I was a bit apprehensive about going to see 9, because it didn't look like your typical animated movie. However, the buzz on it has been huge (the short film on which it's based was Academy Award nominated), and Tim Burton is one of the producers, so I figured it had to be twisted good fun to get his stamp of approval.
Directed by first-time feature film director, Shane Acker, the film opens with our robot hero, 9, in the workshop of his scientist creator — who has just died on the floor after completing his final invention. Like I said, this isn't your typical cutesy cartoon. 9 is a sad-looking underdog with a burlap bag for a body that's reminiscent of a child's sock puppet. Upon entering the world, he soon realizes that it's a bleak, postapocalyptic wasteland where humans have been wiped out by destructive machines.
A cautionary tale about the dangers of science gone too far, perhaps?
For more about the film, including my thoughts, read more
The plot is simple: 9 leaves the scientist's lab and encounters 2, an early model of 9 who quickly becomes his friend. When they encounter “The Beast,” a terrorizing machine that obliterates everything in its path, 2 sacrifices himself to save 9, and 9 makes it his mission to get 2 back and fight the Beast — meeting a cast of characters along the way numbered 1-8, naturally.
It's a basic David-vs.-Goliath premise, but I was surprised to find myself on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film. This is an action movie, complete with full-scale battle scenes and even a few Matrix-esque maneuvers. The chase starts within the first 10 minutes and doesn’t let up until the very end, and the creative means Acker uses to get you there are entertaining to watch. 9 is also a solid protagonist to root for — humble, but full of gumption, and with his goggle-like eyes, he's even kind of cute. (You've got some competition, Wall-E!)
Several A-list stars lend their voices to 9, including John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly, and Elijah Wood as 9, but be warned — this isn't an animated film for your 6-year-old cousin. The tone can get morbid at times, and it's definitely not cheery. (The gray-brown color palette that Acker uses is proof of that.) But if you like quirkier sci-fi stuff, 9 is a great pick. It’s inventive, visually mesmerizing, and ultimately a story about friendship and the human soul that will leave you with a few warm fuzzies. Yes, even if you’re a robot with sheet metal for a heart.
Photos courtesy Focus Features