On DVD: 9


Shane Acker’s Oscar-nominated animated short “9” impressed on ingenuity and creative visuals. Its anthropomorphic googly-eyed burlap protagonist, 9, connectedly instant with the short’s viewers, and the wealth of imagination poured into his world and surroundings made it fascinating. With the help of numerous producers including “Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov and legendary stop-motion filmmaker Tim Burton, Acker tries to expand his short — and 9’s universe — into a full-length feature.

“9” visually rises to the challenge of expansion, and at 80 minutes, the imagination packed in is maybe even more astounding than the short. Where Acker and writer Pamela Pettler struggle a little bit is fleshing out their stitched-up characters. The post-apocalyptic world where machine has destroyed man works in the viewer’s mind, but at 80 minutes we still feel like we barely tasted it, even if we really enjoyed what we were able to savor.

The greatest addition to a once-silent animated short is the context. We learn 9 was created by a scientist and there were indeed 8 others before him. We don’t really know their purpose, but they were created in the wake of a Terminator-style war between man and the machine. At the time of the story, 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) has awoken and meets 2 (Martin Landau) who is taken away by a robotic beast along with a talisman 9 was carrying. Hiding from that beast are some others who are led by the elder 1 (Christopher Plummer), who believes hiding is all they can do. In an effort to save 2 and get answers about the talisman, 9 and 5 embark on a journey where they awaken the terrible machine that started it all.

At this point it goes without saying that the visuals of “9” are absolutely stunning. Next to the last couple of Pixar films, the detail and artistic direction for the world of “9” are second to none. One can’t help but realize the importance of animated storytelling when seeing what Acker does with visuals that just might never have been done with live action. The machines in particular and Acker’s eye for exciting action make “9” watchable.

But any post-apocalyptic story, particularly one with no humans in it, requires a lot thematic meaning. “9” never quite gets there with its array of seemingly lovable characters, not doing much to prove there’s anything but stuffing and a few wires inside its sewn-together protagonists. The mythology going into this film is clearly extensive, but it just doesn’t reflect it because minimal effort has gone into building relationships or themes of any kind. Friendship themes are barely communicated between 9 and 5. It seems all the attention went into expanding the universe, not building it around a theme. The commentary “9” offers on humanity comes too little too late.

“9” is a good start for imaginative animated film-making and an even better story as a film. It’s nice to see UCLA student’s culminating project get looked at by influential filmmakers such as Burton and allow the undeniably creative mind of Acker and his team to make a film few producers would likely let him on a mere pitch. Animation can be for an older audience too, and that’s important.

3.5/5 Stars

Directed by: Shane Acker
Written by: Pamela Pettler (screenplay), Shane Acker (story)
Starring: (voices of) Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Marin Landau, Christopher Plummer


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment