie are also brilliantly creepy and original. If anything, they were the ones that stole the limelight in this movie.

It’s hard exactly to say who this movie is for. Children won’t necessarily understand the antiwar themes and attacks against corporate greed and probably would be just plain scared throughout a good chunk of it. Adults and teenagers will probably be disappointed by the overall lack of substance.

If you have been a hardcore follower of Tim Burton’s animated productions, then go see 9 to put another Burton flick in your proverbial movie belt. However, the rest of you should probably sit this one out. Even at the discounted Hamilton rates, Burton’s 9 might not be the right investment in this bad economy.