9

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Proof positive that originality doesn’t necessarily equal quality, this unusual slice of digitally animated apocalypse throws up some intriguing ideas but ultimately fails to impress. 9 is a stuffed toy who comes to life in a post-human future of giant machines and widespread desolation. Leaving the workshop where he was made, he stumbles across a gang of equally misshapen straw dolls, numbered 1 to 8, who are eking out a meagre existence and hiding from The Beast, a mechanical terror in the shape of a stalking cat. But when 9 persuades his new friends to take up arms against The Beast, he inadvertently awakens an even more insidious slumbering terror: the genocidal Machine.

First-time director Shane Acker’s major problem is one of tone: with its desolate  landscapes, disturbing imagery and oppressive atmosphere of impending  violence, ‘9’ is supposedly intended for adults. And yet the script is so shallow and bluntly allegorical, the characters so whimsical and transparent that even young teenagers may find it faintly patronising. The animation is stylistically impressive, but Acker’s restricted colour palette, with its washes of grey, green and brown, soon becomes a chore. An impressive voice cast struggle to inject life into the proceedings: Christopher Plummer is wonderfully obsequious as Petty Overlord 1, but Elijah Wood is merely flat and anonymous as the heroic 9. This film will surely be remembered as an intriguing failure: a triumph of ambition over ability, of ideas over emotional resonance – just another grim fairy tale for these troubled times.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday October 30 2009
Duration: 79 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Shane Acker