Posted: 08/28/2009



by Neko Pilarcik

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After the Human race destroyed itself new life emerges in the form of tiny sentient robots. However life amongst the ruins of civilization is not easy for these new beings as they must contend with the remaining war machines left behind by the humans. These giants prowl the wastes forcing 9 and his companions to either hide or fight.

The only thing I could think of after seeing “9” was “Wow”. I’m not a huge fan of CG animation, but this one could definitely make me a convert. The animation was expressive, yet life-like. The action scenes were spectacularly well choreographed and the modeling and environments were lovely. They managed the difficult task of being realistic enough to fit the story while keeping all the fantasy and charm that an animated film needs to have.

“9” falls into a rather rare category for North American animation, action movie. Within 5 minutes of his awakening our hero and his friends are either running from or fighting giant robotic monsters which only get bigger and more sinister as the story progresses. The movie is driven by breathtaking action sequences however that is not to say it sacrificed story for the sake of explosions. “9” has an interesting plot, but the story and character development are handled in such a way that we get what we need to know without becoming bogged down in exposition. If I had to find one flaw in the movie it would be the pacing. A little more time to catch one’s breath between epic battles might have been nice but it by no means detracts from the enjoyment of this movie.

The film is based on the award-winning stop motion short of the same name which was also created and directed by Shane Acker. Acker does a wonderful job translating the short into a full-length feature. The film expands upon the original without feeling labored or overdone. This is the first film to be created by the newly formed Starz Animation Toronto and they did a wonderful job. The characters were charming and expressive without being overly cartoonish, the surfacing and lighting gives everything the dusty, post-apocalyptic look the film demands while the careful set choices show us the beauty that can exist even in such a harsh world. I have to applaud everyone involved in this film for taking some rather large risks in story and style.

Convention dictates that an animated movie has to be “family friendly” meaning that whatever amount of action or drama or plot the movie contains it must be counter-balanced by a hearty helping of comedy. There seems to be an unwritten rule that states whenever the movie starts to get too serious or emotional something funny needs to happen to break the tension. This does not happen in “9”, tension is allowed to build, our heroes can face down giant monsters and even lose, and happy, peaceful moments can be broken by giant robot things crashing through the wall.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the traditional animated comedy because there isn’t, those movies are a lot of fun. However, it is nice to see creators daring to break the mold, of course this isn’t the first time Tim Burton has done this and I would expect nothing less from a film he produced. It‘s refreshing to see that the bounds of animation are still being tested, that new kinds of films can emerge and be embraced by the mainstream American market.

So on to the big question: “Is it too scary/ intense for my kids?” Well, I’m never one to draw a line and say “all children of X age will love or hate or be traumatized by this movie” because I don’t know what level of maturity your 7 year-old is at, nor what they like. However, I will say if you took your kids to see Transfomers and they enjoyed it then they’ll probably like 9 as well. So if you’re looking for a great adventure, mind-blowing action and beautiful animation then go see “9”.

Neko Pilarcik Is a freelance animator and illustrator living in Chicago. She recently directed the animated short The Three Artists which screened at Cannes in 2008.

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