Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Not surprisingly technology has run amok. In a scene right out of ‘War of the Worlds’ walking, self-aware machines have done the best that they can to eradicate humanity, as self-aware machines tend to do, with the exception of nine cloth dolls in director Shane Ackers extended action short ‘9’.

When we first meet 9 he has just been born in a world that has been decimated and ravaged by war. He is confused and wandering until he is found by the wise old 2 (voiced by Martin Landau) who fixes 9 up and gets his vocal thing working right which makes him sound just like Elijah Wood. 9 also presents 2 with this odd looking half sphere with a bunch of weird symbols on it, something that 2 has been searching for a while but his joy would be short lived as the pair are viciously attacked by The Beast, an odd but angry mechanical cat type thing takes this half sphere and 2 for good measure with 9 narrowly escaping.

Wandering through this wasteland yet again the wounded 2 is discovered by the one eyed 5 (John C.Reilly) who fixes him up which leads to an introduction to the self-proclaimed leader of the cloth puppet crew, the nervous and cowardly 1 (Christopher Plummer). 1 knows trouble when he sees it and he it sees all over 9 with this trouble becoming more evident when 9 proclaims that he is leaving the sanctity of their remote retreat to attempt a rescue mission for 2.

The only volunteer 9 could get for this risky mission was 5, and even that was like pulling teeth, but off they go. While the journey was a perilous one, the rescue did manage to come off, with considerable help from the long thought missing 7 (Jennifer Connoly) only to have it go straight to tragic Hades when 9 does something he really, really shouldn’t have done. Stupid puppet.

Now the issue becomes more pressing because 9 has awakened The Brain, the very thing that stomped out humanity so long ago and now wants to stomp out the last remnants of humanity, that being our little cute cloth puppets. 9 knows what has to be done, this being the machine needs to be destroyed… but not so fast my friends because the weird puppet 6 (the weird human Crispin Glover) thinks this might not be the right course of action. What would really help is if this scientist that made these puppets left some kind of instruction booklet on what in the world they are supposed to do… but where would they find that? Right over there is where.

It’s amusing because when you see the trailers that the studio was running for ‘9’ as they were selling this film as if it were some kind of amped up action filled extravaganza, but I just knew that this wasn’t the kind of movie that this was going to be, especially with Tim Burton’s name behind the production as one the producers considering that Burton is known for creating soulful offbeat stories with his animated movies. Well, I would be wrong my friends because this is one those instances when the trailer is fairly accurate in describing what kind of movie that you were about to see. Not that I have a problem with action movies but I guess I should have paid more attention to the other name they were pushing as producer, that being Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov who brought us the balls to the wall action flick ‘Wanted’. Because ‘9’ was certainly more ‘Wanted’ than ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’.

None of this is to say that ‘9’ is a bad movie because it is beautiful to look at, wonderfully conceived and executed, perfectly animated and moves like the front car of a huge wooden roller coaster. But it is also a very short movie at less than 80 minutes in length. I don’t think the brevity of this movie did it any favors because while there was plenty of running and screaming and stabbing and swashbuckling action to behold, it all came at the cost of exposition. It does tell its story and it tells this story well enough so that you know what is going on, but it tells a sketchy story. The story and the films conclusion are so sketchy that even people who worship at the feet of ‘9’ and the genius of Shane Acker have posted elaborate explanations of what the ‘meaning’ of the film was and what the director ‘was trying to say’. While inference and hidden meaning in a movie is a good thing to an extent, when one has to write an essay paper on what a movie ‘was trying to say’, this movie probably needed an extra twenty or so minutes to say what it needed to say.

While the shortcomings of the narrative within ‘9’ detract from the film somewhat, it doesn’t detract nearly enough to keep this from being a wildly creative, crazy imaginative, top notch visual experience. Maybe a ‘director’s cut’ is in order to round out some of the narrative points that seem to be somewhat lacking and often outright missing. I don’t think I’ve seen a ‘director’s cut’ of an animated movie, but this might be the one animated movie that could really use one.

Real Time Web