Posted on 9/16/09 08:55 PM
I really really wanted to like this movie. The previews make it look so awesome, like it is this amalgamation of fantasy, science fiction, anime, all topped off with a dash of myth for good measure. It looks innovative and ground breaking; it looks like a truly original film.
On top of this, the last sci-fi short turned feature length film I saw was outstanding.
Well I did sort of get what the previews promised, even if I got a movie when the previews promised a film...
The movie is a mash up of various myths, which for the most part depend on the viewer's acceptance of the judeo-christian system of morality. Now don't get me wrong here, Philip K. Dick is my favorite author and he squeezes the bible into many of his novels, so it's not the value system itself that is the problem, but rather the way it is presented in this movie that is at issue.
The problems with this movie are greater than the unsophisticated way this movie handles morality, however. There are big and small issues which all combine to create an unbalanced and messy feature.
I'll start with the small things, issues that were seemingly small but in reality were glaringly representative of the overall clumsiness that marred the movie.
First of all (minor spoilers ahead), there is a scene about twenty minutes into the movie in which 9 and 5 decide to try rescue 2 (for those unfamiliar with the story, the characters are assigned numbers in place of names). 5 brings a map, and predictably, it blows away. As the two sneak into the ominous evil robot lair, an unknown individual trailing them finds the map in exactly the same place that it just blew away from.
The second small (but symptomatic) issue with the movie is the big grand daddy baddy. He has a flame thrower on his arm, yet he lives in a building so full of motor oil that one small fire is enough to wipe out his entire army, and the building itself.
Anyway, this post is already getting overlong so I need to stop over-analyzing every flaw. I'll just touch on one more flaw (the movie's biggest flaw in my opinion), the lack of believable characterization.
In any story, a character's moral decision making must be underscored by an authentic and logical back story. For instance, the character 8 clearly has some sort of substance abuse problem. This helps make his abusive bullying more believable and authentic.
On the other hand, we follow the character 9 basically starting with his creation. Yet despite 9's relative innocence and youth (can robots be young? Seeing as these are highly anthropomorphic robots, I'm gonna say yes), he is instantly able to correctly make all the tough moral choices that cross his path. The audience just doesn't get enough behavioral back-story to buy into 9's altruistic and heroic bravery.
9 (the character, not the movie) is a perefect example of what is wrong with this movie. 9's altruistic behavior (like the movie in general) is too blatant and clumsy. The sci-fi and fantasy tropes don't help to make the judeo-christian mythos that are at the core of the movie sufficiently original. The characters robotically behave in a certain way with no character development authenticating their decision making. Overall, the movie is either overlong (I hear the short film that inspired the movie is very good) or over-short (if they had just more fully developed a few characters I would have believed in the plot more completely).
Fortunately, the movie isn't all bad. In fact, the movie is incredibly visually stunning. It is so visually powerful, in fact, that it makes the movie enjoyable despite the glaring flaws. A very high (almost C-) D+.
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