REVIEW: ‘9’

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Grade: B-

Shane Acker’s film 9 began as an Oscar nominated animated short in 2005 clocking in at only 11 minutes. For the theatrically released feature film, Acker stretched out the story to a still very short 79 minutes with the production assistance of director/producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. The result is a thrilling adventure movie that is heavy on action and creativity, but light on story and character development.

In fact, 9 feels very much like a stretched out short film. More action sequences were added and a little unnecessary plot points were sprinkled in to create the feeling of something whole. However, I think this story works better in a short film format, as the character relationships are glossed over in favor of presenting lengthy action sequences.

Don’t get me wrong, those action sequences are fantastic and they do a great job of setting the tone for a dark, post-apocalyptic nightmare. There is some fantastic and creative animation at work in this movie as the 9 humanoids, each equipped with his or her own unique skills struggle to survive in a world that has turned against them.

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9 takes place after a human vs. machine war has ended with the extinction of man kind. All that is left are 9 hand-sewn, hand-crafted humanoid creatures and the bestial machines that are out to get them. The 9 remaining creatures were being lead by the fearful 1, who forbids the others from leaving their sanctuary. The newcomer to the group is 9, who carries a mysterious talisman with unknown purpose. While on a mission to save other members of the group, 9 plugs the talisman into a mysterious machine, which instantly sucks the soul from 2 and gains a new life.

The machine’s purpose is to construct versions of itself meant at destroying anything resembling human life. The 9 humanoids are now faced with pterodactyl, spider, and cobra-like machines that terrorize and destroy everything in sight. The battle of man vs. machine is not unlike the one depicted in the Terminator franchise and the machines are even equipped with a glowing red eye.

The film is rich with Grecian, Latin, and Slavic mythology. The motivation for the characters to save their fallen comrades is so their souls may be free. The basis for the characters’ existence is inspired by the same mythology that developed the Horcruxes in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Some of the mythology is unintentionally laughable, such as when they send off the body of one of their fallen friends with a giant penny covering both eyes.

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There is no doubt the film has some great ideas, but the impatient pace at which the film progresses leaves much to be desired. The motivations behind 9’s transition from foil to hero are never really clear, nor are many of the character relationships ever really defined. It’s kind of a “take their word for it” kind of story. You have to establish connections based on what they say, because they have little time to show their feelings.

Like most animated films these days, 9 has an all-star voice-acting cast. Acting legends Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer are featured with Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, and Elijah Wood. The two veterans Landau and Plummer turn in the best voice-acting performances in roles that could have easily slipped into robotic-sounding. The other members of the voice-acting cast were nothing special and easily forgettable.

Bottom Line: The film is worth checking out for the creativity of the action sequences alone, however, don’t be surprised if you are left wanting more.

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