APOCOLYPSE NOW REDUX REDUX: Review of 9 (followed in another post by Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone and Zombieland)


9 is what I usually call a curiosity; something that is certainly interesting, but exactly what I’m suppose to make of it is a bit of a mystery. In movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Screamers, the question is asked, if one can’t determine the difference between a robot, android, clone etc. and a human being, is there one? In 9, the answer is assumed and it is no, there is none, they are the same. It’s questionable whether this works out in a satisfactorily dramatic manner because in many ways 9 answers the question the way the authors Pamela Pettler and Shane Acker (who also directed) may not have intended—they want to suggest there is no difference, but everything in the movie screams the opposite. These dolls may have self awareness and emotions, but they just don’t make it as replacements for human beings. For example, they can’t reproduce (so even if they do survive, it doesn’t mean anything to the continuation of the human race). Though some are older than others, they can’t age (though presumably they can decay). And fortunately for the producers and directors and the MPAA ratings board, they can’t go through puberty, much less have sex (the authors even go to the trouble of creating one female doll—only one, mind you, I suppose that’s all females are worth in this futuristic world—but to what end is hard to say, except to get little girls into the audience). And so in the end, it’s a little difficult to become fully invested emotionally in some dolls desperately trying to survive a post apocalyptic world where not only are there no more human beings, there doesn’t seem to be life forms left of any sort.

In spite of the questionable philosophy behind the story line itself, there is much to admire here. The animation is remarkable and the action sequences exciting. But the real star of the whole shebang may be the sound designers and engineers. The film is filled with strange clicks and berplunks, eerie whinings and buzzings, doing as much to create the reality of this world as the animators themselves. At the same time, the voiceovers may be a matter of taste. For me, only Christopher Plummer’s menacing evil bass really carries the day. The others, like those of Elijah Wood and John C. Reilly, seem a bit awkward, more like voices used to dub anime rather than actors used to create original characters

Though the time is the future, it really has more in common with post World War II Europe. The animation style resembles that of cartoons coming out of post-Communist Eastern Europe. The machinery has an old timey feel as well buoyed by a guest appearance of a crank up Victrola (somehow this world bypassed CD players and iPods). Though the theme is universal, the politics steer clear of anything U.S. of A. with the use of key words by the bad guys like “comrade” and “the state”. One character, dressed like a concentration camp survivor, spends his time creating drawings in a style called concentration camp gothic. And the scenes of a city bombed out use backgrounds that look like the devastated cities of Dresden and Berlin in the 1940’s. In other words, though the destruction of the world is all our faults, some political views and philosophies are more to blame than others. Nothing like hedging one’s bets.

The ending resembles something more anime than something made locally. It sorta, kinda makes sense, but not really and not if one tries to figure it out. The way the evil machine is destroyed feels arbitrary and the characters returning as ghouls perhaps means something to the filmmakers, but it went over my head. The final scene, which I suppose is suppose to be hopeful (it starts raining and the drops contain what seem to be the beginning of life), struck me as incredibly depressing. It’s hard to say what you’re suppose to make of a happy ending which says that everything is going to be all right, or at least it will in 25 million years when evolution again recreates human life as we know it.

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