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