9 | Shane Acker, 2009
I love animation because with it filmmakers have more freedom to tell certain types of stories that simply would not work on the screen. However, with animation always comes the stigma that it is only for kids, and that restricts the kind of stories are told through the medium. Only Pixar seems to make movies that take on mature themes, but every once in a while, another studio either distributes a truly mature animated movie. 9 is one of those movies, and while it is far from perfect, it is a perfect example of what animation can achieve.
9 takes place in a future where machines tuned on their creators and the entire human race was destroyed. Foreseeing this, a scientist split his soul in nine pieces and put them into nine different burlap dolls, and they were given the task to continue life on Earth. The hero of the story is 9 (Elijah Wood), the last doll created by the scientist. He then later finds the remaining dolls and must make them follow the wishes of the scientist in order to rid the planet of the machines that remain and to get life on Earth back on track.
The movie is based on Acker’s Oscar-nominated animated short. The story in that short was perfect for its running time, and it featured no voice work, so that made it even more interesting. The plot given to the movie, however, is not quite enough to carry the entire movie even though it is not that long. Also, while the voice work is rather excellent, I wish they had had the courage to make it silent. I just feel it would have been more effective that way. The only performance that I had a problem with was Jennifer Conelly’s. It was adequate, but I wish they had gone wit someone with a more distinctive voice (Tilda Swinton maybe?). As for the rest, it was excellent. The animation is excellent for a movie with such a low budget. Also, the character design is among the best of any animated movie of the past decade.
Pretty much, the movie is oozing ambition, but the story failed to meet that ambition. Ackner does an excellent job in his directorial debut and hopefully we will be hearing more from him in the upcoming years. Animation desperately needs people like him who are willing to push the envelope of the kind of stories that should be told through this amazing medium.