9, reviewed by Koutchboom
9 is an astonishing and beautiful piece of the apocalypse.
I have no good reason for why I did not see this in the theater. I was extremely excited when I saw the first trailer. I had already seen and loved the short film. My favorite movies are Toy Story and City of Lost Children and this is pretty much the combination of both. I love animated films. The last great film I had seen had the number 9 in the title and was also based on a short film. Instead I foolishly listened to reviews about it. What a great film.
This is Burton at his best. This is that sequel or next great thing after Nightmare Before Christmas Tim was unable to deliver until now. While Tim is not as involved in this film as he was with Nightmare he was smart enough to bring the right people together like he did with that film. This is directors Shane Ackers baby through and through. He wrote and did most of the animation for the short this film is based on. While this is essentially an expanded version of that short he adds a whole back history and story to the character 9. Another thing that made Nightmare so memorable was the score, I won’t be humming the score for 9 for the rest of my life but the haunting score by Danny Elfman’s protégé Deborah Lurie was masterfully done and very fitting.
For fans of the short at first that long list of famous voice cast was a little off putting, wondering if they were going to turn it into some cheap fart joke laden Dreamworks crapfest. To me the voice work was wonderfully done, each numbered character had a unique voice and attributes to give them some importance and significance. The one I was most worried about was John C. Reilly just because he’s got such a unique and odd voice, in the end I think he was my favorite character in his child like wonderment and excitement.
I loved the animation in this movie, CGI has gotten to the point where the picture perfect looking world they all live in is just stale and boring looking. As hard as Pixar tries (like Earth in Wall-E) there is just something too clean about their films. This is a gritty and dirty looking future, where man has be over taken by machines, there are dead things everywhere nothing is still in tack everything seems to be hanging by a thread and it’s just amazing to behold. Shane Acker’s world is fully envisioned in this film to great extent, you just want to keep seeing more and more of it.
The story is basic but never boring a majority of the film is done in the style of a silent film. They have kept the dialog to a minimum which is great, but each character is given enough to do for you to know each one differently. The rag dolls are each separate parts of a scientist’s soul in his last attempt to ensure that humanity survives the war with the machines. 9 wakes up one day a few years after 1-8 have been living in fear and struggling to survive day to day hiding from the machines. Of course 9 stirs everything up upsetting the balance of power that 1 has over all of them because 9 wants to explore and do things. 1 is the grumpy cynical cowardly old man of the group. In 9’s journey he awakens the Brain which the same scientist that made the dolls also made, but was taken from him and turned into something evil instead of the good it was meant for. The rest of the film is the dolls fighting the brain and figuring out what their purpose is.
This is a timeless tale because they decided to set it as if the apocalypse had taken place sometime between WWI and WWII. Its probably the darkest kids movie I have seen in a long time, like I said before you see decaying bodies and these dolls die in a fairly violent manner, no one is safe and the monsters created by the brain are nightmarish looking. This is a fine genre film, and I would love to see more animated films dabble in genre like this. Mainly I can’t wait to see what Shane Acker does next and I’m glad to know that Tim Burton while maybe useless in his own film making is still alive enough to recognize young and upcoming talent.