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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

9 (review)

After the Rise of the Victorian Machines

We should have expected this from the first CGI movie from Focus Features, the independent boutique mini studio: 9 is more arthouse animation than Saturday-morning cartoon, a mysterious conundrum of a film that is beautifully grim to behold and actually sort of massively depressing by the time it’s over… but in a good way. Like how someone once said that “sad is happy for deep people.” The joys of 9 are in contemplating its curious merging of the deeply cynical and the unflaggingly optimistic, and in rejoicing in all the history of science fiction from both print and screen that has been lovingly poured into the wondrous creamy hardness of its visuals.
Imagine if Jules Verne wrote a movie for Pixar, if that steampunk visionary looked forward from his perch in the late Victorian age to a Great War in his near future that didn’t pause for twenty years to let everyone to catch their breath but instead went apocalyptic. Imagine not a nuclear apocalypse but one the result of a horrific gas: it killed not only all the humans but all the animals and plants, too. But not before the humans could invent sentient machines like something H.G. Wells dreamed while comatose in the Matrix: monstrous tripod warmakers stomping across landscapes furrowed with trenches. And other, more terrible machines, too…

But before we went, we humans — or one of us, at least — also created something apparently far more benign, even enchanting and promising: 9 (the voice of Elijah Wood: Happy Feet, Bobby) is a tiny ragdoll-like being who comes to consciousness in a small lab, bewildered by his own awakening but wildly inquisitive, too, about absolutely everything. There’s a dead man in a white lab coat on the floor; he looks to have been dead a long time. And there’s a thing, an irresistibly shiny buttonlike device that 9 somehow knows is important. So he takes it with him as he ventures out to find the crumbling ruins of a dead city… and a few more beings very much like him.

And that’s when all your notions about what postapocalyptic movies — and CGI animated science fiction — should go the way of, well, the humans here.

Director Shane Acker won a Student Academy Award for the short film this is based on, and he — and his cowriter here, Pamela Pettler (Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride) — have expanded upon that unique vision to create one of the most inventive and most startling debuts of the year. Believe that PG-13 rating, not so much for the intensity of its action and the bleakness of its motifs both visual and thematic, but from a philosophical perspective: this is not a movie to distract and amuse kiddies. In some ways, it’s like Wall-E without the cute little anthropomorphic critter to distract us from the horrors of this world. Oh, sure, 9 and his compatriots — including one charmingly voiced by John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), and others voiced by Crispin Glover (Beowulf, Crispin Glover’s What Is It?), Jennifer Connelly (Inkheart, The Day the Earth Stood Still), Christopher Plummer (Up, Inside Man), and Martin Landau (Hollywood Homicide, The Majestic) — are visually appealing, with their big blinky eyes and soft, squishy bodies that remind us of beloved childhood toys. But there’s a distinct lack of the adorable in their personalities, the disjointedness of which might be considered a flaw if not for… well, no spoilers: What could be seen as a flaw in the film, and likely may be by some, is part and parcel of the delicious oddness of where it’s all going.

I’m not entirely convinced that the secret of 9 — and of 9 and his friends — works in the end. I do love, though, the boldness of it, and how distinctly it diverges from anything we might be expecting. And I do love how it has me still pondering it: not many movies linger like this one does. Which is totally appropriate, as the world which 9 himself moves in is full of not only unanswered questions but unanswerable ones, too. Not the least of which is, Why did the long-gone people do this awful thing to themselves in the first place? Because the possibilities suggested by the very existence of 9 and his friends hint that a rise in human awareness of who we are happened at the precise moment that we acquired the ability to destroy ourselves.

Maybe that’s always the case: our wisdom and our foolishness are in a constant race, and so far the former has managed to stay just ahead of the latter. We’ve seen cinematic speculations about the opposite. 9 may be asking: What happens when it’s a tie? And that’s a very intriguing and very uncomfortable question to consider.

MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence and scary images

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • tomservo

    Cool. I’m definitely gonna see this.

  • Accounting Ninja

    [fangirling] Omigawd this movie looks like everything I love in movies rolled up into one delicious, disturbing, heartwarming, uncomfortable ball. I have been eagerly awaiting your review and it’s only getting me more jazzed to get a group of friends together this weekend to go see 9!!11! [/fangirling]

  • So, so, so can’t wait to see this! Glad it apparently lived up to its potential!

  • 9 and District 9, both based on short films and both awesome. Coincidence?

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Oh, I so wanted to love this movie. And I tried, I really tried. Visually, it’s absolutely stunning. There is that tonal disconnect between cute and horrific in absolutely every frame. But the story just isn’t tied together. It keeps wandering down plot threads, then inexplicably doubling back on itself. It suggests themes and directions it becomes unwilling to follow through on. It hammers on points of exposition that the audience just doesn’t care about, but refuses to address some really crucial questions. So ultimately, none of the ideas it presents end up having any relevance in the final resolution. I’m reminded of A.I., in that 9 looks great, and tells its story from beginning to end, but you can see a better movie, desperately straining to get out.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    I can’t wait to see this one. Other reviews are mixed, but even though your tagline above says “overly cerebral, detached and cynical”…who said that about you, anyway? lol–I realize you “get” movies like this when many others don’t. So I’m hopeful.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Although AI had it’s faults, like plots that ran out (what ever DID happen to Joe?) and questions that remained unanswered, that movie stuck on me like glue and refused to release me. It was profoundly sad and terrifying to me, even though the ending was supposed to be all “heartwarming”, I saw it as the tragic eternal containment of the monster David, who, because of the way he was built, would never find happiness. Few movies affected me like AI. So much so, that I would be hesitant to watch it again.

    If 9 is anything like that, it would be wonderful (and scary! lol). I have been watching the old 2005 short and lots of trailers. Already I can’t get enough of it! And like Erik Goodwin said, I too trust MAJ to ferret out the deeper meaning in things. If this movie were all disappointing fluff and no substance, or if it were patently stupid, pretty sure she would say so. I mean, she’s already knocked several animated movies that looked good but had nothing underneath. Not like she gives an auto-pass to anything animated or sci-fi.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    My problem with A.I. is not that it’s a bad movie. It’s not, it’s a fine movie, and it tells its story more or less effectively. I felt watching it that there was a better story to be told, with only minor changes in what was on the screen, and that the film hints at that better story. In particular, I’ve always felt that Spielberg and he’s writers really, desperately wanted David to become a real boy. But he’s not, he doesn’t, and frankly, he can’t. He’s a computer program, stuck in a logical feedback loop. The ending unwittingly hammers this point home: when the future aliens/robots/whatever offer to bring his mommy back, but tell him she’ll die, forever, after one day, he doesn’t even hesitate, despite having spent hundreds or thousands of years stuck in a block of ice. He doesn’t change, which implies he’s incapable of change, which means he’s not ever going to be a real person, so why do we follow him around for so long? (In fairness, as a parent myself, the scene where the mother abandons David is heart wrenching.)
    Likewise, 9 is not a bad film. Visually it’s a beautiful film, and worth seeing for that alone. (Though I think Acker cheated with a shocking image early in the film that he didn’t earn.) And it’s story does suggest some very intriguing themes. My feeling was that, in the end, it didn’t really explore those themes, nor incorporate them into its resolution. It seemed to lose track of what was going on, and what the characters wanted to do and why.
    I’ll wait a couple weeks for standard spoiler embargoes to pass before I try and elaborate.
    Also, be warned that the feature 9 shares little in common with the short 9 besides visual style and setting. Less even than Alive in Joberg shared with District 9.

  • Paul

    I would dispute the premise that change is a necessary quality in being human. I’ve seen love interests lamant in movies that their heroes “will never change.” I also recently recieved an email from a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in three years. He was giving me news about our mutual friends and none of them had changed. One of them had switched girlfriends, but they were the same type of girls, one of them had divorced but he had never been comfortable with the idea of getting married. I had met these people years ago and they were basically the same. I’m tempted to say I’m the same person, too, aside from having found some of the answers I’ve been looking for, but I found circumstances better suited to who I am so am happier.

    So given the human capacity to not change, I’d say the robot’s inability to change makes it a sadder movie, not a worse movie. And we followed this character to see the end result of unconditional love.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m reminded of A.I., in that 9 looks great, and tells its story from beginning to end, but you can see a better movie, desperately straining to get out.

    Well, I loved A.I., too, when a lot of other critics and fans didn’t. At least I’m consistent.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Three whole years, huh? ;-)

    Snark aside, while the role of change in the human condition is certainly arguable (your post doesn’t seem all that impressed with your old friends), change is absolutely essential to David’s story arc. Maybe this is just my perception, but Spielberg’s premise for David seems to be that he goes from being a robot to being a real boy in order to regain his “mother’s” love. Except that he doesn’t.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    I remember the chatbot A.I. review. in fact, it was after that review that I started reading flickfilosopher.com on a regular basis. :-)

  • Accounting Ninja

    Snark aside, while the role of change in the human condition is certainly arguable (your post doesn’t seem all that impressed with your old friends), change is absolutely essential to David’s story arc. Maybe this is just my perception, but Spielberg’s premise for David seems to be that he goes from being a robot to being a real boy in order to regain his “mother’s” love. Except that he doesn’t.

    **Spoilers For AI’s ending***
    This is why the movie was ultimately tragic for me. I went through the movie thinking, well of course they are going to make him real, it’s fluffy ol’ Speilberg. I wonder how, etc. But what I got was so heartbreakingly cold an ending that it provoked a very negative reaction in me. I HATED that movie, lol! Until I realized that I actually loved it, it was just a very difficult movie to watch. People complained that the ending was “tacked-on feel-good”. But it WASN’T! It was awful! Those people weren’t looking under the surface: Not only did David’s all-comsuming, irrational “love” for Mother make him forget people who potentially could have cared for him (like Joe, his scientist creator, or his “brother” he so viciously murdered), but the “Mother” brought back was only a fantasy of the actual woman. That woman was nothing like the one we’d seen earlier. David only loved the fantasy of loving Mother, further proof that his android love was indeed inferior to anything a human might feel. Plus, he never “regained” anything: she only looked like Mother. And when she was dead as she inevitably would be, David must continue a pathetic, miserable existence in the “aliens'” (or super-advanced robots, depending on your perception) benevolent captivity.

    There is nothing left for him. He can’t die like a mortal. He can’t change and grow. So can David become a real boy? NO. Emphatically no.

    So I wondered if Spielberg did that on purpose. If he made an uncomfortable movie about the life of a monster named David who can never be “real”.

  • Grinebiter

    David only loved the fantasy of loving Mother, further proof that his android love was indeed inferior to anything a human might feel.

    And a human can’t only love the fantasy of loving someone?

    I resisted seeing “A.I.” for a long time, because I knew someone who gushed about it, and she was exceedingly sentimental in an icky Catholic fashion. (E.g., adored the “Passion of the Christ”, because of a virginal crush on the leading man.) But when I finally watched A.I, I discovered a Spielberg film followed by a coda that was pure Kubrick. Who was secretly one of H.G. Wells’ Martians, namely an intellect “vast, cool and unsympathetic”.

    Ninja, the “all-consuming, irrational “love” … (which) made him forget people who potentially could have cared for him” is almost exactly how you described a real human man in the other thread, about Nice Guys(tm). The one that chased cheerleader types and ignored the mutual friend who had crushed on him for three years. I’m sure you can think of many other examples.

    So David was in fact acting just like a real person. Now, was that because he had become one, or because “real people” are actually robots?

  • Barbara

    Oh I wanted to love this too…

    It IS lovely to look at and I can see the threads of a stunning movie peaking through but it’s not quite there.

    I think the visuals needed to be matched with some really good writing and I’m sorry but the story, dialogue and over all writing was trite and very weak. It did not hold me and often tossed me right out the window no matter how much I wanted to stay with it because of how it looked.

    That and I’m sorry the basic plot is at it’s core VERY basic and I saw it coming miles away. Depressing but pretty to look at. I hope the director goes on to visually realize other things with better writers?

  • Accounting Ninja

    @Grinebiter: I realized it was similar as I wrote it and I wondered if you were gonna call it. ;)

    The tragedy with David is that he’s incapable, on a very fundamental level, of the depth of love or humanity he sought. With humans, most are capable (but not all, and that’s no less tragic) whether they choose to ignore that for singular focus, well, some will I suppose. But with Nice Guys, my reaction is “get your head out of your ass and do some introspection!”

    But with David, he literally cannot. There is something missing in him. It was so sad. But he was also frightening in his singular mindset, like when he killed his “brother”. I felt a sort of pity mixed with revulsion.

    Your friend must have thought the ending was “heartwarming”. Ha! The joke’s on her!

    So David was in fact acting just like a real person. Now, was that because he had become one, or because “real people” are actually robots?

    This is an interesting take on it! I fall on the other side, in that to me, they showed David was NOT real. Almost like they gave the middle finger to all those fuzzy sci-fi robot-who-becomes-human stories ;). As much as I love a good robot-becoming-human story, I loved this too.

    On topic, I’m seeing 9 Saturday night. I’ve heard complaints about the “simple” plot and underdeveloped characters.

    Please, O Movie Spirits. Just let this one be good.

  • Grinebiter

    The tragedy with David is that he’s incapable, on a very fundamental level, of the depth of love or humanity he sought.

    Well, so am I. And so are many others. Some of us seek and do not find; some of us have given up; some of us never understood the question.

    Hey, this is Kubrick: not only bleaker than you imagine, but bleaker than you can imagine. I believe his previous film was “Eyes Wide Shut”. And Doctor Bill has been described as robotic, quite apart from being played by Tom Cruise; and then, of all things, we have a seriously robotic sex party. In “Dr. Strangelove”, they are robots controlled by government procedures and propaganda. In “2001”, is Bowman really more sentient than Hal? Someone who knows the oeuvre better than I might pick this up and run with it.

    For myself, I shall content myself with saying that an algorithm is an algorithm is an algorithm, and it doesn’t matter what platform it runs on, meat or silicon. We, the emergent properties of bacteria, are running more complex algorithms than the silicon, but for how long? And are we Lao Tzu dreaming that he was a robot, or robots dreaming that we are Lao Tzu?

  • Grinebiter

    P.S. I deliberately replied before checking out MaryAnn’s review. I think we’re on the same page. It’s about a successful platform port of program code.

  • Paul

    Dr.RS, I said it had been three years since I heard from him, not how many years it had been since they established their patterns of behavior which continue on to this day. Aside from that, this looks like the sort of argument that can only be answered by asking Spielberg himself, “Just what did you think you meant at the end of that movie?”

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Paul, I know, it just struck me funny. ;)

    See, that very question is very un-Spielberg-like. He’s usually very, very clear what he means. Example: why, in a deliberately black-and-white film, does that one dancing girl have a bright red dress on? Answer: so you’ll recognize her when Schindler sees her again later.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Speilberg really doesn’t understand the ending of A.I., but it was important to Stanley, so he kept it. But Speilberg also really wanted David and his love to be “real”, so he intently follows David around, tries to make the story about him. But the script disagrees, it offers David no character arc, to development as a character. He doesn’t change from the moment he “imprints” to the end of the movie. So why should we care? Especially when there’s a whole world around David that’s itself more interesting and filled with more interesting things. Every human character we meet appears and disappears inexplicably, playing god with each other and with David, and never experiencing consequences for their actions. Those stories are, to me, much more interesting than David’s. And that’s what made A.I. frustrating for me.
    9 did the same thing for me. It laid out paths that looked much more interesting than the one it chose to follow.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Okay I just saw it. I liked it. I would also green light it.

    *Minor Spoilers*

    The animation was without peer. The characters made you root for them, and every danger they were in made me tense up and hope they survived. The terror they must constantly live in felt palpable. But- and this “but” didn’t stop me from liking it- I wanted more. As a sci-fi fan, the machines-against-man story was nothing new to me. But the ragdolls were quite compelling. I wanted more interaction between them. Like maybe one less fight scene, and more backstory about their relationships. What was life in their little colony like under 1’s rule before 9 showed up? 7 revolted from 1 and took the twins with her. I wanted to know what ultimately made her do this and how she felt about 5 and 6 remaining there. The pauses in the action, like when they were hiding before the Seamstress shows up, and later when they were playing the record, were the highlights for me. These compelling little people had such great, expressive personalities that I longed to see more of them bouncing off each other and exploring their characters.

    I loved 7 (yay, good female character! And they resisted giving her “boobs” or other ill-fitting gender markers), and I thought 1’s arc was very good. I went from disliking him to feeling for him, even in spite of the very despicable thing he did. 9 himself was a bit bland after his initial waking up scene. The rest save for 8 (who I felt was a bit wasted, no pun intended har har) were good. I loved the twins’ squirrelly body language.

    I wanted to know more about the scientist. How did he stumble upon the process to give life to little golems? It mentioned it only in passing as a sort of dark magic. But why would a scientist be interested in such things? Obviously he had many fascinating facets to him, evident in the diverse personalities of the dolls. I wished there had been soul searching on the part of the ragdolls to discover which part of the scientist they represented. 1 could easily be the part of the scientist that had initially trusted the Chancellor who subsequently made war on the world with his creations. It could also explain 1’s later questioning of what he believes, much as I imagine the scientist did when he realized the Chancellor’s thirst for power doomed all of humanity.

    And the ending seemed rushed. Kind of like Wall-E, how that one plant and the returning humans seemed to make the dead Earth spring to life, a similar thing happened here (or was implied). But it was too quickly resolved and if you haven’t seen the 2005 short, the ceremony at the end wouldn’t make sense. I had seen it, but the friends with me hadn’t and they wondered why it occured to 9 to even have that ceremony.

    And that’s my 2 cents. :) Whew, sorry for the length!

  • James Herod

    The main political purpose of this movie is to keep the USAmerican population (and other viewers world wide) ignorant and confused about the causes of the tremendous dangers now threatening civilization and even humanity in general. The movie claims (through the voice of the scientist) that it was humanity’s “obsession with technology” that led to its extinction. The scientist claimed that he built his machine with the hope of benefiting humankind. Instead the machine morphed into a beast and turned on human beings and all life and killed everything with poison gas. This theme of technological determinism pervades contemporary culture. But in the real world, machines don’t do anything, only humans do. The chain saws that are cutting down the rainforests are owned and operated by transnational lumber companies. The oil industry is behind most global warming. The processed foods that are killing us are made my agribusiness. The arms industry profits enormously off modern wars. And there’s the operative word, isn’t it, profit. An entire world social structure organized around the taking of profit, above all else — in other words, capitalism, a concept that is nowhere to be seen in this movie, of course.

    Why did the machines turn on humans? Because, as the scientist explained, he had failed to give them souls. So he set about creating robots with souls, which made them, in essence, humans, because it is the soul that makes us human, not just intelligence or biology, or so Christians, Muslims, and Jews claim. And souls, as all these millions know, can be separated from bodies. So in addition to the regressive notion of technological determinism, the movie is pushing this antiquated religious idea of souls. We saw them right there in the movie, spirits walking around, having been extracted from their mechanical bodies by that magic devise, and then being lifted up into heaven, where they would finally “be free.” In the real world, there is no such thing as a soul. Humans are not divided into bodies and souls, as most educated people know.

    All in all, 9 is a thoroughly reactionary movie, in addition to being mostly just one long, very violent, fight.

  • I agree with the above comment that I really wanted to like this movie. It’s got all the elements I usually love- post-apocalyptic setting, steampunk, good animation, scifi themes, warrior ninja-chick, etc. But it just didn’t DO anything with these elements.

    What you saw as a “all the history of science fiction from both print and screen” looked to me like “derivative copying.” Hmm… nine companions who have to venture into the very source of the evil in order to save the world? The machine-fort temple thing looks quite a lot like Mordor, and likewise alludes to the evils of mechanization and industry. And the utterly forgettable everyman 9 is even voiced by Elijah Wood, not so subtly. (I had forgotten he was involved, and I was initially really excited by the prospect of a voiceless hero… sigh.)

    At least the bird-machine was cool.

    But I’m a bit surprised that you, of all reviewers, wouldn’t mention the blatant sexism woven throughout the story. Out of eleven characters (the nine, the scientist, and the machine thing), only ONE is female (good thing our life-preserving dolls aren’t really biological, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you think if your goal is to preserve and renew life you might have more than one female as part of your plan?). She is initially presented as a badass, with her bird skull helmet and mad monster-slaying “skillZ”. But it turns out she only has one move, and she never does anything productive again after that first encounter. She fails to defeat any of the monsters (even the bird! When she wears a BIRD SKULL HELMET!) and her only plot points are a) to provide an inexplicable love interest for 9 and b) to subsequently be kidnapped by the evil machine and rescued by 9.

    And of course at the end, we have the traditional nuclear family of 9, 7, and the two kids (3&4?). Well, I’ve always like amoebas best anyway.

    I have to wonder, was this always the plan? To have life on Earth renewed not by the life but by the death of these little dolls… so that all life on the planet will ultimately be traced to the spirit of one man? Talk about egomania.

    Argh! It could have been so good.

  • Paul

    While I agree with the bulk of your post about the real world, James, could it be that you are taking the movie too literally? Could it be that the soulless machine is a metaphor for amoral capitalism?

  • Accounting Ninja

    *SPOILERS for 9’s ending. Ye have been warned*

    And of course at the end, we have the traditional nuclear family of 9, 7, and the two kids (3&4?).

    This bugged me as well, I noticed it. But I wasn’t surprised. I almost predicted the survivor list: 9 (the main man), 7(the main and only woman) and 3 & 4 (the kids), based on movie conventions I’ve seen a thousand times before AT LEAST these WILL survive (hello, Jurassic Park). I kept hoping that someone else might survive, or that none save 9 would. Or that they would all die (see my crazy theory below).
    The “Smurfette thing” also bugged me, but I was more willing to forgive because a man had created them all from himself. I thought it was interesting that a piece of his soul turned out to be female. I saw it as a subtle suggestion that very few of us really conform to the rigid gender roles society sets for us; there’s a bit of both or neither (3&4 are ambiguously gendered) in all of us. Though to be honest, I was surprised that they had genders at all! I mean, they, um, obviously don’t possess biological gender.

    She fails to defeat any of the monsters (even the bird! When she wears a BIRD SKULL HELMET!) and her only plot points are a) to provide an inexplicable love interest for 9 and b) to subsequently be kidnapped by the evil machine and rescued by 9.

    Well, in all fairness, that thing was more robotic monstrosity than bird, and it was too much for all of them. And it never said whether she actually killed the bird whose skull she wore, or whether she just ended up finding the bleached out skull in the wastelend. (See? We need more backstory, Acker!) And, she wasn’t the only one captured and in need of rescuing: 8 was also in trouble. Plus, she saved 9’s burlap butt when they were running from the fiery oil drum explosion afterwards.
    I liked 7, weird love story aside, and I’m usually very sensitive to lame female roles. (And yes, it’s weird to imagine little doll people who are made from the same guy falling in love.) She was the only one with any chutzpah but she wasn’t a naive fool either. To me, she didn’t lose any of her effectiveness- the enemy simply became too big for any of them to fight any more. I wanted to know more about her motivations. What did she hope to accomplish living out in the wasteland apart from 1? Why did 3 & 4 go with her, but 5 & 2 stayed? And it was obvious by the way they looked at each other during the scene when 5 stitched up 7’s leg that 5 & 7 dug each other. I didn’t interpret 7 & 9 as the only weird love interest. :)

    I have to wonder, was this always the plan? To have life on Earth renewed not by the life but by the death of these little dolls… so that all life on the planet will ultimately be traced to the spirit of one man? Talk about egomania.

    I have to agree with you here. The ending, upon further reflection, didn’t make much sense. I had a Crazy Theory: that it would turn out that 9 and his friends would ALL have to die, so that the soul could join together and restart life…somehow. But it didn’t happen that way. So here’s my list of problems with the ending:
    -if releasing the soul energy from the dolls restarts life, then wouldn’t the best course of action be for the dolls to kill themselves? And if only part of a soul can restart all life, why make 9 parts? And are they now incomplete? Are there any ill effect from parts of the soul still trapped in those little golem bodies?
    -Where were all the other souls?? All life just died; where did all that energy go? The dead dolls’ souls, when released, just went into the sky; they didn’t need to be attached to anything to work their mojo. I’m just not sure why they can leave their bodies and still exist, but all the other life is just *gone*.
    -How did the Machine die? It looked like 9 sucked out its “soul”, along with the souls it had stolen. How did this kill it?? It was stated by Acker that the Machine HAS no soul by itself, and that it hates living things and longs to destroy them. Okay, but why did it have to consume souls? It didn’t need a soul to kill all humans. Why would it even have a port for the talisman? The Scientist had created the dolls in secret, and towards the end of civilization. I don’t think the machine even knew the dolls existed.
    What I think would have helped, and would have solved the above question of the other souls, was if the Machine had indeed consumed all the living energy of the world before being shut down somehow. So when 9 used the talisman, not only did he release his friends, but all the life energy of the earth.

    And lastly, touching on James’s post about the lies of souls and the religious implications: as an atheist, I admit I like stories like this. But only because it makes for a good fantasy. Even though I like this stuff, I’m still a staunch atheist. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi story, nothing more.

  • Grinebiter

    And yes, it’s weird to imagine little doll people who are made from the same guy falling in love.

    Don’t tell Aristophanes :-)

  • Accounting Ninja

    Seriously though, all my perverted, dirty mind could think of was if 7 and 9 fall in love, is that technically a form of masturbation? :D

  • Grinebiter

    Wouldn’t the same apply to two human lovers who claim to be “one soul in two bodies”?

  • James Herod

    Well, Paul, that’s an interesting interpretation. But for it to be true we’d have to establish that the movie was intended as a critique of capitalism. That seems a bit of a stretch to me. Although I usually don’t pay much attention to who makes a movie (sloppy of me I know), I did look up the Wikipedia article on Focus Features, in light of your comment. It is the art house film division of Universal Pictures, which is owned by General Electric. I looked over the list of their films since 1999, and of the couple dozen or so I recognized none are anti-capitalist, nor should we expect them to be. Hollywood, after all, is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America. They don’t screen critiques of themselves (anymore, as a rule). But this is not any grand conspiracy. This is just how they see the world. Look at what they see as threats to humanity and the earth: Aliens (The Arrival, War of Worlds [this last being a radical novel that was completely depoliticized by Hollywood’s movie], Predator, Independence Day); Asteroids and Comets (Armageddon, Deep Impact); a new ice age (Day After Tomorrow); a mad power-hungry scientist (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow); a virus (I Am Legend); a computer gone berserk and genocidal (the Terminator series); and so forth. Nowhere to be seen is the real, flesh and blood, criminal world ruling class that is in the process in the here and now of actually destroying the earth and everything living on it, unless they can be stopped.

    One of the reasons I rely so heavily on MaryAnn’s reviews is that she has the uncanny ability of sniffing out bad movies. I’ve learned that I can trust her and almost never go to one she has put a red light on. I hadn’t planned to go see this movie, but she put a green light on it. And indeed, it was an interesting and thought provoking movie, one worth analyzing for what it means, and how it supports the established order.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Wouldn’t the same apply to two human lovers who claim to be “one soul in two bodies”?

    Personally I’ve never been this kind of lover. I’ll keep my own “soul” in my own body thanks! Borg-couples are scary!

  • Paul

    Well, in Terminator 2, a corporation is a shadowy, behind the scenes villian. What makes it unusual is that we never meet the owners, or whoever made the decision to keep the source of their research a secret, dooming Sarah Connor to a nut house. And in Day After Tomorrow, it’s pretty clear the movie blames the Ice Age on human actions.

    The main villian in the “Pirates” movies is the East India Company. I think Julia Roberts made a legal movie fighting businesses.

    I think corporate America actually likes making movies about evil corporations because Americans like watching them and therefore it is profitable. If anything, the movies over-personalize the evil for dramatic effect, thereby lessening the truth that mundane evils are systematic, built into the premises.

  • Lucy Gillam

    It looks so very cool, it really does. And yet, when I watched the trailer (ironically, on the DVD of Coraline), I couldn’t help but notice one very glaring thing:

    Six named actors.

    One was a woman.

    I’m told 3&4 are coded female, but even if you ignore the problematic aspect of their communication, is it really so much to ask that Hollywood remember that women are half the human race? If we must gender non-human characters, could we have something even vaguely approaching equal numbers? Because I’m getting really sick of, “Oh, there’s this awesome female character…who’s the only female character is the whole movie.”

  • While you’re probably right about the typical male/female ratio in a lot of movies, in fairness to this particular movie,


    keep in mind the little…whatevers WERE pieces of a single man’s soul/spirit/katra/crazy-good-feeling, so it’s at least somewhat justified within the movie itself.

  • Lucy Gillam

    Well, yes, but they were written that way by someone. It’s kind of like the Horton Hears a Who thing, where the mayor had one son who got all his attention, and 90-odd completely irrelevant daughters. People always point out, well, the son was the oldest, and therefore was his heir, etc etc. And yes, that’s true, but it’s not like these are real people. Someone chose to make his oldest and heir a boy, and all the other kids daughters (thus implying that they couldn’t take over if their brother wouldn’t). And I don’t think things like this are deliberate. It’s just…it never would have occurred to much of anyone that “9” could have been coded female, and that thus the protagonist and title character could be voiced by a woman, because for the most part, we don’t tell these stories about women and girls.

    (Thus the irony of me seeing the trailer before >Coraline, which is one of the very, very rare exceptions.)

    I’m just so damned tired of it. I’m tired of looking at the movies Hollywood wants me to show my kid and having to choose between princesses and stories where there’s maybe one of people like her in the main cast. Hell, I’m tired of it for myself.

  • Michael

    Ah, I think I misunderstood the nature of your original objection. Point taken. :)

  • worromot

    I wonder if something is wrong with me or with the world. The reviews of 9 tended to be positive, including this one from MAJ, whom I trust on sci-fi. And it has been running in theatres forever, so people must have liked it.

    So I finally went the other day — and it was horrible. There is no there there. The visuals are unimaginative: did the monsters have to be exported from the Matrix? The war-of-the-worlds style menacing tripods are a hundred years old. And the visuals ARE by far the best thing about this movie, ’cause everything else if much worse. The dialog is best left without comment. The plot is unclear at best (what exactly was accomplished? in what sense is it “their world now”? And I puked in my mouth when the unexplained ghosts appeared at the end of a supposedly hard sci-fi story).

    But the worst part is the hero. We are supposed to cheer for an effing moron. 9 is basically Dick Cheney: he starts horrible violence by being an ignorant jerk, and he keeps urging others to go risk their lives because, well, he feels, with his zippered gut, that they have to. Don’t get me wrong, I like my Die Hard as much as the next guy, but stubbornness and itching for a fight should not be shot with soft, mythical focus.

    That movie sucked.

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