9 Review
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In the post-apocalyptic world of director Shane Acker’s 9, humanity has been completely destroyed by war. All that remains are the machines—and nine little hand-stitched dolls, whose purpose is…well…unclear.

After the newest of the bunch, 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), is awakened, he’s befriended by 2 (Martin Landau), the wise old inventor of the group. So when 2 is captured by one of the machines, 9 is determined to stand up and fight—even if it means defying 1 (Christopher Plummer), the group’s leader, who demands that they stay hidden.

With help from loyal 5 (John C. Reilly) and brave 7 (Jennifer Connelly), 9 sets out to battle the machines—but, in doing so, they awaken an even bigger, more dangerous machine that threatens to destroy them all.

Based on the Oscar-nominated short of the same name, 9 is a pitch-black animated fantasy that features even more nightmare-inducing creatures than Coraline. 9 is rated PG-13 for a very good reason: because it’s really scary. This dreary world is populated with giant, mechanical monsters that chomp, claw, consume, and suck out the characters’ souls. It’s pretty gruesome stuff for an animated movie.

As terrifying as it is, though, the animation in 9 is still simply stunning—and, for the first half hour or so, the animation alone makes the film mesmerizing. Whether depicting the nine intricately detailed “stitchpunks” or exploring the dreary but imaginative world around them, each frame is crisp and breathtaking.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the story. As is often the case with feature-length films that started out as shorts, 9 seems to run out of things to say quite early on (the original, after all, is only 10 minutes long), resulting in a jumbled mess of added action sequences and some complex exposition that feels pointless and unnecessary (not to mention that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense).

The extra time could have been more wisely spent developing some of the characters—or even the story itself—to give the audience some kind of reason to care about what happens. Instead, we’re given the bare minimum on the characters: 1’s the narrow-minded dictator, 2’s the inventor, 8 (Fred Tatasciore) is a brainless goon (who also seems to be a stoner)…and, of course, 9 is the hero. But while most of the stitchpunks do have character traits, few have character. Though they can walk and talk, they still feel like little more than stuffed creatures—and when their story comes to an end, you’ll realize that you don’t really care.

9 is definitely a sight to behold, but with its flat characters and its pointless story—complete with muddled philosophies—it makes for a drab and dreary 75 minutes. I recommend watching the trailer to get a glimpse of the gorgeous CGI and skipping the rest.

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