9 Shane Acker

9 Shane Acker
While thin on narrative, borrowing liberally from other post-apocalyptic, technophobic visions of a future dystopia — namely The Terminator — the impressively animated 9 doesn't struggle in sustaining interest during its gripping, action packed 72-minute run time, despite being little more than a series of cleverly staged battle and action sequences.

Shane Acker's expansion of his Academy Award-nominated short of the same name leaves little time to dwell on the negative, boasting intensity and visual panache.

Set in a decimated urban landscape, this tale of insuperable hope follows 9 (Elijah Wood), a hand-stitched mish-mash of materials brought to life, as he learns of a prophecy involving him and eight other similar creations, and their battle against the machines that have wiped out humanity.

Struggling against the will of pragmatic leader 1 (Christopher Plummer), 9 is aided by a warrior (Jennifer Connelly), a compassionate friend (John C. Reilly) and wise men and lunatics (i.e., Crispin Glover) in his quest to live a peaceful life.

What unfolds is a surprisingly dark and aggressive fable about the importance of unwavering spirit. This noble message and idealist heart take the film beyond its heightened creativity and technical artisanship, albeit only slightly, given the generalized approach in brevity. The gripping pace could easily have handled the weight of a denser emotional core with further complexity in its interactions.

Fans of genre pictures will note the many nods and references to films of a similar ilk, with the glowing red "Hal" eye and macabre doll heads. While familiar, these visuals are used in conjunction with ingeniously constructed monsters, based at their core on earthly creatures, such as snakes and spiders. When on screen, they captivate and evoke fear, keeping our eyes glued to them.

Investment is really what it comes down to, as there are shortcomings to the film, but the successes and the experience of it more than make up for these, giving older fans of animated fare something a little more mature to sink their teeth into. (Alliance)