Going into this movie, I thought the dark, apocalyptic atmosphere in it that was inhabited by animated dolls had to be the obvious results straight out of the mind of the imaginative Tim Burton. I was partly right, but mostly wrong. The CGI produced 9 is actually based off of a short film by director Shane Acker as a student project for the UCLA Animation Workshop. The piece, which took roughly four years to complete caught the attention of one Tim Burton and was then made into the feature film that we know today. Burton was one of the producers for the film while Acker was allowed to also direct the full length version of his original project.
9 puts a slightly different spin on films based around the apocalyptic film genre. For one, it’s animated, all CGI, but not necessarily meant for children with a PG-13 rating. Two, its main characters are dolls. Yup, dolls, nine of them to be exact who have the task of hopefully rebuilding the bleak and seemingly doomed present state of the world into a bright one. Machines created by a scientist to bring and maintain peace about the Earth developed minds of their own and instead destroyed all of humanity. Sound familiar? Terminator, I, Robot, The Matrix. These dolls, created by the same scientist are the last parts of humanity left.
The dolls, all displaying their numbers on their person, all contain parts of the scientist himself. Assumingly traits that he contained within his person which he decided to use to bring his little creations to life. The main character, 9, voiced by Elijah Wood is the very last doll to be created as well as the bravest. He asks the most questions about the world’s state and desperately wants to do something to make it a better one. Slowly but surely he encounters the rest of his fellow creations as well as their enemies, the left over machines from the war who steadily attack them whenever they find themselves out in the open. The only other brave soul and only female character, 7 (Jennifer Connelly), disagrees with their eldest leader’s, 1(Christopher Plummer), choice to just sit and hide in order to remain safe. She shares in 9’s desire to find a way to a better life.
Depending on how it is viewed, this film can possibly contain a myriad of different aspects and sub-stories and also contain the potential to spawn the speculated sequel or even prequel. For me, I think the man vs. machine story is always the obvious choice. Judging from the dark, war torn background, the audience’s curiosity is peaked on just how humans lost the war to the machines. One can only guess and assume, with some help from other films within the same plot genre, on just what happened. Perhaps naturally the machines had much better weapons and of course don’t need the human trait of rest or reason which in turn provides them with the much capitalized upon upper hand in the battle. A couple scenes in the movie do provide some insight into the massacre of humanity and the origin of the dolls. But a prequel would broaden that view and help to quench some of the thirst and yearning by viewers wondering what happened before; and a sequel obviously would after.
Another sub-story that jumped out at me was that the dolls all displayed their own personality. Different wants, needs, goals and aspirations along with the one general target of achieving a better living for themselves. But they were all made from parts of one person, the scientist. This made me think of other stories, either a movie, television, or books, that told of individuals having their personalities split or even those who may be bi-polar. Characters get into a moment of tough decision making and we see those two little people representing their conscience standing on either shoulder. One miniature version of themselves pushing in the direction of good while the other tries to drag them down the path of evil. Each doll seemed to represent a different trait of the scientist’s personality. A single trait, that when it was singled out, became dominant in each doll. There was wisdom, creativity, genius, bravery, brawn and even a little crazy. All parts of a person’s personality that lie within all of us. We just have one that may stand out more than all of the others. Mine, unfortunately is shyness, which is why most likely, I have been banished to write from behind the safety of my keyboard.
With an expected short running time of 79 minutes, this story of bravery and sheer determination packs a lot into a little package, or should I say nine little packages. Although I found the ending slightly disappointing, not from the story or film standpoint but because of my sometimes sappy way of wanting everything to work out, I still understood why Acker and Pamela Pettler, who wrote the screenplay, chose to end it the way they did. It’s one of those films that won’t be critically acclaimed but will probably hold a decent following in the coming years as it warrants more exposure. Especially if the crew receive a green light for another installment. I give 9 “3.5 reasons to fight for the future out of 5”.
“We had such potential. Such promise. But we squandered our gifts. And so, 9, I am creating you. Our world is ending. Life must go on.”
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