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"We had such potential, such promise."
on January 9, 2010
"9" is an animated film based on the 2005 Academy Award nominated short film of the same name (which is included on the DVD). The film is the work of animator Shane Acker and was co-produced by Tim Burton, who got involved with the project after seeing Acker's short film. Although Burton did not write or direct "9," the film is very consistent with his past animated work such as "Corpse Bride." Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the movie focuses on a rag doll robot (!) named 9 who suddenly becomes sentient. As he explores his world, he discovers that the only other inhabitants are other, similarly numbered rag doll robots as well as a strange cat-like machine who hunts them. He befriends the other robots and changes their world drastically.
The world created in this film is fascinating and unlike any other animated film I've seen. I particularly loved the use of contrasts, including having the robots made of burlap and other unexpected materials (Acker has referred to the bots as "stitchpunks"). The "look" of "9" is by far its main draw, though, because unfortunately the plot is a rather drab and predictable affair with the robots fighting the cat-like machine (and then other machines). I found myself getting irritated by the repetitious battles and wanted to see more of this intriguing world. Likewise, I wanted to see more of the adorable "stitchpunks," especially the "cataloguing" scholars 3 and 4. Unfortunately, as soon as the robots are introduced they almost immediately start chasing the machines.
As with other Tim Burton produced animated films, "9" is not targeted toward children (it's rated PG-13); however, the plot was too juvenile to keep me interested. I actually strongly preferred the short film, which I watched after the feature-length movie. Indeed, the short film packs a real emotional wallop that is sadly missing in the full-length version. "9" is a noble failure (well semi-failure), and I applaud what Acker and Burton have tried to accomplish with this terrific looking film. I just wish that the plot had been worthy of the animation.