9: ** 1/2 (out of 4)

Aah, hologram movies! On the one hand, they are pretty and shiny and high-tech; on the other, they are shallow and do not hold up to the slightest scrutiny. Sometimes, they work out well - The Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind, as does The Dark Crystal - and other times you end up with a pile of beautiful but meaningless much, such as Corpse Bride, or The Phantom Menace. But even if their track record is poor, movies like these are fun to go to - either to report back as to the glory, or to warn away those that are likewise sucked in by the Pretty Colors.

Of course, "pretty" is a relative thing when it comes to a movie like 9 (not to be confused with Nine, coming out later this year for maximum confusion). The animation style of this movie is gritty and realistic, and the sets displayed are post-apocalyptic. Dirt and debris is everywhere, and there is a decidedly steampunk vibe to all of the proceedings. Even the characters are simply stitched together. But for me, just seeing the dust hanging in the air through the animation added a lot to the spectacle for me, as the grime and destruction reminded me of the kinds of video games that I play for fun.

And speaking of video games - yeah, it felt like one. That's not altogether a bad thing, though. The action scenes are well done, in a very Final Fantasy-esque manner; all the characters seem to take logical and consistent actions in every battle, and the environment is used to great effect. The creatures were varied, spectacular, and somehow logical. Nothing was really wasted, in exactly the way that no good video game background is just ignored. All in all, I could see this making a nice game... if you could get over losing your characters on a regular basis. That really was a fair bit of death!

Past the spectacle, though, there's not a whole lot to say about the movie. The characters are more developed than just their names (1 through 9), but only barely. The background story is bleak and impressively depressing (and perhaps even thought-out!), but has few connections to the actual storyline. The villain was clear enough and acted in a generally logical manner, but its reason for being was not at all obvious. The eventual resolution came mostly out of nowhere. And while the ending was clear, the reason for the ending wasn't very logical - or even connected to the rest of the movie!

Still, on balance I'm happy I saw the movie. I wonder if I'll enjoy it more down the line, when the plot becomes merely a memory and a piece of the overall animation. For now, I can't really say that it's any better than a middling movie.

** 1/2