Expanding on his short film, Shane Acker creates a really solid film with 9 as it follows the journey of a group of dolls in a post-apocalyptic world; but unfortunately this is not enough to keep me from being slightly disappointed with the end result.
As many have foretold before, man will eventually fall to machines. Seeing the doom in this inescapable future, a scientist decides to use his remaining time to go all Dr. Frankenstein on a group of dolls so that they may live on once man is gone. Nine dolls, to be exact. Now let’s skip ahead. When the film begins a doll marked 9 is coming to, still hooked up to the machines that brought him to life. What he finds when he ventures out into the world is a wasteland, full of the remains of the man made world that came before. However, he soon realizes that it is not as barren of life (sort of speak) as he originally thought, but filled with both the remaining dolls, numbered 1-8, and machines, which seem to have the sole purpose of hunting them down.
Though this sounds like a set up for a really intriguing story, there isn’t actually that much to it. In other words, nothing that occurs is unexpected; rather, the plot points are actually often boringly easy to guess as the story progresses. Furthermore, a lot of the information that I really wanted to know, such as why the dolls had been separated in the first place, and for how long, is never explained (here’s another question, why did the scientist choose tiny dolls? Technically their innards still make them machine like, which seems counterintuitive given the current predicament. But that’s just me… Yes there is one deciding factor that makes them different, but I can’t let that little detail slip without getting smacked… So my “why dolls?” question remains). With all that said, when I first saw the trailer for 9, it was not the story that grabbed my attention, but how they chose to depict this post-apocalyptic world.
The initial draw to this film is the animation style, taking the sharp angles, gloomier lighting, etc., from German Expressionism, which has proven before to make a great pairing (Coraline being a perfect example). However, this can only set the scene. Thankfully the animation was shot is such a way to really do it justice. Not only was it evident that a lot of work went into setting up interesting compositions for each shot, but I was actually really impressed by the action sequences, which are frequent. A key example of this is an escape scene involving a flying machine chasing the dolls through a cathedral. Not only is it really interesting to see how perilous this world within our world can be, but I really appreciated how fast paced and suspenseful they were able to make the movement through it.
Like I said before, I may never understand why the scientist chose to continue life with dolls, but that does not mean that I was not amazed by the individuality of the character designs. Not only does each doll have its own personality, but they are all created differently, both in concern to materials used, as well as how their costumes represent the role they play in the story. We start with the basic model with 9, representing the everyman in many ways, to the other dolls who have already decided who they want to be, and have therefore dressed accordingly. There is 1, the “king” who finds great meaning in the crown and cape he dons, 7, the warrior who hides behind her bird skull mask/helmet and ridiculous fighting skills, 6, the insane doll who is seemingly wearing the pinstripes of a jail suit, etc. Oh, and the twins, who bring some much needed comedy with their mute, childlike (yet monk-like) traits and in sync actions.
Though I really loved the look of the film and the world created, this could not keep 9 from dragging at times, creating a slightly underwhelming film.
Final Grade: B