Directed by Shane Acker

Starring Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly


The animated feature 9 takes place in a desolate wasteland formerly known as Earth where mankind is a distant memory, deadly machines patrol the planet’s bombed-out surface and the only living creatures are nine small rag dolls created by a long-dead scientist.  Before you ask, no this isn’t a cartoon version of Terminator Salvation and it ain’t cute and cuddly like Pixar’s Wall-E.  Instead, 9 falls into that narrow category of animated films that definitely aren’t for kids, but are also smarter than the average big-budget blockbuster-movies like Akira, Perfect Blue and A Scanner Darkly.

That’s not to imply that 9 is all brain food.  In fact, the majority of its slender 80-minute runtime is given over to tense chases and rousing action sequences that are as well choreographed and as violent as any live-action post-apocalyptic adventure.  Director Shane Acker-who is adapting his own Oscar-nominated short film-isn’t too hip to wear his influences on his sleeve.  The film contains obvious nods to Ridley Scott, George Miller and Tim Burton, an executive producer on the film.  At the same time, Acker clearly possesses his own distinct creative vision.  The film’s images are lush and vivid and the characters are imaginatively realized-you’ve never seen an apocalypse that looks exactly like this.

9‘s visuals are so impressive they highlight the film’s one major failing: a clunky screenplay that’s more suited to video game cut scenes than a feature film.  Acker’s original short was largely silent and it’s a shame he didn’t take a similar approach here.  While the vocal performances from the ensemble cast (which includes Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly) are adequate, their wooden dialogue does nothing to enhance the proceedings.  Despite its flaws, 9 is exactly the kind of adult-oriented animated feature we need more of.  After all, why should kids get to have all the fun of going to the movies to watch cartoons?

Verdict: See It

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