A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 193 – 9 (2009)

9 (2009) – September 9th, 2010

While this movie certainly has a dystopian post-apocalyptic setting, I will assure you right away that it is nothing like last night’s movie. For one, it’s animated. For another, it’s not satire. Oh, and it has no sex, no drugs and no Bai Ling. I suppose one could make a somewhat strained attempt at an allegorical analysis, but it would really only work on a messianic level. Which is fine and all. There’s a god figure and a messiah figure and if you wanted to get all academic about it you could. But I prefer to enjoy it without mucking around like that.

It’s not a complicated story, which is another way it differs from last night’s movie. It’s really rather simple. It’s short and it’s easy to follow, even though the first ten minutes or so have no dialogue. There’s a little bit of narration, and then it’s all visuals as we meet 9, a little figure made of canvas and gears, string and a zipper and tiny copper and wood hands and feet. He is a made creature, built by an obviously skilled craftsman who has died before 9 wakes up. Somehow he brought 9 to life. After 9 leaves the house he was made in we see what the world has come to. It’s a desolate place full of rubble and ruins, death and decay, broken things and no people. 9 meets 2, another little figure much like himself but slightly less refined, and so we find that there are a total of nine figures, each made by the same man and sent out into the world with their numbers on their backs. It’s a hostile world, though, and some of them have been lost. 1 keeps the remaining figures safe in a church, for there are mechanical beasts lurking. Dangers they can’t fight.

Of course when 9 arrives he throws things into disarray. He questions 1, defies him, goes after 2 to save him from one of the beasts and ends up waking a machine that builds other machines and begins to hunt them all down. We met the rest of the figures, one by one, and learn about what they are and who they are and where they came from. They weren’t just sent out there for kicks. They have a purpose. And each one is different.

I suppose it’s a little hackneyed to some that each one of the nine represent a different facet of their creator’s personality, but I like it. I think it’s done very nicely and I like how the characters are built. There’s the leader type, there’s a tinkerer, a pair of librarians and academics, a caretaker for the others, a mystic with artistic leanings, a brave warrior, the one-man brute squad, and finally an inquisitive adventurer. Sure, there’s some overlap, but that suits them. No two share everything except the librarians (who seem to be twins), and each one fits with the others in a different way. And, much like humans, they bicker and fight and end up divided until a common foe unites them.

As I said, it’s a simple story. It’s a quest. In a harsh landscape a small band of survivors must defeat a powerful enemy and somehow restore hope that life will flourish again. That’s not complex. And the different traits of the characters are really a bald-faced way of setting out each character’s role in the story, which most movies do anyhow but don’t go practically labeling them. But the story is told and performed so well, and the visuals and animation are so beautiful, that a simple story with clearly defined character roles becomes something more.

The visuals are what struck me first. The world the nine inhabit is not a pleasant one, certainly. It’s ugly. It’s destroyed. It’s full of crashed planes and half-bombed bunkers and discarded weapons. The buildings are smashed in and there are at least three dead bodies seen partially by 9 himself. But those things are done in careful detail. The workshop where the nine were made, and the figures themselves, they’re incredibly intricate. Even the monsters, cobbled together from spare parts and animal skeletons, are beautiful in their ugliness. But really, it’s the figures that I love the most. Them and the library. Each figure was clearly made with a combination of found objects and custom-made pieces. Their eyes are little lenses with apertures that open and close to form the pupils. The librarian twins don’t talk but can project images with their eyes. The materials each of the figures are made from differ in texture and shade. 6 is striped, 7 is smooth, 3 and 4 are garden gloves. There’s a semi-steampunk feel to things without going quite far enough to truly be steampunk.

And then there’s the library. Of course I love the library. 3 and 4 have built up a huge store of items and ephemera and books and film reels and set it all up in a circular tower with their catalog in the middle on the ground floor. Strings on each page lead to the appropriate alcove full of information. Elegant and fun at the same time. I want a room like that.

In the end it’s all only resolved enough to give hope, not clear answers. Some of the characters are dead and gone. Others survive to try and rebuild and reclaim the world that’s been left to them, flawed and broken by the now-extinct human race. I’d be curious to see a sequel, but much like with the allegorical stuff, I’m content to let it go. It’s a lovely movie all on its own and doesn’t really need any more mucking around.

September 9, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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