Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.



Review by Patrick Hodges

Animated movies have come so far in the last ten years.  For the most part, they are still aimed at kids, but occasionally one comes out that appeals more to a slightly older demographic.  That is pretty much what I expected when I went in to see 9, which comes to theaters not from a major studio like Pixar, Disney or DreamWorks, but from the much smaller Focus Features, who brought us the surprise hit Coraline in early 2009.

Based on the 2005 Oscar-nominated short film, 9 takes place in the future.  A rather bleak future, it seems, as Earth is nothing but a wasteland of dust, twisted metal, and rotting corpses.  For you see, a man – known simply as “the Scientist” – invented a machine that was meant to be an instrument of progress, but the nation’s military leaders thought otherwise.  It became a weapon of war, and culminated in the machine eventually turning on its masters, and the unleashing of a gas that decimated all living things on Earth. 

However, before the end, the Scientist used a radical “transference” procedure to imbue nine doll-like beings with disparate parts of his own soul.  Each possesses different characteristics (good and bad).  The last of these creations, 9 (Elijah Wood) awakes to find his creator dead and a world in ruins.  Not long after, he finds the self-proclaimed leader of his kind, 1 (Christopher Plummer), who is obsessed with being in charge of what’s left of his group while hiding from the machines that are still patrolling the Earth.

Against 1’s wishes, 9 sets out on a rescue mission to save 2 (Martin Landau), a kindly old inventor who was taken prisoner by the machines, and encounters 7 (Jennifer Connelly), a fearless warrior who grew weary of 1’s paranoia and left, along with 3 and 4, twin dolls who are the group’s archivists.

It’s hard to explain this film without going into more detail.  But suffice it to say, the animation is absolutely brilliant.  Despite a running time of barely eighty minutes, 9 does a fantastic job of telling a story without either over-complicating or over-simplifying it, letting the moviegoer’s own imagination fill in the blanks.  Though there are several ironically-humorous moments, director Shane Acker decided not to include any cheesy humor in an attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

I applaud Shane Acker’s work, along with Tim Burton (who co-produced).  I will also give kudos aplenty to the animators, for telling a completely engaging, intelligent and followable tale, full of tension, excitement and interesting characters.  There are plenty of scary images, so small children may not enjoy it, but for you adults, 9 is a film that should be seen, not only for its entertainment value but for its artistry.

4 ½ / 5 stars (which would translate to “9” out of 10, if I were using that scale)

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