9 (2009)
By: J.R. McNamara on May 28, 2010  | 
DVD
Madman | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 76 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Shane Acker
Voices: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau
Screenplay: Pamela Pettler
Country:
External Links
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The haters of CG animation unfortunately have a Hell of a lot of ammunition in their supply dumps. For every Pixar film that is released there are many low budget, crappy features and TV shows that drag CG animation's name into the toilet, around the S-bend and out to sea with the rest of the crap. Thankfully however, now and again you can get a shining beacon that potentially heralds a new dawn of awe-inspiring CG animation. Monster House was one of those non-Pixar high points, and this film 9 is another.

9 takes place on a strange world called Earth, and is set in a fictional post-apocalyptic version of the planet around the time of the First World War, or more likely, several years after, but still not quite World War 2. We start our tale with the birth of 9 (Elijah Wood), a 20 centimetre tall ragdoll who awakens to find himself in a laboratory, with a dead human body on the floor in front of him. Amongst the other bits and pieces around him he finds a small device, which he spirits away inside his ragdoll body, via the large zipper on his chest.

He looks out to the landscape to find a ruined world, full of the results of the death and destruction that mankind has brought upon him. Out in the landscape he sees another ragdoll and rushes to meet him. Here he meets '2' (Martin Landau) a scientist and explorer who wishes to find out what happened in the world.

Unfortunately, 9 and 2 are attacked by a cyborg cat/monkey thing, which captures 2, steals 9's device, and runs off towards the ruins of a giant factory seen on the horizon. 9 finds his way to a church where he meets the leader of a group of ragdolls '1' (Christopher Plummer), and his henchman, the brutish '8' (Fred Tatasciore) and he is forbidden to return to the wastelands. Soon he meets '5' (John C. Reilly) and convinces him to go against 1's wishes, and they venture out to save 2, but what they find there is terrifying. The cat/ monkey has 2 kept in a cage, so the new friends decide to save him. With the help of ragdoll outcast '7' (Jennifer Connelly) they manage to do so, but 9 inadvertently restarts the machines that he soon finds out caused the demise of mankind.

So it's gigantic mythical like robotic beasts versus a ragtag group of toy survivors in a post apocalyptic, steampunk-y world? Sounds good to me! I will say though, that there is far far more to the story than what my synopsis gives away, but to reveal too much would spoil the film, so I shall resist.

9's origins come from a 10 minute short made by UCLA student Shane Acker, which was nominated for an Academy Award. The full length feature was produced by director of Wanted Timur Bekmambetov, and well known director of kookiness, Tim Burton. The original script was without dialogue, and didn't really explain the world of 9, so screenwriter Pauline Pettler, whose stripes were earned writing the screenplays for the aforementioned Monster House and also The Corpse Bride for Burton, was brought on to give this amazing looking world a brain and a heart.

This film sits well with the work of Henry Selick, and would be in great company with films of his like Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas except for one thing: it may be too dark for some softer children, as there are visual elements of Jan Svankmajer and The Quay Brothers in it.

The mechanical monsters in this film are wonders of design as well, incorporating broken dolls, dead cat and human remains and clockwork styled robotics to create fearsome fiends that even Ray Harryhausen would be impressed by.

All in all this film looks and plays wonderfully and it only goes for a little over an hour, and surely you have an hour to spend on something like this, don't you?
Video
Beautiful image on this disc, which is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Thankfully a lot of care seems to have been taken with the transfer to DVD at the detail is fantastic.
Audio
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 5.1 and is brilliant. The sounds of war and the scraping and clunking of machinery will REALLY give your system a workout...TURN IT UP!!!
Extra Features
First we have some deleted scenes, which are titled The Truth Revealed, Throw Me The End Of Your Rope, The Fall Out, Taking the Offensive, and The Scientist's Legacy. These are not completed CGI but instead animated storyboards with original dialogue.

9 – The Long and The Short of it sees Shane Acker and his cast and crew discuss the difference between the production efforts needed for a full animated feature and an animated short. It also explores just how much work goes into an animated feature like this one.

The Look of 9 takes a look at the 'set' and creature design for the film, and how it gets its influences not just from the obvious steampunk and early 20th century look, but also that of mythological creatures and their lairs.

Acting Out features discussions with the animators and shows how they are as much actors in animated film as much as the voice players are.

9 - The Original Short shows Acker's original short film which is a lush and totally professional looking piece. This also has a commentary performed by Acker and his animation director Joe Ksander.

There is also a decent director's commentary on this disc performed by Acker and Ksander, but this time with head of story Ryan O'Coughlin and Editor Nick Kenway and is a fairly thorough commentary.

We also have trailers for other Madman products Akira, Transformers - The Movie, Appleseed Ex Machina, Vexille and Ponyo.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
9 is a great looking film that bashers of CG animation will have a hard time picking on, Sure it doesn't have the super technical stuff of a Pixar film, but it doesn't want to be a Pixar film! It is dark and dry and stinks of a war-torn battlefield. Fans of steampunk will love some of the design in this film, and fantasy fans should enjoy the slightly based in reality, alternate worldliness of it.

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