Director Shane Acker expands his short film 9 to the silver screen that comes off as slight, if sophisticated animated action fantasy.
Its studio makes the numeric title resonate given the date and year and the backing and imprint of the eccentric, yet highly talented Tim Burton (The Corpse Bride).
9 features the voices of Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Jennifer Connelly, and Crispin Glover and is co-produced by Russian auteur Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted).
When 9 (Wood) first comes into being, he is positioned in a post-apocalyptic milieu where all humans are gone. And, it is only by happenstance that he finds a group of individuals like him hiding from fearsome machines that roam the earth looking to make them extinct.
"The Great Machine" sparks an intriguing premise that works against mankind and puts tiny humanoids in a desperate, sacred goal to enable the species to live on. Creation of a small order was realized by a scientist before the world's machines brought on destructive social unrest.
Acker's confident, sensitive direction goes a long way with the unique "steampunk" visuals and "stichpunk" steadfast, but troubled conflagration (of nine dolls).
Plummer assumes 1 as an imperious war vet, while Landau is 2, a feeble, yet amicable inventor. After 3 and 4, twins whose preternaturalness extends to their communication, 5, an engineer (John C. Reilly), extends a comforting strength. Glover's 6 is a conflicted, unsteady artist, 7 (Connelly) exhibits brave-hearted and independent attributes, and 8 (Fred Tatasciore) being 1's tough, yet hardly intellectual bodyguard.
The voice cast (mostly new to this kind of fare) manages appropriate, engaging conversation (the short film kept the members mute) complements of scenarist Pamela Pettler (Monster House) in order to deal with the formidable mechanized forces which have largely been shut down. One is massive in a bestial way which impels 9 to rally his offbeat tribe together through an individual and communal will above one's own average prowess.
Acker can be regarded here as a filmmaker to watch even as the storyline is overmatched by a visual acuity, attuned somewhat with a dark surrealism.
9 is accessible from the aspect of innocence summoning might in a different way and connects from its bleak setting not unlike a recent actioner like I am Legend or wonderful animation like Wall-E. This adventure may not be as interesting and amusing as some mainstream folks may hope, but thematically may give them something to chew on as the strategies and designs of such characters get better.