9 (2009)

Director: Shane Acker
Plot: A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all of humanity is threatened.

Genre: Animation/Adventure/Drama/Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Awards: -
Runtime: 79min
Rating: PG for violence and scary images.



With Tim Burton (Batman, 1989; Sweeney Todd, 2007) and Timur Bekmambetov (Daywatch, 2006; Wanted, 2008) serving as producers and backing the feature, it is hard to dismiss 9 as another in a long line of mediocre animated offerings by Hollywood (Pixar excluded). Based on an Oscar-nominated short of the same name and by the same director, 9 is in a way a breath of fresh air, even though for most parts, it dwells on genre clich├ęs.

Directed by Shane Acker, this animated feature runs for a paltry eighty minutes. As a result, the narrative is not developed to its fullest potential. In general, the story is well-told; in fact, it is quite commendable that the filmmakers are able to clearly shape out the structure of the narrative and offer an unrushed feel to its execution with just slightly more than an hour of screen time.

When the end credits appear, however, most viewers might find themselves a little short-changed. We are left wanting for more, not because the film is so brilliant that we cannot get enough of, but rather we would like to see more of it just to get a more comprehensive picture of the story and its characters. That being said, I do hope that there will not be a sequel to 9, because despite its flaws, the ‘essence’ of the story is already told in the film.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world much like Terminator Salvation (2009), 9 centers on a group of nine ‘rag dolls’ with human-like consciences (perhaps the last remnants of intelligent civilization on Earth). They struggle to survive amid a hide-and-seek battle with the Machines. But when one of their own is captured, they set out to rescue him along with the internal disputes which follow a team with an uncooperative leader.

The animation is quite laudable. What is most striking about the animation is its rendering of the film’s setting. The bleak, almost lifeless world of perpetual gloom is, to a large extent, photo-realistic and creates a mood of desperation and lost hope. The desolateness of the environment is further emphasized by the size of the film’s characters – they are no more than half a meter tall. In spite of this, and because of their resourcefulness and bravery, their many David versus Goliath encounters with the Machines do not always end up a lost cause.

The climax of Acker’s film is more of a revelationary nature. It tries to explain the origin of the ‘rag dolls’ and provides some needed background information which preludes the film’s story. 9 is by no means a kid’s film; there are scenes of violence (including a close-up of a severed human hand), jump scenes, and quite a tense atmosphere. This is aimed at teenagers and especially adults who want to experience a decent animated feature without being insulted by material geared towards people who put on size-six shoes.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)

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