Monday, September 21, 2009

Jason watches 9

That is, the movie "9", not 9 movies or something.

Anyway, it's an inherently difficult proposition to try and make a story in which the characters are non-human, not even animals, and try to have the same emotional connection as if they were human. WALL-E is the gold standard of this, and 9 doesn't come close. It's visually very entertaining, and moves pretty briskly (the movie clocks in at just under 80 minutes). In fact, it's probably too brisk, not enough time to get to know and care about the little burlap sack critters, each imbued with a life force from a now-dead scientist. It's just not much of a story-wise or character-wise. There's a machine they must fight, there's a talisman that's the secret to it all, and there's a "beware of weapons technology, it will turn on you" back story that's pretty obvious (how many "the robots turned against us" stories are there now? And by the way, does anyone care about the irony of a computer-animated anti-technology screed?) If the soul of humanity is destined to be carried in these little one-dimensional burlap sack critters, why even bother?


baceman007 said...

Well I haven't seen this yet, but I will just say that robots having human problems has been overdone as well. I would say that something like Battlestar Galactica, although very cheesy (the second more than the first believe it or not), deals with this over a much longer period than Wall-E so I would say that although Wall-E is an excellent movie I think there are many other SF examples that deal with robots with human emotional discovery problems over a much longer period of time. If you are specifically targeting CG movie, and not the whole genre, then yes you are probably right :).

puppymeat said...

Interesting point about BSG (I'll have to go back and watch the original series now) and the whole "robots with human problems" angle (Data on ST: TNG is another over-baked example). I was more thinking about the difficulties of anthropomorphizing something that's not very human-like in the first place.

BSG (the reboot) is fairly easy to anthropomorphize the cylons because they look exactly like cylons. In all, the non-human side is sort of theoretical, in their actions and/or the fuzzy concept of a "soul".

Likewise it's easy to anthropomorphize animals with cute faces. Or even slap a face on an inanimate object and make is dance around a la any number of Disney cartoons (most noticeably Beauty and the Beast).

What both Wall-E did well and 9 less so was anthropomorphizing critters that looked (intentionally) very unlike humans. 9 actually tries to shape them like humans--just little humans made of burlap sacks. And it just looks weird and never clicked with me emotionally.

I still say Wall-E is a high-water mark in anthropomorphizing a non-human character, and especially because they did it without doing something silly like slapping a face on a teacup.

baceman007 said...

Well all I can say to that is you're right. Still the stupid Apple chime that the robots had when they started up was lame. I mean really, the company hardly makes computers anymore, if the robots had iPods or iPhones with them that would have made more sense, but being Apple products themselves is just wishful thinking especially in the distant future :). Now if they had the Ubuntu start up music that would be more accurate.

baceman007 said...

Also, the episode I'm thinking of from the BSG original series that deals the most with this issue is called "The Return of Starbuck" and is actually part of Galactica 1980 which can be streamed on Netflix btw.