’9′ Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short Version: While not suitable for younger children, Shane Aker’s 9 draws you into its world effortlessly and is most definitely worth seeing.

9 movie review 9 Review
Screen Rant reviews 9

There’s been a lot of buzz around the Shane Aker-directed, Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov-produced movie 9. The idea for a feature length 9 movie was sparked by a short film of the same name by writer-director Shane Aker.

The short film is really quite amazing (click on the link above to see it) and I was excited to hear a full length film would be made based on it. However when I saw the first trailer and there was dialog (the short film has none) I got a bit worried that it might not have the power of the original short film. While the addition of dialog does remove a fair amount of the sense of awe and mystery, the full length 9 still manages to stand on its own as a film worth watching.

9 is both the title of the film and the “name” of the hero of the film (voiced by Elijah Wood). As the film opens, the first thing we see is the unconscious, burlap, rag doll figure that is 9 hanging by his wrist in the center of some mechanical device. It’s obvious that he’s been there for quite a while – long enough that the thin string supporting him has frayed against the circular frame surrounding him and the look of the surroundings. The string finally breaks, and upon hitting the table 9 awakens, disoriented by his surroundings.

He finds himself in a dangerous, post-apocalyptic world devoid of human life – and in possession of a mysterious device that he senses must be important. Eventually he runs into others of his own kind who have been hiding from a terrifying mechanical cat beast, hoping that it eventually dies away. They are led by “1″ (voiced by Christopher Plummer) who has a big, burly and not very smart “8″ as a protector. When 9 appears on the scene, he is dismayed at the sense of fatality and status quo the few survivors are living in. “2″ was the first person he ran into – 2 saved his life and while he was taken away by the cat beast, 1 has no intention of sending anyone off on a rescue attempt.

9 takes things into his own hands and along with 5 (a scientist-apprentice of 2) heads off to try to rescue their captured comrade. Along the way they meet 7 (Jennifer Connelly), an independent young female who has ninja-like skills and refuses to live under 1′s rule.

9 contest 9 Review

9 and 5 head out to rescue their friend

Soon the device found by 9 is put into use with disastrous consequences, from which our intrepid little heroes must extricate themselves.

Shane Acker and the actors manage to bring many nuances of emotion to the little robotic(?) characters in the film and it doesn’t take long at all to start feeling for and empathizing with them. Each character was designed to excel at a specific function and their personalities match whichever that might be. We do also get to see what led to the world they live in through flashbacks – and there is a cool retro “War of the Worlds” vibe to that part of the film.

The film is more than a bit vague on how these little critters were created – in the original short film it’s not an issue, but in a full length feature film the lack of a better explanation here did intrude on my enjoyment of the film a bit. Also, even at just 80 minutes it still felt a little long to me.

This movie is wonderful visually – I loved the detail and texture of the world they created here (if you’re a fan of the “steampunk” genre you’ll probably love 9). The film is dark both visually and in tone – and so rich in detail that you won’t be able to absorb it all in one viewing. Speaking of “dark,” 9 is rated PG-13 for “violence and scary images.” In particular cat beast and the seamstress are sure to freak the little ones out – so please keep in mind while this is an animated CGI film, it might not be suitable for kids under 7 or so. There is some nightmare material here for sure for more sensitive kids.

While there are familiar elements to the story (while details of the story are unique, the overall story arc is fairly conventional), the originality of the idea still shines through loud and clear. Being that it has the odd combination of being a CGI animated film that’s not really suited for younger children, I hope that 9 still manages to find an audience because it’s a film that is definitely worth watching.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. I am really looking forward to this film!!

    What is it with films with nine in the title this year:

    District 9
    Cloud 9

    That’s gotta be some kinda record…

  2. I agree totally. Movie was awesome!

  3. For some reason it never caught my interest. Maybe it’s subconscious because I know Tim Burton is involved and I’m pretty sick of the Tim Burton stuff myself… Maybe I might see it one day if there’s nothing else to watch (and it looks like that’s the case)

  4. 9 is also the number of death,,,
    ??? 8-)

    4 out of 5,? Hmmm
    This looks like a video game to me. Kinda like Oddworld Munch’s Oddysee or Strangers Wrath.
    I might give it chance on dvd…

  5. Haha, Oddworld, I would like to see a full CGI film of that…but honestly, how refreshing is it that so far three of the best films this year, in my opinion, are not full studio films:
    The Hurt Locker
    District 9
    & 9

  6. It looks quite fascinating to me, and I’m going to check it out as soon as I’m able. As for how the dolls were created, I thought that was detailed in the viral website?

  7. 2 things:

    First, we shouldn’t HAVE to go to a viral website to figure out something in the movie. I feel that a movie should be able to tell a story on it’s own without having to hunt all over the place for background information. It’s cool if there are sites out there to give MORE info, but something as integral as the creation of the characters shouldn’t be required homework.

    Second, I thought the animated short was awesome and really whetted my appetite for this film. I will probably be seeing this tomorrow night. A 4 of 5 from Vic on this film cemented that decision.

  8. I’m excited to see this movie. I think everything they’ve done with it advertising-wise has been very smart. Such as getting to release it on 9-9-09 and making sure people knew that Tim Burton was involved. I never got the chance to see “Coraline”, but I hope I’m able to get to the theater to see “9″ because it definitely does look stunning. Also… is it in 3D? If not, then I may have even more respect for it.

  9. I think the addition of dialog was a must for this film. No dialog in a short is one thing, but a full length movie with no dialog would be a bit too much. I also think there is nothing wrong with the lack of explanation as to the creation of the characters. Again we don’t have to have every detail for a story to be told. A scientist created them…thats all we need to know. I’m hearing complaints that the addition of dialog might ruin the “awe and mystery” yet the “awe and mystery” of not having their exact origin explained comes under attack. After seeing this film, I actually thing 80 minutes was too short, I couldn’t get enough of it. It was fantastic.

  10. i totally disagree with this review while most of the time i like vics reviews. i give it a 1/5. it was pritty bad big plot hole and what was with the end retarded and made no sense

  11. @Wickamo

    Oh, I know they couldn’t have made the full length film without dialog, but the short film had much more impact.


    Actually Harry Knowles over at AICN made a comment related to yours – he said that in the end, the movie was pointless.


  12. @hud

    The movie’s ending is only “pointless” depending on your belief system. What ’9′ did for his friends could be seen as a very heroic to some who believe in the soul. Also,the bit with the rain suggests a rebirth of sorts. It’s a science mysticism metaphor mix. Just go with it.

    Overall the movie is unique, beautiful to look at, thrilling and scary. Fun Time and I’d be surprised if September offers anything better.

  13. And I thought it was pretty clear how the dolls were given life. In fact – isn’t that the big reveal of the movie?

    The explanation is rooted in mysticism, but that’s ok when dealing with a fantasy world, IMHO.

  14. Good movie, and very good CGI/Animation. I’d like to see this movie get a sequel.

  15. @Those Wondering About the Making of the Characters

    They DO reveal how the dolls come alive very clearly (in the world of the film) and succinctly. I saw the movie yesterday and was impressed, not only with visual presentation but also with the (surprisingly) non-preachy manner in which they show redemption and portray the human soul…two subjects that, if overblown or forcefed to an audience, can create a horrid movie-watching experience. I thought this film was wonderful and look forward to seeing it again.

    BTW–I agree that it’s great that the makers of the film kept it out of the 3D arena; it actually feels somewhat unique among recent animated films because of this.

  16. I saw “9″ this weekend, and overall it was pretty enjoyable. One thing I didn’t like though was that it was almost too dark and serious. I wasn’t expecting a laugh out loud comedy or anything, but with a PG-13 rating they could have have included some more inappropriate comedy. Not much, just a few scenes because I kind of got sick of monster after monster and battle after battle. It was good, but it was weird. Good storyline, but the movie could have been shorter and not so serious. My favorite scene though was when they used “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. It was very creepy how they used the song and didn’t fit with the scene which is why I liked it so much. That scene gave me the chills, and the ending was good, but that wasn’t what I expected at all. Was this one of my favorite movies of the year? No. “Up” was better in my opinion, but I have told my friends about this movie and told them it is definitely worth seeing at least once.

  17. I enjoyed the animation and the action of the movie, but for me the story was pretty weak. Without making this a spoiler, if 9 avoids one action, there is almost no movie. As was said before, I liked that it didn’t get all “preachy”. I think in the end I would have preferred seeing this either on DVD or on TV as it felt pretty short for a movie ticket price.

  18. The visual element was great but the story was a little weak.

  19. I saw this movie this past Saturday with my 9 and 11yo boys. I loved it as did they. I typically let my ex take them to the animated movies so there half-sister can take part. She’s five and this film would’ve definately scared the you-know-what out of her. Personally I think the big screen enhances the film due in part to the great sound the theater imparts.

  20. It would have been more appropriate to call it 4, because that’s what it would get out of 10, and most of that would be for the animation which, irritatingly, is jeffing marvellous.

  21. Beautiful movie, however it was a bit too long. They should have cut off about 10 minutes. The dialogue doesn’t detract from the mystery of the story line.

    *you don’t really know anything until the last 5 minutes*

    The only gripe I have is that the dolls aren’t the savior of mankind as the scientist suggest. By the time 9 is created, the entire world is devoid of human life.

  22. I liked this movie a lot, but I just don’t understand it. I get that the dolls are parts of the scientist’s soul and that they need to use the little device to stop the machine, because the machine is evil or corrupt or something, but that’s about it. There needs to be more background info. If the person watching it doesn’t understand it, then the message is lost.

    And on another note, why did none of them know what to do? You would think that a scientist who is creating living dolls so that they can bring life back to the lifeless earth would give them some kind of instructions. He did give instructions in the form of that video-box thing, but the only one that could have found it was 9 (since the others were made in different locations), and he didn’t even make it stand out or anything. It was just a plain box, with a tag on it with the number “9″ which would have meant absolutely nothing to 9 anyways because the number was written on his back and until one of the other dolls told him he had no clue what his number was. Seriously, what kind of plan is that? If 9 had gotten absorbed or killed at any point during the film the plan would have failed entirely, and the doll-things would have just hidden until they either rusted away or that cat-thing found the device and woke up the machine, which would have killed them since they had no clue how to kill it until 9 ‘went back to the source’. Which, you know, wouldn’t have happened if 9 had gotten killed.

    This film has potential, but there are some serious issues with it…