• 2009-09-17
  • By Michael Litvinsky

9 meets the "King" of the Machines

Director: Shane Acker

"Nine" -  the new post-apocalyptic adventure cartoon directed by young animator Shane Acker turns out to be a peculiar mix of "James Cameron-like" post-apocalyptic action movie, and a Dreamworks/Pixar-styled cartoon. Produced by world famous director Tim Burton, with Russian director, creator of well-known films "Night Watch" and "Day Watch," Timur Bekmambetov, this film became a medley of Eastern European animation, Japanese anime and, so popular and widely spread around nowadays, Hollywood 3D-cartoons.

It is interesting that Acker's "9" began its story 3 years before the movie's premiere, which took place on Sept. 9, 2009. The story started out as the young director's thesis project during his grad school days in UCLA's animation department. Back then it was only an 11 minute short, and the characters didn't have voices. The cartoon basically included only a fight scene, in which small rag dolls fight a cat skeleton-shaped robot. Still, the slender length of the film and the lack of voices didn't stop it from getting plenty of awards, and even more nominations, including a 2005 Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short. After getting recognition from some A-list Hollywood movie makers (such as Tim Burton), Acker got the opportunity to expand his story and make a full, detailed, 80 minute long animated picture out of it.

It needs to be mentioned that the new, redone "9" strongly distinguishes itself from the old, short one: Acker had a chance to go much more precise in the details, which he used in full; the characters gained voices, the voices of Hollywood-famous actors such as Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer and many more, not to mention the Hollywood movie sparkle, that every more or less high budget American picture has. It is difficult to say whether the cartoon has won something with it. It has become a different product 's commercially much more successful, but one that probably won't win an Oscar, but that can be, and indeed, a qualitative one.

The story begins with showing the viewer a little rag doll called 9 (Elijah Wood), wandering around in a post-apocalyptic desert, hiding from cat-shaped robots (the thing that is actually taken from the original movie). He then meets other rag dolls, just like himself 's 1 (Christopher Plummer), 5 (Martin Landau) and others, who hide from the horribleness of their world in a destroyed church. Meanwhile, 9 begins to wonder about the origin of his kind (this, by the way, is a mystery that won't be solved until the end of the cartoon) and tries to find out what has actually provoked the Apocalypse.

Although, "9" has all the necessary ingredients of a good adventure cartoon, it has still lost something with its widening and commercializing. Maybe it is the originality and the will to disregard the trends of the mainstream, maybe it is the understatement of an 11 minute short film, nevertheless the cartoon, despite gaining a lot, loses something essential, something that made it different and special.

In the end I should say that the outcome of Shane Acker's and his crew's work is, undoubtedly, well made and for certain, very entertaining. The combination of an original idea and world class 3D animation does its job, but unfortunately, I don't have the heart to call it a masterpiece. Nevertheless, not every work should be a masterpiece, and "9" stays a quality product at a high Hollywood level.

Now showing in Estonia.Opens Oct. 2 in Latvia.

Please enter your username and password.