City of Ember

I find myself less and less interested in movies nowadays unless they look good and have a plot.

I just discovered City of Ember, Kelly got it via netflix and it was fantastic. A lot of the crew is a holdover from Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, but it manages to not be either of those two movies while still offering up a decent musical score, thematic style and plot. In fact the plot was one of the few in recent memory that avoided stupidly campy moments and nonsense decision making.

I had actually gotten the movie confused with another film released in 1995 (City of Lost Children) with similar thematic elements – if City of Lost Children wanted to play nice. City of Lost Children is rated R for a reason, while City of Ember is rated PG and it makes it thoroughly enjoyable. Despite the thematic elements of grandma dying and someone being eaten by a giant mole, the direction is the same as Nightmare/Bride where they chose to handle a potentially grisly topic without inspiring actual horror.

That being said, when I approached the movie I felt that Hellboy and Harry Potter had borrowed heavily from it but now I realize all the movies came out around the same time, so someone who builds fantastical sets from the 1950s was very busy. The market in Hellboy 2 in particular looks strikingly like the layout of the city. I think this is why it had terrible box office reception, in addition to looking like these other movies it also had to compete with them for moviegoer eyes and dollars and it wasn’t advertised much. I can’t even remember seeing a commercial for it.

It’s entirely worthc checking out.

9 Sucked and Shane Acker Should Kill Himself

9 was another AVATAR. I desperately wanted it to not suck, but the movie looked so good and then sold us so short on the ending. Shane Acker should have stuck with animating the Lord of the Rings.

There’s spoilers here.

Basically these dolls wake up in some kind of post apocalyptic world. For several hours it’s basically Terminator 4 for kids. Which is nice, if you enjoyed Terminator 4 or Fallout or whatever post nuclear/biological/chemical war game/movie you can come up with it’s a nice browse and it’s amusing to see these little guys running around.


Up until you get to the end of the movie you assume that these guys are cute robots and they’re fighting evil robots. The direction plays into the whole idea of Terminator 4 for kids by going out of it’s way to talk about robots, and robot parts, and how these guys have hands of copper and clockwork etc etc etc.

Then they decide to go back to the room they were “invented” in and there’s a musicbox they find which shows them that they were actually made of “base materials” and the original machine was “more easilly corrupted” and the final revelation is that a device which has three mystical letters on it lets an “inventor” (read “magician”) transfer a part of his soul into them to bring them to life. If you’re saying “Wow three letters? Imprinting the soul onto baser material? Machines which are corruptable? That sounds like the classical hebrew golem story!” you win a one internet prize, sir! And that’s exactly what it was, including having one golem defeat another golem and to top it off when the “souls” are freed, they go into the sky and it starts to rain.

Here’s the problem – it doesn’t work as a story. In terminator, which Acker drew heavilly from, humanity is saved from corruption by destroying the machines. This seems to dovetail into the plot of 9 if you’re not paying much attention since the original, corrupted machine which declares war on humanity is destoryed and “the source” is returned. OK this is all well and good and the source might be that nuclear cube that guy in India is pushing.

Except it’s not. In a completely stupid and unnessecary element to the plot, we find out the source is a device which steals a portion of it’s users soul and puts it in a machine. Apparently 10% of a soul if the number of little guys represents the sum of souls. And here’s where it goes from being an enjoyable, “Terminator for Kids” to something completely stupid. If each of the machines is 10% of this guys soul, then not only do the little guys represent pieces of his soul warring with one another (a decent metaphore if they had stuck with it) but there’s a major, major plot problem. The Source can be used by the skynet machine to “capture” the other souls. Except it’s not capturing anything, it’s merely collecting the portions of the other souls. But at the end of the movie, they kill the skynet device and not only does it not have a soul (despite being the first machine the source was used on) but it’s “evil”. The other guys souls are intact and ascend into the sky. Whatever that means. And then it rains, to finally corrupt the skynet machine entirely (which is made of iron).

They should have stuck with Terminator for Kids and ended the movie about 15 minutes early.