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

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The Dolls Shall Inherit the Earth

  • Sep 9, 2009
"9" is an astonishing technical achievement, and of that, I think we're all in agreement. Just looking at this film is an experience unto itself; production design, art direction, and visual effects work in harmony to create a bleak but beautiful post apocalyptic landscape of rubble and shadow. The character designs, a combination of burlap and biotechnology, are refreshingly original. As far as spectacle goes, "9" is mesmerizing, having the power to draw the audience's attention before engulfing it in a fluid, textural world of imagination and style. While I haven't been too impressed with the process as of late, this is a film that probably should have been released in 3-D, if not for the story, then for the joy of wanting to reach out and feel the surfaces coming off the screen. A lot of work went into creating the look of this film, and it most definitely paid off.

But for everything it achieves aesthetically, "9" is ponderous and enigmatic, a story that requires more conjecture than most, I suspect, are willing to apply. This, we may not agree on. We know that it takes place in devastated future, after humanity had lost a war against super intelligent machines of their own creation. We know that humanity is extinct; the only remaining life forms are not really life forms at all, but animate ragdolls with cloth for skin, scopes for eyes, and numbers for names. We know that the latest ragdoll, #9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), has just come to life in the attic of a formerly well-respected scientist, whose lifeless body lies rotting on the floor below. We know that eight other ragdolls are out hidden amongst the rubble of the city, and that a monstrous machine with an animal skull affixed to its head is after them, hoping to find a special talisman with mystical powers.

Most importantly, we know that #9 must convince #s 1 through 8 that there's more to the machine than meets the eye. This puts him at odds with #1 (voiced by Christopher Plummer), who has apparently appointed himself as the leader and rules only through fear. When #2 (voiced by Martin Landau) is kidnapped by the evil machine, for example, #1 would rather let him die and move on rather than try to rescue him. #9 is not wired that way, and the pun is partially intended. Hoping to rescue #2 and discover the truth behind the machine and its ability to suck souls, he relies on the assistance of the one-eyed #5 (voiced by John C. Reilly), the rebellious #7 (voiced by Jennifer Connolly), and the mute #s 3 and 4, identical twins who communicate to each other via shutter-like eye blinks.

We know all this is happening. But really, what's going on in this movie? What is the message that director Shane Acker and writer Pamela Pettler are trying to send? That as long as ragdolls are alive, humanity can continue to exist? There is an explanation for how these dolls were brought to life in the first place, and while it is basically sound, it also raises questions as to the nature of the human soul. The final shot hints at a hopeful future, although I can't help but wonder how such a thing would be possible, seeing as there's nothing biological about a doll made out of cloth, metal, and wood. It has been suggested that life, in the strictest sense, is not dependent on biology, that soul or spirit is immaterial and not bounded by organic matter. Life continuing in the absence of flesh and blood may be the message being sent, but as I already said, this movie requires a lot of conjecture.

I admit that I might have missed something along the way, and if that's the case, I apologize. Even if I failed to see the subtexts in "9," I can still give it credit for getting me to ponder the mysteries of life and what it means to exist. If you choose to think about this film in those terms, it can potentially be the basis for a very stimulating debate. To make things easier on myself, I choose to focus on the film's technical aspects and how wonderfully atmospheric they are. A mood develops the instant the first shot appears, which shows human hands inserting a strand of thread into the eye of a needle. Much later on, after the characters are established, we take a closer look at the artistically prophetic #6 (voiced by Crispin Glover) and realize he's wearing a black and white striped suit, a nod to Tim Burton, one of the film's producers.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me take a moment to address the film's PG-13 rating. While I firmly believe that children in general can tolerate more unpleasantness than adults give them credit for, be aware that some younger audiences may find "9" a bit too much to handle, and this is in spite of a running time of less than eighty minutes. Many of the scenes featuring the evil machines are loud and intense, and some may be bothered by the sight of a dead body (even though the face isn't shown). It's an animated film, but there are no cute or cuddly characters, and the comedy relief is used sparingly. And if I had trouble figuring out the story, imagine what it would be like for a six-year-old. Parents: Take heed of the rating and understand that "9" was made for older audiences.

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July 03, 2011
I think you posted this in amazon the first time I read it. Fun read and good review all-around. I liked this one, though I didn't like its last act. Thanks!
July 03, 2011
It's message is a bit cerebral, and in all honesty, a lot of my review is sheer speculation. It had an interesting premise and great visuals, but it was not too clear about what it was trying to say.
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 . July 21, 2011
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 …
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 . July 15, 2010
As a Tim Burton fan, I had high hopes for this adaptation of the short "9."  The style of animation and character design was intriguing, the marketing was exciting, and there was a good cast of well-known actors. Sadly, there isn't enough material for me to consider this a successful film.  There seems to be a clear lack of dialogue in the script, which could have made for a more compelling plot, but instead we are left with many of the characters just staring …
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.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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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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