9 (Dir. Shane Acker, 2009)
I have the feeling that future historians are going to think that we, or at least the film makers of our time, had a ginormous global death wish - what with all the post apocalyptic movie premises out there.
And we haven't even gone down THE ROAD yet either!
So with another "world after war" weary setting comes the animated 9, which is opening conveniently enough tomorrow on 9/09/09 (mind you, this year also offers DISTRICT 9 and NINE). In the film though 9 isn't a date, it's the number given to a "stitch punk" - the ninth sentient rag doll made by a scientist (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer) as the world was on the brink of destruction.
After 9 (Elijah Wood) comes to in the home of the scientist he finds the other rag dolls (1-8) hiding in the rubble from evil creature-like machines that are hunting them through the darkness.
This is not a movie that necessarily needs name actors to provide voices but they're there - joining Wood as his fellow stitch punks is Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, and seemingly the sole source of humor and warmth in the entire project - John C. Reilly (Reilly has what may be the one single funny line).
9 rallies the rag dolls to stand up and fight the tyrannical mechanical monsters, believing that he's discovered the means and the meaning behind it all to defeat them.
Resembling a TERMINATOR movie as imagined by Tim Burton (who executive produced), 9 is too dark and scary for kids (hence its PG-13 rating) and it's strained structure may be too dragging for adults.
It's too thin a narrative to even fill its short running time (79 minutes); it's as if its only ambition was to be aesthetically absorbing. Still, there are a few top notch action sequences and I adored one intensely striking scene in which the stitch punks find a phonograph and put the needle down on "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" for a brief relaxed interlude while the machines slowly approach on the horizon.
9 is an admirable effort on many levels, mostly in the high caliber of the animation, but ultimately comes off as cold and dystopian as the world our rag doll rebels are struggling to rise above.