9, Blu-ray (2009)
Director: Shane Acker
Producers: Tim Burton & Timur Bekmambetov
Voices: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau
Music: Danny Elfman
Studio: Focus/Universal 62106416 [Release date: 12/29/09]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French or Spanish DTS 5.1Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: “9 – The Long and the Short of It,” “The Look of 9,” “Acting Out” – how the animators modeled for the animated characters, Deleted scenes, Feature commentary track with the filmmakers, “9” – discussing the original short, “On Tour with Shane Acker,” D-Box motion-enabled, U-Control, BD Live, Pocket Blu ap for iPhone or iPod
Length: 80 minutes
Not to be confused with the new musical version of 8½ titled Nine, this 9 is a feature-length animation expanded from an animated short on which newcomer Shane Acker spent four years working. His Academy Award-nominated short is also included in the many extras provided with the feature. This is a highly original story with great depth that might require a couple viewings to really get all the connections and details. Collaborating with Acker are Burton and Bekmambetov, and the several evil killing machines featuring many knife-like appendages are obviously the contributions of Tim Burton.
A great scientist creating an ultimate machine with the ability to create other machines itself. Instead of doing good things for humankind, it was taken over by the military to create war machines. These machines eventually revolted and killed all the humans. In the humans vs. machines battle, the storyline is not that different from Terminator and Battlestar Gallactica. Before dying, the scientist gives the spark of life and his various attributes to nine tiny “stitchpunk” dolls created out of burlap and various items. They have camera-like eyes and access to their own innards. Somehow they come together for protection in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. No. 1 is their leader, No. 2 is their scientist-type, and No. 8 is the bodyguard of No. 1. No. 7 is the only female of the characters. No. 9 is more active and curious than the others, wanting to know about their origin, which the others don’t seem to care about. In his explorations he accidentally awakens the evil main machine which may doom all of them. He struggles to discover the real reason for their creation and to save them. There are many predator animal-like machines out there to get them, and absolutely no animal or insect life of any sort remaining. This is a unique sort of post-apocalyptic world, and the basics of Acker’s short film are fleshed out with old newspaper clippings and movie clips showing how the terrible extinction of humanity came about. The differences between the various nine stitch-punks are shown imaginatively and it is not surprising to finally learn they represent various aspects of their scientist creator.
The film is an amazing visual trip, with plenty of contrast between the huge size of things in the world around them and the tiny size of the characters. In that it is similar to many Disney-like animal animations, but the gothic scary nature of their surroundings puts it in a different light. The different voice talents of the characters helps one identify them, since there is some similarity in their appearance aside from the big numbers on their backs.
The Blu-ray transfer looks terrific, as all animated films tend to. Good use is made of the surround field in many scenes. The extras are most interesting and should be viewed, but I was sorely disappointed that the portion identified as the original short was in fact not that but just a discussion, using a couple clips from it. Other DVDs of feature films expanded from an original short – such as Sky Captain – including the entire original short in the extras. The feature is altogether an extraordinary bit of animation! Some kids, however, might be disturbed by the scary creatures Burton has cooked up for the stitchpunks’ adversaries.
– John Sunier