Star Rating:


Director: Shane Acker

Actors: Christopher Plummer, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover

Release Date: Wednesday 9th September 2009

Genre(s): Animation

Running time: 79 minutes

Just when you thought animation couldn't get any better, 9 comes along and ups the ante. However, with all the attention on how it looks, plot is given the elbow.

9 (Wood) awakens in a world where war has devastated the planet. Not sure what he is, or where he is, the 6-inch tall rag doll 'thing' (director Acker calls them 'stitchpunks') moves out into the post-apocalyptic landscape where he happens across 2 (Martin Landau). Before 2 can answer any questions, however, he's taken by an animal/machine creature that seems to exist only to hunt and kill. Moving on, 9 finds a clan of his ilk headed up by 1 (Plummer) who advises the ever-dwindling group to lay low and forget about rescuing 2. 9 and 5 (Reilly) ignore this order and during their search-and-rescue mission they inadvertently awaken 'the machine', the mother of all evil machines. With the help of the feisty 7 (Connolly), 9 and co. hope to shut it down before all hell breaks loose.

The animation will be the first and last element of 9 the audience will remember. All the effort, all the blood and sweat went into making the film as visually impressive as it can be - and it was time well spent. 9, with its gloomy colours and detailed universe, is as good as animation gets. The action sequences are spectacular and boast a threat that other animations lack; Acker has no qualms about killing off whom he likes, when he likes. There's an inherent danger to the proceedings, with death and disaster lurking around every corner. For a first time filmmaker, Acker knows what he's doing with regards to how his film look - by making his heroes so tiny and the villains so massive, the audience is automatically on the little guys' side. He also indulges in the old animated hero mainstay - make the eyes as big as possible to tap into the 'aw' factor.

If only the story matched the visuals, though. Acker failed to expand his award-winning short to feature length successfully. 9's plot is very thin on the ground and, once the world the story takes place in is established, the plot is reduced into a run-fight-run-fight-hide extended action sequence. The story raises too many unanswered questions, too: why was 'the machine' shut down in the first place? Who did it? And why? The message gets a little messy towards the close, too, as Acker, with help from Pamela Pettler (Corpse Bride, Monster House), try to meld science and religion together. It's a tad confusing.

If you're wiling to forgive the lack of story, 9 is an action-packed spectacle.