9 DVD Review

     February 11, 2010

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It’s rare that two films with the same name come out within months of each other.  After all, the MPAA Title Registration Database exists to protect against just such confusion; however, when both are adapted from pre-established source material, what can the MPAA do?  To be fair, so the two films in question, Nine and 9, are not quite identically titled.  The former is an adaptation of the stage musical of the same name that itself is taken from Fellini’s 8 ½.  This is not a review of that film.  The latter is an expansion of director Shane Ackers’s digitally animated short about a burlap doll that awakens in a post-apocalyptic world devoid of humans and must subsequently struggle to survive.  DVD review of that 9 after the jump.

9_movie_poster_01.jpgElijah Wood voices the titular character, who upon his abrupt awakening find himself in a decimated world populated almost solely by machines.  He has no sense of who he is save for the number “9” crudely drawn on his back.  As he is about to become a snack for once such monster, the Beast, he is saved by another doll, 2 (Martin Landau). 2 leads him to a small enclave of similar dolls led by the cowardly 1 (Christopher Plummer).  9 is apparently the last of their kind, although several others apparently have already fallen victim to the machines.  When 2 is captured, 9 leads a rescue mission to save him and inadvertently switches on the up-to-then dormant master machine of them, the Brain.  To save himself, the remaining dolls and perhaps the last visage of humanity, 9 must discover the truth of his own creation by a supposedly “mad” scientist and defeat the Brain once and for all.

The voice actors-who also count Jennifer Connelly (7), John C. Reilly (5) and Crispin Glover (6) among their numbers-do a fine job.  The story itself is rather straightforward in nature, but it at least doesn’t completely devolve into a sappy happy ending even when 9 eventually defeats the Brain.  The characters are decidedly one-note and cardboard in nature, but not because of poor writing; those characterizations actually serve an existential story purpose, as each doll’s persona is actually a unique element of the scientist’s soul transplanted from him to them.  As such, the only way they could act is one-dimensionally.

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Ultimately, though, the animation is the star of the show; it is truly phenomenal.  The original short is included as a special feature; while the animation of the feature is slicker and refined, the work done on the short is equally impressive-in fact, more so, since the short was director Ackers’s student film, with animation created solely by him.  It is easy to see why mainstream Hollywood became enamored and felt his creation deserved the feature film treatment.

Video / Audio / Extras

All your usual suspects in terms of picture and sound (1.85:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1).  As is typically the case with computer-animated films, the quality is top-notch; after all, the movie never had to leave the digital realm from final print to DVD.

The DVD contains a decent amount of extras, of which the inclusion of the original short is by far the standout.  The deleted scenes were more interesting than on most discs, since they were composed from a collection of sketches, animatics and otherwise unfinished pieces of animation.  The featurettes (“The Look of 9” and “Acting Out”) lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: more interesting and better production values than many, but definitely inferior to the best.

Final Words

Incredible animation, okay story.  Watch it for the visuals.

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