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HTF DVD REVIEW: 9



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#1 of 4 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted January 03 2010 - 01:54 PM

9 tells the tale of a world that has come to an end. Humanity has extinguished itself by an ultimate technological war machine turned on its creators. Cities and towns now lie in debris-strewn, hollowed out building landscapes with a sullen grey sky, and a muted palette of life’s colors. In the still of a room, a small life awakens – disoriented, silent – it scurries from the carnage of the half-destroyed building into a huge world. The small life is a doll with big round eyes, no voice, and a large number ‘9’ stenciled on his back. 9 is a burlap creation sewn by the loving hands of a scientist (who also imbued him with life) but with no preface for the world he has awoken into. As he sets out he stumbles across another of his kind, a doll with the number ‘2’ stenciled on his back. The elderly, scavenging 2 helps 9 repair his voice, but they are interrupted by a beast of bone and machine which snatches 2 up and, after a few failed attempts to snap up 9, runs away toward a concrete tower in the distance. 9 will soon encounter others that awoke before him; dolls alive and surviving in a desolate, treacherous landscape; hiding from the roaming beast. In a failed attempt to rescue 2, 9 inadvertently brings back to life the monstrous machine which wrought the end of man, and threatens the survival of the small band of dolls.
9 is an immediately interesting film. While conceptually we have bore witness to tales of post-apocalyptic survival a number of times – everything from The Road Warrior, to The Terminator and The Matrix has explored the fight for survival among the harshest existences, 9 works so long as it remains focused on the characters. Shane Acker’s feature length animated tale expands his noteworthy short, widening the view of the horrific state of the world, and providing a more rounded narrative for his fabric protagonist to follow. Visually, 9 is a feast despite recalling images we have seen time and again. For his vision, Acker presents the carnage of the end of humanity on the earth as a blend between World War I and II – reminiscent of the era-defying landscapes created for 2008’s The Mutant Chronicles (and even Pink Floyd’s The Wall), which presents the biggest issue for 9 to overcome – its overwhelming familiarity.
9 is a brave film; it does not retreat from the bleakness and danger of its environment – nor does it betray the ideas from the short film – but it does fall short of being truly bold or original. There are moments of ill-timed, ill-placed comedy; distracting missteps ill-at-ease among the film’s more serious tone, which impede what the film seems to work hard to create – a rich, if dire, environment where hope and courage are rare . A couple of quite noticeable animation (continuity) goofs don’t help, but I can’t help feel that 9 deserves a wider audience than it found in theaters. It is not a typical animated tale – not in the slightest – and the affirming traits of friendship, courage, trust, and love find atypical frames to be presented. Acker may not have unfolded his tale into feature-length production with the confidence and imagination with which he embarked upon his short, but his first attempt at a feature length film is a worthy one, and deserving of 80 minutes of your life for you to experience for yourself, despite the concerns I have noted.
All in all, 9 is a mixed bag. While the characters are likeable, and the final act far more mystical than you might expect, the overall reliance upon familiar science-fiction elements (heavy derivation from the Terminator concept) take some air out of the experience. The animation style is fitting of the story being told, and the character designs, with an inherent innocence and sadness in their eyes, provide quite the source for the audience becoming emotionally invested. The story is briskly told (though its construct feels a little disjointed), and Acker clearly can be seen beginning to flex his visual story-telling muscles with the larger theatrical length canvass. The PG-13 rating may ward some parents off of this tale, which is a shame. While the world presented is decidedly bleak, the moral and meaning inherent in the tale are worthy of children much younger – but perhaps the bleakness and scares are more than enough to outweigh that. My recommendation is for unsure parents to pre-watch (always a good idea) – for all others, despite my misgivings, I recommend at least renting 9.

Overall Score 3.5 out of 5

Neil Middlemiss

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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#2 of 4 Kevin EK

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Posted January 04 2010 - 04:05 AM

Neil, I agree with your positions here.

You're absolutely right - we posted our reviews within about an hour of each other, and we definitely saw the same movie!

#3 of 4 Mike Frezon

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Posted January 04 2010 - 04:41 AM

And I was working on the theory that you are both really the same person.

I know I've never seen you both in the same room at the same time...



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#4 of 4 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted January 04 2010 - 01:24 PM

Shhhh, don't tell anyone - this way I get to review more movies than most mere mortals /img/vbsmilies/htf/smiley_wink.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon 

And I was working on the theory that you are both really the same person.

I know I've never seen you both in the same room at the same time...

/img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif
 


"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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