9 (Alliance, 2009) D: Shane Acker, w/.
9 (Alliance, 2009) D: Shane Acker, w/ Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer (voices). Rating: NNNN DVD package: NNNN Rating: NNNN
If 9 had followed through on the implications of its big midpoint reveal, it might have become an enduring fantasy classic. As it stands, it’s a beautifully realized adventure with an original look and premise, some thrills and a bit of emotion.
A burlap rag doll wakes into a completely lifeless, war-devastated city and finds others like himself hiding from a bizarre mechanical cat creature. Through their battles, 9 (Elijah Wood) and the others learn something of what happened to the world and their purpose in existing.
Like everything else in 9, the cat creature has a wonderful look that seems hastily cobbled together from whatever came to hand. This works well with a world not quite our own that mixes alchemy with 1930s-style science.
The dolls are well-voiced, notably by Wood as 9 and Christopher Plummer as cowardly, scheming group leader 1, and director Shane Acker is a great visual storyteller. Check out his original student movie, the inspiration for the feature, to see how much he can convey without a word.
It’s odd that Acker apologizes in the commentary for the lack of photo-realism in his computer animation. None of the world’s great fantasy films have put realism first, and why should they? Well-done stylization does more to draw us into the imaginary world.
EXTRAS Commentary, original short with commentary, two making-of docs, more. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.