Movie Review: Shane Acker's 9

9 Full disclosure: I've been pretty excited about seeing 9 for a while now. When the words "post-apocalypse", "animation" and "Tim Burton" start getting thrown around a particular film, chances are it will grab my attention.  I got to check out the film at a sneak preview screening this week, and for the most part, it doesn't disappoint.

Directed by Shane Acker and based on his academy award-nominated short film (see it here), 9 is the story of a rag-doll being - the titular "9" -  that wakes up in a world destroyed by a war between humans and rebellious robots.  He quickly finds others like him, and is forced to battle a malignant evil that haunts the bombed-out ruins of human civilization. Not an entirely original premise, but Acker's vision makes the world almost totally unique.

The animation is stunning. The CGI is fluid and incredibly expressive, and Acker manages to make the film technically slick without ever letting the technology behind the film override the end-of-the-world aesthetic. Essentially, it's 90 minutes of eye candy. In a summer crammed full of 3D animation, it's suprisingly nice to watch a well-executed "old school" CGI feature.

9 suffers from a "neither-fish-nor-foul" problem: it is decidedly NOT a kid's movie (demonstrated by the PG-13 rating and some genuinely frightening moments) and it stakes out some fairly sophisticated thematic territory. And yet, it is stuck with the standard 90 minute animated feature running length. This forces Acker to constantly trade-off between his ideas and the development of his characters. The movie moves fast, but in the end it doesn't quite get to the emotional climax Acker is chasing. The finale falls a little flat, and the whole film ends on a curiously vague note.

Still, 9 is an ambitious film. It is well worth seeing if you like big ideas, great animation, and get nauseated during 3D movies.

Photo courtesy of Focus Features