Written by Pamela Pettler
Directed by Shane Acker
Voices: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau and Jennifer Connelly
The number 9 in the title of director Shane Acker’s feature length adaptation of his Oscar nominated short of the same name, refers to the name of one small creature of sorts left on Earth after humanity has wiped itself out in the pursuit of technology. It also refers to what seems like the total number of these creatures in existence. When I say creature, I mean tiny burlap versions of ourselves that are no larger than soup cans and have bi-focal lenses for eyes. It isn’t clear what gives these tiny fighters life but then again, Acker doesn’t do much to clarify why we should care they’re alive either.
There is no denying that, like the promotion for 9 boldly claims, Acker is a visionary. The post-apocalyptic world of 9 is not only devastating to behold but it is all the more bleak from the perspective of these tiny creatures. It is mammoth and overwhelming and the details in the animation are as striking as they are heartbreaking. The trouble is that the bleakness of the imagery is matched only by the meandering hollowness of the story. Nine of these little guys are left on Earth with no idea why they’re there. Subsequently, we sit there feeling just as lost as they do until they figure out their purpose. Considering how long it takes to get there and how weak the explanation is when you hear it, you’re left wondering even harder why you made the journey with them to begin with.
Visually, 9 is distinctly adult. This is not to say that it is overtly violent or sexual in nature; it is just darker than what would typically appeal to an infant. Animation should never be limited to one particular audience as it is a means of communicating an idea like any other. But while 9 directs itself to an adult audience, it does so with basic good and evil themes and easily identifiable good guys and bad guys. Adults will find it too simple and children will find it too dark and so, Acker’s 9 will remain lost, unseen and unappreciated in its empty but beautiful abyss.