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Released: 9th September 2009

Director: Shane Acker

Stars: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly

Certificate: PG

Reviewer: Lewis Filer

Back in 2009, there was one animated film that never got the attention and praise that it deserved.  Directed by Shane Acker (WETA Animator for The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King) and produced by Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch, Wanted) 9 is a children’s film like no other.

Based on a short film by Acker in 2005, 9 was given the go ahead for a feature length version in 2008. Set in an apocalyptic future, where machines have taken over the world and left nothing but a barren wasteland of metal and ash, 9 dares to step into an unfamiliar and sometimes unsettling territory for youngsters watching.

The film follows 9 stitch-punk style rag dolls, each with a number ranging from 1 to 9. These dolls were created by a scientist who helped invent the machine that ultimately led to the world’s destruction. To atone for his actions, he uses an alchemic talisman to split his life essence into 9 pieces, and inserts these pieces of life into the dolls before he dies. Each doll is given a different aspect of the scientist’s life force, ranging from naivety to creativity, coward-ness to bravery and more. These dolls become the last hope at reclaiming the earth from the machines.

The dolls are brought to life with a superb voice cast including Elijah Wood (The Lord of The Rings, The Faculty) playing the lead doll 9, accompanied by Crispin Glover (Charlie’s Angels, Back To The Future), Jennifer Conelly (Labyrinth, Requiem For a Dream) John C Reily (Magnolia, Chicago, Walk Hard) and Christopher Plummer (A Beautiful Mind, The Last Station) as dolls 6,7, 5 and 1 to name a few. With no back story or history to any of the characters, it sounds like a challenge to pull off giving these little dolls their own personalities and voices, but the actors do a brilliant job in injecting each character with it’s own distinguishable voice and personality, particularly Wood as the Brave good hearted ‘9’ and Plummer as the irritable self-made leader ‘1’.

The brilliant voice acting by all the cast, in turn lets us forgive a script that is nothing more special than just helping to progress the story of the dolls journey to retrieve the talisman to help end the machine’s rule over the earth.

The visuals are nothing short of stunning. Where films like Wall-E portray the world’s man-made destruction, with humour and loveable naive characters, 9 completely does the opposite. The nightmarish wasteland is tragically beautiful and holds it’s own without even having to consider being in 3D.

With it’s red sky, scorching scenery, ruined cities, towering robot factories and hellish robot creatures foraging the remains, it is a real treat for the eye, even if the treat is a slightly nasty one.

Musical genius, Danny Elfman does exactly what he is best at. His eerie apocalyptic soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the on screen chaos. In contrast to previous scores for children’s films such as Alice In Wonderland, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Elfman succeeds in creating despair, terror and hope through his music.

9 is a visual delight that pushes the boundaries on what can be accepted in a children’s film. Dark, scary, beautiful and with a strong message of the dangers of humans relying to heavily on machines in the future (almost similar to that seen in The Matrix).  An underrated piece of cinema that can be enjoyed by all ages, particularly by fans of all things Tim Burton.

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