An odd little dark art piece.
9 is like nothing I've seen before, and that means many things. The best way to describe it is with comparisons, though they don't quite suffice. The animation? In six words, I wish it was stop-motion. It's really got that Laika/Burton feel, but it's CGI. Competent CGI, yes, but I'm so used to this kind of thing being amazing stop-motion that I wish for that to have been the medium. The world? Fascinating. It's a post-apocalyptic film about homunculus steampunky Sackboys fighting to survive against horrific mechanical nightmares in a desolate Earth. It's not hugely supernatural, but alchemical themes are alluded to, and the focus is mainly on these nine little mechanical cloth people and the demon machines around them, like a malicious WALL•E setting. The concepts and designs for the stitchpunk nine are really cool, feeling both futuristic, slightly like BioShock, and like vintage fantasy, and the enemy machines are really twisted and scary. The tone is good. It's genuinely dark and serious, with hardly any spots of comic relief or family-movie happy resolutions. Events are weighty and big and yet are often not overplayed in one direction or another. It almost feels like an industrial-toned myth or fairy tale in its simplicity. The story is minimal. It really feels like the extended short film it was, so concept and visuals are in the forefront while characters and plot are just there to fuel the ideas. While I like some of its expedience and In Medias Res feel, there isn't enough development or subtlety in its writing because of that. I keep coming to the idea that it's a video game with no gameplay because the restrained writing can only go so far in being considered writing, leaving it feeling like just the most important film clips being used as cutscenes in an adaptation game. Characters do things before they are established and dramatic opportunities are left as passing events. If the piece were longer, it might have been much deeper. Perhaps the plot and numerical themes would have been stronger if both the good and evil creators in this story had nine creations. This film is a really cool trip into a new world, but don't go into it for a deep lesson.
This film is not for the shallow.
I guess the best way to start this review would be to list its ups and downs. Pros:
- Excellent, flawless CGi and beautiful animation.
- Very creative and imaginative world, characters and premise.
- Beautiful soundtrack.
- Fridge Brilliance galore.
- Too short. Way too short.
- A plot and storyline that takes "Show Dont Tell" a little too seriously. The story outwardly appears to be shallow and derivative due to the very little Exposition, when it is anything but. Requires heavy interpretation to fill in the blanks.
- Many interesting characters get very little screentime due to the film's short length.