Review: 9

Shane Acker’s feature length debut is a bit of a half baked idea paired with astonishing visuals that in the end overcomes most of its short comings with its imagination and originality.
9 awakens in a world destroyed by war and immediately is thrown into an adventure to not only save a new friend, but to discover the world and what happened to it. 9 himself is a sack like creature (think Little Big Planet without as big a head) and he quickly discovers that he is not the only one of his kind milling about. The human race is all but gone, as a war with machines has decimated both their world and the species, and all that we are aware of being left is a group of frightened and reclusive sack creatures numbered from 1-9. The remaining group quickly tries to convince 9 to hide with them and not try and do anything heroic after the loss of the fourth member of their group to a monstrous machine that prowls the city. But 9 won’t have it and is able to sway 5 to head after 2 and the adventure soon becomes even bigger than they thought possible as a new threat arises from their search.
Now the whole idea of machines destroying the world and what have you I understand is a bit tired, but it is not the focal point and is more a catalyst for the story and the confrontations of the film. Above this idea lies an interesting and unique story about these little creatures that are enlightened by 9’s appearance and his gung ho attitude to see what is out there. Though a couple things might make you go wait a minute? 9’s motivations come out of no where and he seems to be acting just because the film needs him too as the hero. Now the origins of these creatures might help you rationalize why he is the way he is, but it doesn’t quite make sense and isn’t adequately explained. In fact, the end game of the picture leaves you scratching your head quite a bit as it is a touching end but doesn’t quite make a lot of sense again as they leave things to open.
But like I mentioned in the intro, the film mostly overcomes these confusing bits with incredible visuals and elaborate set pieces that will distract you from any of the awkward story stuff. The action scenes come quick and are beautifully executed with everyone playing a part that is involved in each respective scene. The battles are also just epic in proportions, taking place all over the sets and causing loads of destruction and drama for the characters in their peril. In fact, one thing that this film has going for it is its ability to establish anyone can go at any moment as a number of the characters will fall before it is all said and done. In particular, the attack by the winged creation on the characters is one of the finer action sequences of the year and was the stand out scene in the film. 3 and 4 are also extremely well done and are creative characters and will probably become your favorite of the 9 the instant they show up.
The voice work in the film is also very adequate with John C Reilly as 5 and Elijah Wood as 9 getting the most time in the picture. Wood brings confidence and go for it attitude to 9 but is more or less the same character from Happy Feet here. Reilly on the other hand creates this torn and vulnerable character that slowly emerges from his shell and is really the stand out in the picture. Crispin Glover as 6 also does some nice work, though he is delegated to the background most of the time.
In the end, 9 is a wonderful looking animated film that has a unique vision that doesn’t quite execute to its fullest. Be prepared to wonder why everyone is acting the way they are and hopefully you can make some sense of the explanation and ending as I don’t think it works 100%. But at a tight run time and a quick pace the film moves right along with some awesome action scenes grounded with wonderful production values and some great animation that will make the film more than enjoyable. One just can’t help but wonder what this could have been if they had worked out all of the head scratching plot details and made a more cohesive story. Oh well, its still worth your time.
9 is a B-

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