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Sun August 23, 2009
Wall-E it is not.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
"Sometimes fear is the appropriate response." 1 (voice of Christopher Plummer)
Fearsome is the post-apocalyptic world to which the titular character of the animation 9 (voice of Elijah Wood) wakes up. Although only one of a few creations of a scientist who also fashioned the destructive machine that has reduced the planet to rubble, 9 leads his cohorts on an aggressive mission to save the planet.
Wall-E this film is not. Given that one of the producers is Tim Burton, darkness is the operative ambience. Whereas Wall-E has moments of tender love, 9 has almost none: It's a Mad-Max world of survival, not in a struggle for energy resources, but for the soul. On that latter point the scientist who started all the mayhem would agree, for machines without soul are reckless without reason. But his burlap-sacked humanoids like 9 are infused with soul, as the final sequence amply shows.
The quest to survive is overtly compared to the journey in The Wizard of Oz, where the Wizard is the scientist behind the curtain: the red-eyed monster is an obvious reference to the out-of-control computer, Hal, in Kubrick's 2001, both of which can be referenced to the monster from the id in Forbidden Planet. And on and on, I suspect, if I were to search for more allusions.
Although the Burtonesque bleakness is a welcome antidote to recent moralizing science fiction such as the animated Terra, the lack of humor and lyricism is a hindrance to its appeal for a general audience. The glut of scenes in which different machines chase the protagonist and his cohorts is excessive and a laziness for director and originator Shane Acker, who could have relied on character development rather than CGI.
Such is the stuff of an intelligent animation not necessarily meant for youngsters.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com