9 (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/10/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

The animation is visually striking throughout but the film's imagination only stretches as far as the production design and the overly bleak plot fails to engage on an emotional level.

What's it all about?
Directed by Shane Acker (and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov), 9 is an animated drama in which a rag doll (voiced by Elijah Wood) with a number 9 on his back wakes up in a deserted, post-apocalyptic landscape and finds himself unable to speak. His voice is restored when he meets old-timer rag doll number 2 (Martin Landau) but when 2 is captured, 9 is persuaded to join rag dolls 1 to 8 (including Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover) in an ongoing battle against the vicious robot creatures that roam the planet.

The Good
Shane Acker's animation is visually striking throughout, with the character designs and post-apocalyptic landscapes achieving a nightmarish quality that works well; if not for the numbers on their backs, the rag dolls would closely resemble the super-scary Hattifatteners of Moomintroll fame. There's also solid voice work from the ensemble cast, though the fact that the characters are all visually similar may prove a drawback to younger viewers.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the atmospheric bleakness of the post-apocalyptic landscape is so effective that it actually backfires and becomes rather depressing, so that by the end of the film you're longing for a bit of colour. In addition, the plot struggles hard to achieve some sort of 1984-meets-The-Terminator-style resonance but fails to engage on an emotional level, largely because it's so difficult to relate to the characters.

On top of that, the shrieking of the robot creatures quickly becomes irritating rather than scary, whilst the film as a whole is almost certainly too dark, too confusing and too frightening for younger children.

Worth seeing?
9 is undeniably flawed and fails to engage on an emotional level but it remains worth seeing for its striking animation, its perversely depressing landscapes and for the fact that it's unusually dark for an animated feature from a major studio.

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9 (12A)
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Content updated: 21/05/2019 14:51

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