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Posted by Cantankerous Panda on January 5, 2010

This is a review of the film 9 (2009). Not to be confused with Nine (also 2009). Yes, this is confusing. I apologize on behalf of the film industry.

9 is an animated film by director Shane Acker. Let me repeat that. The animated film 9… is directed… by Shane Acker. I retyped it in such a fashion because ever since the film was advertised, every geektard in the country got their panties in a bunch over the new Tim Burton animated film. Now, I love Tim Burton. I do. But this is not a TIM BURTON FILM. This is a Shane Acker film. Tim Burton is one of the producers of the film, but the story, characters, and vision belong to Acker. It really, really infuriates me when people hear things like “from the studio that brought you ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas'” and immediately call it a Burton film (like they did with the movie Coraline, which was directed by Henry Selick). Tim Burton didn’t even direct A Nightmare Before Christmas (he did create the story and characters, and he produced it– but Coraline’s Henry Selick directed it). Get it right, people.

OK, now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about this film. I need to set this up for you. I had seen Shane Acker’s Oscar-nominated short film, also called ‘9’, quite awhile before I heard about it being turned into a feature-length film. I immediately thought, “WHY?!” And while I tried to keep an open mind with this film, I walked away with the same question: Why?! Why did they do this? I could find no logical reason to expand upon the story in the short film. The storyline changes, the addition of voices (which were provided by some stellar actors, such as Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Elijah Wood, John C. O’Reilly, Crispin Glover– who played an appropriately crazy character– and Jennifer Connelly), the pacing–good lord, the pacing! None of it worked.

I’ll start with the pacing, because it was so jarring from pretty much the beginning of the film. This was one of the most awkwardly-paced films I have ever watched in my entire life. I felt like I walked into a movie that was at least 1/3 of the way through after only 10 minutes. There were too many false-climaxes [insert sex joke here] and the same conflicts were being recycled over and over throughout the story. The story clearly needed to be drawn out to make a full-length film, but it just wasn’t paced out properly. The length felt forced and the pacing fell apart due to that.

As for the story, the additional aspects of the story were wholly unneeded, and only served to make the film more formulaic and less touching. This was aided by having voice actors. Part of the charm of the original was that these beings didn’t speak. They emoted, and they emoted quite well. It’s sort of like how Wall-E is the cutest thing ever, even though he says only about three words. It’s all about how he acted and less about what he said. Acker’s creations lost this magic when they started to speak. The also lost their magic with the over-explanation of their origins and why they were created. I didn’t care for any of that. I loved being dropped into Acker’s short film, where there were little burlap dolls somehow running around on their own in a desolate world, working desperately to fight off these giant cat-robot things. There’s no explanation. No background. You’re just there, with 9 (the dolls are called by their numbers, painted onto their backs) and you feel just as isolated and nervous as he (it?) does. It’s poetic and poignant. It’s a wonderful short film. It didn’t need anything else.

Do I recommend this film? No. I think this is the first film I flat-out tell people not to see a movie in one of my reviews, but I’m serious. Acker’s short film still touches me. There was nothing redeeming about his feature-length film. It just made me sad to see him take his beautiful work of art and gut it so that Hollywood could hump the corpse and hope for cash. So, instead of watching the film 9, I am recommending that you all watch Shane Acker’s masterpiece short film, provided for you below:


6 Responses to “9”

  1. Serryl said

    Aww, this is really disappointing. When I first heard about the feature length movie, I hadn’t seen the animated short. After watching it, I was concerned that they might ruin the balance he had achieved. It’s sad that that turned out to be the case. I will avoid this as you suggest.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I’m glad you’ve seen the short. It’s so beautiful… such a shame that they felt the need to push it further.

  2. Nivek said

    I agree completely. I knew beforehand that Frodo would be the voice of 9, so I went in with a little hesitation… I don’t really like him as an actor. He does a fine job as Frodo, but that’s pretty much the only film I like him in.

    The storyline is pretty odd, and doesn’t feel believable. It’s not because of the Science and Magic mix, either. I like to immerse myself into a movie, and I just couldn’t with this.


    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Have you watched the short film? It’s infinitely better.

      • Nivek said

        I did, and I loved it. I stumbled across it while browsing the web a few months before hearing about the film. This movie should have been done without voices… would have been so much better, with the plot modified a bit to match that.


        • Cantankerous Panda said

          Oh good! I’m glad you’ve seen it. I thought it didn’t need a full-length film treatment– it was beautiful and wonderful the way it was. Such a shame…

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