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

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9: Apparently, Voldemort's Not The Only One Who Made Horcruxes

  • Oct 9, 2009
Pros: Beautifully filmed, lovable characters...

Cons: ...incredibly flimsy plot, not enough back story- oh, just read the review...

The Bottom Line:

Stylish and full of action, 9 is a lot a like a well-thought out video game.  If you’re looking for an intelligent film, look elsewhere.

Spoiler Warning: This review reveals major details about the movie's plot

When I first saw the previews for 9, I was pretty stoked.  "Awesome!" I thought to myself, " A Tim Burton film that's a commentary on a post-apocalyptic future!"  It looked thrilling, exciting- where it could go wrong?

Let me first set the record straight here- though Burton has been repeatedly linked with 9, it's not a Tim Burton film (we're going to have to hold out for the new Alice in Wonderland movie if we want to see a Tim Burton movie).  Burton is one of the film's producers, but the film is written and directed by Shane Acker.  Acker created the short film version of 9 back in 2005, and impressed Burton so much that together the two men began working on the full-length version.

Of course, I didn't know this entire back story when I sat down in the theater, and it wasn't until the opening credits rolled that I realized that Burton wasn't the director, and Acker was instead.  Okay, so I was already slightly disappointed; being a big Burton fan, that was one of the main draws of the film for me, and it had already been taken away.  Acker is relatively unknown (having only ever directed one other film- an independent release in 1999), but I still kept the faith- at least Burton was a producer, and who knows what Acker is capable of, right?

The movie begins with a Scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) creating a mechanical rag doll, and naming him 9 (Elijah Wood).  We overhear the Scientist saying that humanity is coming to an end, so something must live on.  As he finishes 9, the Scientist collapses and dies.  What we can assume is several years pass, and 9 magically awakens.   He ventures off from the Scientist's home and soon discovers that there are more of his kind- 8 other rag dolls have been scattered around a desolate land that was once earth.  

Before I explain the plot any further, I must stop and appreciate how stylish the film's design is.  Right from the opening scene with the Scientist sewing together 9, I was in awe of how life-like the animation was.  When 9 first gets his glimpse of the outside world, so do we, and the result is absolutely stunning.  The landscape is exquisitely detailed, and varying shades of greens and grays are used to give off a very dark and ominous feeling.

As I mentioned before, the world as we know it has now been destroyed; robots have revolted against the humans and killed them all.   Most of the robots seem to be out of commission, but a few of them are still roaming the earth, and terrorizing poor 9 and his friends. 

A series of mishaps ends with 9 awakening a most terrible beast- the biggest machine of all that then goes on an attacking spree- furiously trying to gather up 9 and the rest of the rag dolls and steal their souls.  In the end, it's up to 9 and his friends to kill the machine or figure out its secret- whichever they can do first.

The film's strength is definitely in its host of characters.  There is no character development- as I stated above, the movie begins when 9 awakens.  But that doesn't matter very much; all of the characters have some sort of individualistic traits that are endearing.

9 quickly emerges as both the fearless leader and underdog, you root for him, you cry with him as he fumbles- he's the character that you feel both proud of and worried for throughout the movie.  Wood's voice acting is also terrific; he gives the rag doll plenty of life through his emotional portrayal.  Likewise, characters like 5 (John C. Reilly), 2 (Martin Landau) and 7 (Jennifer Connelly), act as 9's lovable sidekicks.  5 is the opposite of 9- often afraid, unsure and worried, but the two have the closest friendship throughout the film.  Reilly voices the fear and uncertainty of 5 perfectly.  2 is the group's elder and a brave inventor, whom, thanks to Landau's gentle voice, you immediately fall in love with.  7 is the only female of their kind, but Connelly gives the character a strong voice and spunky personality, making her a worthy addition to the group.  Meanwhile, 1 (Christopher Plummer), plays a sort of antagonist as the group's former leader- he and 9 have different points of view throughout the film; while 1 would rather hide and keep the group safe, 9 thinks they should go to action and stop the machines and save their friends.  Plummer plays the character perfectly- he begins the film as a negative force in the group, but comes around towards the end.

Perhaps the characters being so likeable was one of the film's biggest faults, however.  Though the script I've explained above does sound fine, in reality, the movie wasn't as straight forward as I've described things.  From the moment 9 leaves the Scientist's home, he is attacked.  Twenty minutes into the film, and right after you really began to grow attached to him, 2's soul is taken away and he is killed.  The movie goes on in this matter; the rag dolls are always one step away from being killed.

I suppose this makes sense in this post-apocalyptic world, where machines do nothing but destroy, but honestly?  After a while, the hunting and peril are too much.  Yes, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, but not in a good way.  There's just enough character development in the movie for you to care about the characters and then the rest of the movie is spent with you having to watch them narrowly escape death every few seconds.  At some parts of the movie, I really started to wonder if the whole point of the film was just a stylish way of blowing up machines and killing rag dolls.

The machines themselves are somewhat frightening.  The whole film has a Steampunk feel to it, and the destructive monsters fit in with this style.  I would NEVER allow a small child to see this movie- I'm a grown woman, and some of the scenes were a bit frightening even for me.  I did have to laugh, however, when one of the monster machines appears and looks like the doll head monster that Sid creates in first Toy Story film.

This wasn't the only time that I laughed at something in the film.  As the movie goes on, 9 realizes that he must go back to the Scientist's laboratory to find out how to destroy the main machine.  Lucky for him, the Scientist has left behind a video of what to do to kill the machine.  In the video, he also explains how 9 and the other rag dolls were made.  Apparently, the Scientist has split his soul into nine parts and stuck it into each of the dolls.

"So he basically made Horcruxes?" I said aloud, while watching the film.  Harry Potter fans will know what I'm referring to; it literally sounds like Acker stole a page straight from J.K. Rowling's book with this part of the plot.  In the sixth Harry Potter book and film (The Half Blood Prince), we learn that the evil Lord Voldemort has split his soul into seven parts and scattered them about.

However, unlike in Rowling's story, there is no explanation of how the Scientist did it or even why- we just know that his soul is inside of all the rag dolls.  Oookay.

That's just an example of my biggest complaint about 9- the utter lack of a plot.  Sure, there's  a basic, cracker-thin plot there, but no real back story.  We don't know why the machines revolt.  We don't know why 9 is created (except for the filmsy explanation given at the beginning.  But who cares if something lives on, if it's only pieces of your own soul? They can't procreate or anything can they?  They can't rebuild or repopulate the earth, can they? What's their purpose, other than to be hunted by the same machine you made, stop that same machine, and then what?).  We don't know what 9 and his friends are supposed to do, even if there weren't any crazy machines trying to kill them.  We don't know how the Scientist splits his soul, why he chose to put it in "living" rag dolls, we don't really know the answer to anything other than the basics- 9 is here, he has to save rag dolls 1-8, and that's about it.

Even the ending is unsatisfying and unresolved.  Of course, 9 stops the machine, but most of the other friends are killed, and we last see them floating up into the sky as green wasps of air.  9 and the other three other remaning dolls are left standing alone in the destroyed and dark land, and when 7 asks 9 what comes next, 9 answers that he doesn't know, but the world is theirs.  Oh, awesome.  A dusty world full of broken, rusted, human objects fifty times the size of you is all yours.  It's like winning the lottery!  Except crappier.

I thought, perhaps, the ending would be a happy one- maybe when they destroyed the monster, the other rag dolls would return to their previous form, and the group of them could go on living happily ever after.  I know this is a very Walt Disney ending, but what can I say- I'm a sentimental (and let it be known, that I definitely spent half of the movie crying as each of the characters got thoughtlessly- and extremely violently- killed).  I even thought that maybe once the machine was killed the souls would bond together somehow and reawaken the Scientist, and he'd have put away some sort of plan to recreate the earth once the last machine was destroyed.  I think my latter idea would've been a far better ending for the film, but alas, I wasn't called when they were writing the script.

Instead, what we get is an unresolved ending that left me sitting in my seat for a few minutes as the credits rolled thinking, "What the hell was that?"

I can't quite tell you what 9 is, but I can tell you what it is not.  It's not a commentary on anything, there is no moral about creating machines, really, and even more disturbing, no moral about creating these poor rag dolls, imparting them with a soul and then leaving them to fend for themselves in a destructive world (this reminded me of Spielberg's A.I. where at least, the moral dilemma of creating a robot with human feelings and then leaving it on its own is tackled; 9 is worse- creating a robot with a human soul, and then deserting it- though there is nothing said about it really).  There is no real theme, other than "stay alive!" and the whole thing sort of acts out like a video game. I find it interesting that 9 was developed from a short film- perhaps it should've simply stayed that way. 


Movie Mood: Action Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Plot

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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 . 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.
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Brittany Brown ()
Ranked #461
My name is Brittany. I'm 23 years old. I love life, and sometimes, life loves me, too.
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About this movie


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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