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2009 computer animated film directed by Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton.

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Tightly stitched; lacks adequate filling

  • Jul 21, 2011
  • by
Essentially a feature-length expansion of the impressive short film that director Shane Acker created as a student project at UCLA, this CG cartoon is considerably better than its mild stateside reception might suggest. What it lacks in story and character development, 9 compensates for with an ingenious production design, extraordinary graphics and an endearing sincerity.

Set in a war-ravaged landscape devoid of organic life and inhabited by nine sentient, action figure-sized rag doll homunculi, the lightweight story begins when the titular last among their group awakens to life. Through adventure and accident, a massive automaton designed to build and organize the operations of war machines is reactivated and immediately prepares to fulfill its sole function: to exterminate the only other intelligent life forms known to it. Attempts to combat this military construct are complicated by hierarchical in-fighting and a revelation concerning the difficult relation between these survivors and their adversary.

Murky, junk-strewn and brimming with detail, the post-apocalyptic terrain is a suitably perilous backdrop for quite a few elaborate character designs. Each homunculus appears constructed of different metals and fabrics, and their devised tools and patchwork self-repairs indicate the nature of both their intelligence and hardships. Even more impressive than these are the piecemeal antagonists built to pursue them, each comprised of commonplace items, animal remains and scraps of fabrics and metals. This attention to detail is only enhanced by the extraordinarily naturalistic body language and motion with which each character is imbued.

Ably voiced by a well-cast selection of popular actors, all of the roles were assigned to performers perfectly suited to them. Christopher Plummer and John C. Reilly are particular standouts, Elijah Wood is appropriate in the well-intentioned but none-too-bright lead, Crispin Glover is afforded far too little time as the manic artist of the group and Martin Landau and Jennifer Connelly provide backbone as the two most reliable personalities. Luminary cartoon vocalist Alan Oppenheimer provides the voice of the group's fatherly roboticist creator - clearly an ironic casting decision, as he's a cousin of famed theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Even though its exceptional visuals have been uniformly praised, it's not difficult to understand why 9 failed to attract more than passing notice during its numerous test screenings and brief theatrical run. The film's tone is almost invariably dismal, major protagonists are killed off repeatedly and the story's gloomy conclusion isn't terribly satisfying. A hopelessly inept advertising campaign didn't help matters, but blame for this film's failure to attract a wider audience rests squarely on the shoulders of that very audience. Most Americans don't know what they want unless it's stupid and simple. I've read one complaint after another of this film's eighty-minute brevity as though the running time is a flaw in and of itself, but if its ample action had been interspersed with more exposition and deliberation, it's certain that the popular complaint for it would be that it's boring.

If 9 is deficient in any way, it's because its intriguing world and the fascinating inhabitants therein are too often terrorized, and barely examined. As a result, each of these little survivors are well-defined but lack any significant depth. Both the concept and its execution are full of invention and heart, and for this it warrants a viewing, but its narrative is underdeveloped and likely to leave most wanting.

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More 9 reviews
review by . September 12, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
         Based on the award-winning short film by Shane Acker, the CGI-animated full-length feature film “9” intends to expand on its myth and story. Acker himself takes the helm as director in this film co-produced by Tim Burton along with Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted). When I first saw the trailer for “9”, I was blown away. I tempered my expectations when I went into the theater and did watch the film with an open mind. The film is a visually …
review by . March 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
 9 is a post-apocalyptic film where the human race was entirely destroyed by stronger, and more intelligent machines that completely blew to pieces any army the world could come up with. But just before his death a scientist tries to keep the world going, so he creates nine rag dolls that come alive, and can talk. #1 (Christopher Plummer) is the obvious leader of the group, and knowing that they have no chance at defeating the great machine monters he insists on hiding until the one day that …
review by . November 06, 2009
I heard about "9" like most people did, sitting a dark movie theater waiting for my movie to play. And as I was waiting a quaint and dark little trailer started to roll it showed a bombed out city and as I watched I became more and more intrigued at the premise of the film and the dark, Gothic style it infused with the brilliant and breathtaking animation. But I didn't see it it until about a month later and now I'm regretting not having seen it while it was in theaters, Shane Acker and …
review by . September 15, 2009
Not sure whether this is about the world of the future, or the world of another dimension.  Could be either.  Human beings have been wiped out by evil machines.  The only life left are numbered "rag dolls", basically another form of machine.  9 comes to life, and meets the other "rag dolls", who cower in fear of the beast.  I don't want to give the entire plot away, but the rag dolls learn much that is human from the various difficulties that 9 causes …
review by . November 01, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
With an award winning, Oscar nominated animator at its helm and the names of Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov attached, this movie was always going to have a lot of expectation surrounding it. Sadly, I felt it didn't quite live up to its potential. Although, that's not to say the film is a total letdown. Quite the opposite in fact. There's much to admire and enjoy here.      The design and animation work is extremely impressive; some of the best I've seen in any animated movie.  …
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A good allegory of the many facets of are humanity and how important they all are.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It's a shame that 9 didn't get the hype it deserved for the way it makes you think. The short run-time might be a hint as to why.
Quick Tip by . July 18, 2010
This film is not well known in the animated world, but everyone should give it a try. Its dark and edgy and just keeps you up throughout the whole sequence.
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A film about puppets. Everyone has their own take on it, so watch it and get your own opinion.
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Quirky and unique, a new way to look at things, I was intrigued by this movie and like Tim Burton. The fact of war, being corrupted and wiping out humanity and a way to save some life make it a very interesting tale told through animation with the little "sewn" vodoo like dolls.
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Robert Buchanan ()
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9 is a 2009 computer-animated science fantasy thriller film directed by Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. The film starsElijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer It is based on Acker's Academy Award-nominated 2005 short film of the same name. The screenplay for the film was written by Pamela Pettler, with casting by Mindy Marin, production design by Robert St. Pierre and Fred Warter, and art direction by Christophe Vacher.

Nine small rag dolls, stitched together from burlap and clock workings and lenses, are all that stands in the way of the world being overtaken by the Machines. Actually, as9begins, it looks like the Machines have already had their way with Earth: this is one of those post-apocalyptic landscapes without life, hope, or sunlight. Clearly9director Shane Acker is willing to make an animated film that doesn't soar with Disney colors or Pixar cheer--in fact, main characters are killed off before the movie's halfway through. Our hero is 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), so dubbed for the number on his back; after awakening to very confused consciousness, he bumps into other puppet survivors, such as the imperious 1 (Christopher Plummer), the warrior-like 7 (Jennifer Connelly), and the one-eyed comic sidekick 5 (John C. Reilly). They do battle with the Machines in...
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Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: September 9, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 19min
Studio: Universal Studios, Focus Features
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