**** (out of 5)
September 9, 2009
Christopher Plummer as 1
Martin Landau as 2
John C. Reilly as 5
Crispin Glover as 6
Jennifer Connelly as 7
Fred Tatasciore as 8
Elijah Wood as 9
Studio: Focus Features
Directed by: Shane Acker
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Earlier this year, Focus Features gave audiences “Coraline,” one of the best animated films of 2009. Now, the same studio is releasing another film with a similar tone. “9” is a visionary piece by animation director Shane Acker. Like “Coraline,” it is much darker than most animated films and definitely not for the youngest of viewers. However, that should not stop you from seeing it because it is a fantastic movie.
“9” tells the story of a tiny mechanical man made of gears and a scrap of burlap. The ninth in a series of creations, 9 finds himself in a world in which humanity has been wiped out. Together with the other creations from a mysterious scientist, 9 needs to discover what happened to the world and fight against terrifying machines that are trying to wipe them out.
While it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before, “9” carries a collection of familiar themes and concepts. 9 and his family faces the loneliness of being possibly the last living things on the planet. There’s also a healthy dose of fear, family, love and betrayal in the mix.
Although this is an animated film, it is not necessarily a kids’ movie. Some older kids will enjoy it, if for no other reason than the striking – yet very dark – visuals and the powerful action sequences. But there’s a lot more to the film than just a sanitized cartoon.
This is a dark, heavy movie with some pretty scary imagery. It’s relatively bloodless because we are dealing with little mechanical men, after all. However, that doesn’t mean the characters don’t possess a level of humanity, which makes things hit home when bad things happen to them.
Earlier, I said that this film is a visionary piece, and I don’t use that term loosely. Sure, we’ve seen dark films about a post-apocalyptic society before. And we’ve seen this sort of thing done very poorly, like in last year’s “Igor,” so just being dark won’t make a good film. It’s easy to dismiss the film as too dark, but considering the themes in the film, it’s appropriate. In fact, I cannot imagine what this movie would be if it were fluffed up and given a pastel face life. Probably not too good, I am sure.
Even though it uses some very universal themes, “9” puts them in a child-like perspective. The film has a very familiar man-versus-machine theme that we’ve seen far too many times this year (e.g., “Battlestar Galactica,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Terminator: Salvation” and even Disney’s “G-Force” to an extent). However, “9” frames itself in such a way that the story and motivations behind it are unique.
“9” may not be a huge hit, simply because it’s not appropriate for little kids, and many adults might sit it out naively thinking it’s just another animated movie. However, like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” I am sure this movie will have a long and healthy life even past its theatrical run. And let’s not count it out as a potential competitor to Disney/Pixar’s “Up” when the Oscars roll around in February.