9 Shane Acker

9 Shane Acker
Riding the steam of his Oscar-nominated short of the same name, first-time filmmaker Shane Acker expands his post-apocalyptic tale of scavenger rag-dolls to feature-length with the high-profile backing of Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. It's easy to see why such well-regarded visual artists would feel an instant connection to Acker's vision. The world of 9 is painstakingly detailed and distinctly stylized. Burton's influence on Acker can be felt in the gothic innocence of the rag-doll design, but the "uninhibited evolution of the industrial revolution" environment lends a unique design view of an increasingly familiar tale. With such focus on the visual minutiae, it's not terribly surprising that story is relegated to the back seat, albeit with the creative window slightly cracked. Opening with the construction of 9 by a mysterious human, who's dead by the time his creation awakens, the stomach-zippered protagonist sets out to explore this world, swiftly finding danger. Saved by 2, a previously crafted model of the same species of sentient rag-doll, 9 is introduced to the rest of the group of misfit survivors. For anyone who's grown up on a diet of cautionary machine apocalypse tales, the core of this narrative is nothing new, but it is a concise and kinetic telling. It's Terminator Salvation if Skynet took over in the '50s and the resistance failed, leaving their intentions in a bunch of tiny spiritual cloth sacks. The voice acting is top-notch, with Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plumber, Crispin Glover and Martin Landau treating their roles as important character work. The cast and crew have nothing but praise for Acker in "The Long and Short Of It," one of many quality features on the production. It's fascinating to see just how collaborative the effort was in fleshing the story out to feature-length, and to see which scenes were cut at the storyboard phase in the "deleted scenes." A design feature and a look at the animator's role in bringing a performance to life on screen are quite insightful and informative, as are commentaries for the feature and the original short, which is also included. 9 is enjoyable eye-candy sure to be much more potent to those less familiar with the genre conventions its story is stitched together with. (Alliance)