Directed by Shane Acker
Once in a while, sneaking up on them so to speak and now paying attention to the needs and releases of the big studios, moviegoers are treated to a most personal film. One of those is the new film “9,” and though not perfect by any means, it still reflects that rare attention these days, one person’s creation.
“9” is the vision of Shane Acker, an animator who originally made it as an 11-minute short, and then somehow found a couple of film big-shots – Tim Burton and his friends – who were willing to put their names on the line as producers of a full-length feature.
As the film starts, the world has ended; one inventor has worked against his limited time to make nine – well, what are they? – puppets, maybe, or strange little creatures made of different cloth, who have lenses for eyes and strange fingers and toes. They are the only living creatures on earth, but they still must face a malevolent force – a strange machine – that tries to kill them, and whom they must fight off.
Each of the nine can speak, in the voices of some well-known actors: Christopher Plummer, who’s Number 1 (his number is on the back of his clothing). Then there’s Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, and the voice of the film’s hero, Number 9, the protagonist, Elijah Wood. He debates with Number 1, who would like for them all to hide; 9 insists that they must come out and fight this force. We see what happens to the nine as they do fight, and that is about the limit of the film’s plot, which is quite a bit too thin for a feature film, since we never learn what the machine/creature is, nor who made it, or why it keeps attacking the nine figures.
And yet the film is richly designed, first as a post-apocalyptic world, with a lowering grey sky and the remnants of cities littering the landscape. And the nine creatures themselves are also inventive; who would have thought to make them out of cloth? But the animation works, and there are moments that come close to tragedy, so I for one will give Mr. Acker credit for what he did accomplish; he could have done so much more, though.