It is a post-apocalyptic world where humankind no longer exists. The earth is now dominated by violent mechanical creatures searching for and destroying a small band of robotic rag dolls that are the only link to the human past. One of their numbers is a born leader who convinces the survivors that the only defense is a good offence and they unite under “9.”
Focus Features hit one out of the park earlier this year with its very first animated feature, “Coraline.” Their second time at the animated bat is a far more routine story but one coupled with some of the best CGI and production design to date.
The human world is in its death throes following the massive revolt by the robots they created. As the bad bots make their final move to kill the few remaining survivors with poison gas, The Scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) puts the last touches on his tiny army of sackcloth robots that will be the last vestige of mankind on earth. Although their numbers are small, they are resourceful little creatures (only about six inches tall), and try to hold their own against the roaming enemy bots.
9 (Elijah Wood) is the last of the sack bots brought to life but he is not quite complete. He hears a monster robot in the distance and runs in panic. Luckily he bumps into 2 (Martin Landau) who helps him hide from the monster and, with his bag of gadgets, finishes The Scientist’s work and completes 9. A cat-like robot monster gets 2, though, and drags him away, leaving 9 lying wounded.
Things move on as 9 finds the enclave of kindred sack bots including their leader, 1 (Christopher Plummer), one-eyed 5 (John C. Reilly), 6 (Crispin Glover), over-sized enforcer 8 (Fred Tatasciore) and warrior babe bot 7 (Jennifer Connelly). They are brave but fear the monster robots and the destruction they are capable of inflicting. 9 soon becomes responsible for activating a giant monster machine capable of churning out all manner of killer robots. This is where the story that cloaks “9” wanders into the routine as 9 must make up for his mistake.
The bulk of the story by director Shane Acker, scripted by Pamela Pettler, consists of members of the tiny sack bot army put in jeopardy then being rescued by their comrades. The rescues ramp up in action from one to the next culminating in the grandfather of them all in the climactic conclusion. We have seen it all done before but the visualization of the routine story is executed with great skill by Shane Acker and his creative animation and CGI staff. The small cadre of actors giving voice to the imaginatively garbed sack bots is well cast and well performed.
For me, it is the CGI and visual production that makes “9” a worthwhile film. The attention to details, such as the individual costume of each of the diminutive sack bots and the brilliantly intricate background art, make this a great piece of elegant eye candy. I was reminded of the richness of the old Disney animated features like “Pinocchio” with the minute details the animators give this modern fable. A second viewing is necessary to appreciate the detailed background.
“9,” with its PG-13 MPAA rating, is definitely aimed at adolescent viewers as children under, say 10 year old, may find the violence too much to handle. Life and death battles against the bad robot hordes are the norm so this 79-minute work moves along briskly and violently. This is intelligent feature animation making that is homage to “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Terminator.”
Laura did not see this film.
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10 | Video
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