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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Visually stunning ‘9’ is one for the teens

    Visually stunning 9 is one for the teens

    Welcome to the future: man’s lustful curiosity and reliance on technology has pitted him against a deadly force of artificial intelligence of his own making. And with nary an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Keanu Reeves in sight, things are looking pretty grim.

    The animated thriller “”9,”” a feature-length extension of director Shane Acker’s Oscar-nominated (2005) short of the same name, posits this same techno-apocalypse that paranoid sci-fi writers have been warning about for decades, but offers in return a very unlikely salvation…

    Enter the sentient beanbags!

    That’s right, the fate of intelligent life on this planet rests squarely on the dainty, hand-hemmed shoulders of living, breathing beanbag badasses — and one beanbag badass in particular, designated only as #9. Reprising his role as a scrawny protagonist with the fate of the world in his pocket, Elijah Baggins — sorry,  Elijah Wood — voices the precocious final creation of one of the world’s foremost scientific minds on the eve of mechanical twilight, giving exactly the kind of performance you’d expect in a movie that follows exactly the kind of narrative arc you’d expect.

    To be more specific, the plot of “”9″” is delivered in episodic, video-game-like encounters with increasingly ferocious forces of evil, beginning with a lithe canine machine known as “”the beast”” and climaxing with a self-propagating uber-machine known as “”the machine.”” Apparently, in the future people will be so preoccupied with not being vaporized by mechanized turncoats that they’ll forget how to come up with cool nicknames.

    The film begins with stunning, even jaw-dropping CGI images of #9’s careful assembly while a somber voice-over recaps the fall of man, which is pure doomsayer’s delight. #9 awakens an indeterminate amount of time later to find himself dangling from the ceiling of a lonely laboratory, his creator lying dead on the floor beneath a blizzard of loose papers that will never be viewed by human eyes again.

    After wandering into the wastes, which bear an aesthetic resemblance to the bleak, battered cities of post-WWII Europe, #9 soon runs into the first of his bean-y brethren, designated as #2. An ambush by “”the beast”” results in #2’s capture and #9’s fate of finding and rallying any remaining survivors in a rescue attempt that ends up determining the planet’s destiny.

    The plot of “”9″” is nothing new, and in fact comes across quite stale at times. This is to be expected, though, from the film’s PG-13 rating and decisive use of Coheed and Cambria in its trailer.

    It’s no secret that the primary audience for this suspenseful, eerie spawn of producers Tim Burton (“”Corpse Bride,”” “”Sweeney Todd””) and Timur Bekmambetov (“”Wanted””) is teenage boys — the  “”Matrix””-esque  beanbag swordplay and recurring high-stakes escapes is a good indicator of that — but that’s not to say that no aspect of “”9″” will appeal to broader audiences.

    Foremost, the computer animation in the film is positively mouth-watering. From ultra-detailed close ups of textured beanbag skin to sweeping long-shots of dark, decimated cities, “”9″” is a visual feast that makes even the most trite, cliched aspects of the narrative a pleasure to watch.

    Another bonus is the diverse cast of voice actors embodied in the teeny-weenie-beanie heroes. Jennifer Connelly (“”A Beautiful Mind,”” “”Blood Diamond””) plays the spunky, blade-wielding #7, who becomes as much of a love interest as an asexual beanbag Frankenstein can be. John C. Reilly (“”Walk Hard,”” “”Step-Brothers””) as the timid #5 is also a welcome source of comic relief in the unaccommodating landscape of the apocalypse.

    Though the shallow script may have you rolling your eyes, the sheer beauty of the on-screen imagery will magnetize them right back, time and time again. For an animation buff or bored pubescent wearied by video games, “”9″” is a must-see; for the more analytic audience, though, salvation may be better sought in the 11-minute short.

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