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Movie Review

9 a.k.a. “Nine,” “Número 9,” “Numéro 9”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and scary images.

Reviewed by: Ethan Samuel Rodgers

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Action, Sci-Fi, Animation, War, Adventure
1 hr. 19 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 9, 2009 (wide—1,638 theaters)
DVD: December 29, 2009
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FEAR, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer



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Featuring: Christopher Plummer (1—voice), Martin Landau (2—voice), John C. Reilly (5—voice), Crispin Glover (6—voice), Jennifer Connelly (7—voice), Fred Tatasciore (8 / Radio Announcer—voice), Elijah Wood (9—voice), Alan Oppenheimer (The Scientist—voice), Tom Kane (Dictator—voice), Helen Wilson (Newscaster—voice)
Director: Shane Acker
Producer: Focus Features, Relativity Media, Starz Animation

Tim Burton
The Corpse Bride,” “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Timur Bekmambetov
Wanted,” “Nightwatch”

Mary Clayton, Dana Ginsburg, Jinko Gotoh, Jim Lemley, Marci Levine, Matthew Teevan
Distributor: Focus Features

“When our world ended their mission began.”

Visually stunning, ingeniously crafted, poorly laid out and sporadic at best, “9” is the cinema’s greatest example this year of how an intriguing premise can be squandered through the lack of ability to construct a sound storyline and is, furthermore, living proof that not everything Tim Burton touches turns to gold.

In the wasteland of what used to be Earth, a small puppet comes to life. The year and location are unknown, like many other things, but the puppet, 9 (Elijah Wood), quickly finds he is in a hostile world, filled with mechanical beasts and robots, machines and danger, where life seems to no longer exist.

Eight other puppets brave this world, led by 1 (Christopher Plummer). They huddle together for safety in a large abandoned cathedral, waiting for the danger, like the war that ended humanity, to sleep. After a string of unfortunate events, 9 and the others find themselves up against a great machine responsible for the death of the human race. Faced with insurmountable odds, they must destroy it to ensure peace befalls what’s left of the world.

So I’m sure you’re wondering what will happen next, right? Unfortunately, that’s really all the information you’re given, save two conventional plot twists and the ending, which is none-to-satisfying, as well. Director and Writer Shane Acker simply ran out of story ideas, it seems. The hour and a half run time is far too long for such a story, and the way it’s told is sophomoric, at best.

Thrust almost immediately into the action, one is pelted with four various climaxes throughout the ordeal, being spoon-fed crumbs of story in boring fashions to keep the charade alive while simultaneously having action scene after chase scene shoved down one’s throat. Granted, the animation is beautiful, every detail carefully examined, while the fight scenes are certainly not disinteresting. They do, however, simply grow boring after the first half hour or so, and without a single subplot to intrigue or enhance the overall plot, the one view storyline sputters quickly.

The story itself couldn’t really seem to decide what its endgame truly was. It was difficult to figure out or predict when the film was going to be over and what the point of the film actually was, until suddenly it was over, and tied neatly with a “feel good” bow of vague symbolism and hope, followed by the credits. Truly, the creators of “9” devoted themselves wholly to the creation of the beings and the world they lived in, instead of the plot or story surrounding it, or convincing us why we should really care about the tiny puppets anyway.

From a moral standpoint, the film is certainly acceptable. No language or sex, though the violence is incredibly realistic. Some of the monsters that chase after the puppets look like child’s nightmares come to life, and the overall tone and setting is dark, ominous, and downright creepy. Characters have their souls sucked out, and are hunted by Terminator-esque robots created to destroy them. This is one reason I see the film missing it’s target audience: the lack of interesting story and subplots that will not keep adults interested is coupled with the violent action that will scare younger children, which leaves “9” with a small demographic to entertain.

The symbolism is an unfortunate deterrent, as well. Not so subtly, 1 (Plummer) is dressed in a cape and hat, almost as a pope or bishop, ruling over the others who are afraid of he and his lackey, 8, in a large “sanctuary” which is indeed a cathedral. 1 is afraid of the outside, of knowledge and science, and of facing his fears for the good of the world, simply out of principal and rules. The constant reference to “the source,” coupled with the fascination over souls and resurrections also played a confusing part in the symbolism of the story, although their true purpose to the story, other than the cut and dry ending, which didn’t really make any sense, eluded me. These instances further cemented my view that not only was this premise that Shane Acker came up with poorly told and carried out, but mildly stereotypical and overdone.

The voice acting is surprisingly poor, as well. Unconvincing dialog from the entire cast is sprinkled throughout to inspire emotion and care, fright and apprehension, but ends up following suit with the story and simply lulling along. Uninspired lines are delivered casually and nonchalantly from start to finish with very few, if any, exceptions.

Were it not for the fantasy world and characters depicted with such creativity, along with their respective antagonists, “9” would be nothing more than a waste of 90 minutes. The animation itself truly saves the film from total demise, but can not redeem the pointlessness of the story Acker so clumsily weaves. While “9” is beautiful in many senses of the word, the development of what began as a short film concept into this major motion picture simply found itself without enough story or journey to support such grand aspirations. Concluded with too many questions and loose ends, and sticking to bland predictable story structure resembling an apocalyptic mix of “Happy Feet” and “The Terminator,” “9” is a film that certainly could have been great, but unfortunately capitulated to be nothing more than an extended piece of eye candy.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

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Comments below:
Positive—I was very impressed with this film. Hundreds of man vs. machine movies have been made, but this one takes that concept to a different level. I never would have thought that I would find a little burlap puppet cute, but in this movie I certainly did. I was impressed with the themes in the movie, aside from bravery, they show the willingness to stand up and fight for what is right instead of just hiding in the corner and waiting for it to go away, and the characters show amazing kindness towards each other. There is also a great amount of forgiveness exhibited. I was very impressed by the content of the movie. Movies that Tim Burton is involved in very often contain sensuality, bad language, or bloody violence so I was surprised that there was absolutely no bad language, blood, or sensuality of any kind. This fact in itself is impressive considering the other movies out nowadays, and even the fact that you can rarely see a movie where someone does not take the Lord’s name in vain.

Although the movie ending was not what I expected, it left an opening for what might possibly be a sequel of some kind, and hey, sometimes I think that moviemakers just want us to use our imaginations. Although there is certainly a lot of violence, it is all machines breaking and/or exploding. If not for the mention of a scientist putting his “soul” into the puppets, I would have given this movie a “Good” rating. I don’t believe that this movie required a PG13 rating, since I have seen PG movies that were by far extremely offensive. For any sci-fi, textured animation, Tim Burton fan, I would highly recommend this movie. I say thank you to Shane Acker for making a great movie that my husband and I can buy and not have to worry about skipping anything or muting the bad language. Hopefully, other movie-makers will follow suit and start producing good movies that lack offensive content. By the way, is it just me, or does Elijah Wood seem to always be the one to save the day??
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jessica, age 29 (USA)
Positive—I don’t feel like giving a lengthy review; I’ll just do the short version. “9” is a good movie, but it’s occasionally a wasted opportunity for greatness. The animation is absolutely fantastic, with impeccable attention to detail—it’s amazing to me what can be done with a movie that uses such a non-varied color scheme. Visually, it’s downright entrancing. Unfortunately, the plot is kind of weak. It starts out well, but then it becomes a generic fight-and-rescue sort of movie. The characters are decent—some are very good, some are just boring and generic. 9’s a great protagonist, 5 comes into his own as the movie progresses, 3 and 4 are charming characters, and 1 starts out as a bland stereotype, but grows into his own by the end. Unfortunately, characters like 2, 6, 8, and especially 7 just weren’t doing it for me. They were, for the most part, boring stereotypes. Don’t think I’m sexist or anything, but I’m getting sick of every movie needing to have the token tough female who’s a better fighter than all the guys put together. Not because it’s bad to have characters like that, but because it’s becoming SO overdone. I want to see something fresh.

Ultimately, though not nearly perfect, “9”'s a good movie. It just could’ve been so much more. CONTENT I’ve seen a lot made of the spiritual content, which is appropriate, because that’s probably the main moral concern. There’s a lot of it, but it’s very ambiguous to an extent. Shane Acker’s interviews on the subject have been unclear; I suspect he was looking for a balance between science and spirituality. Indeed, a main aspect of the plot is the fact that the rag dolls have souls. There’s an aspect of releasing them as well (in what very subtly APPEARS to be a hint toward evolution in the closing shots). However, it’s imbued with a scientific aspect in that the scientist gave them these souls and planned that they would be used to start life over again. There’s a balance, and for the most part, it seems entirely fictional rather than occultic.

The one negative comment so far mentions a pentagram, which I myself failed to see. As usual, the spiritual elements of the film are going to come down to the viewer’s belief on fantasy. I believe fantasy is just a way of exploring concepts we otherwise couldn’t. Those who think like me probably won’t be bothered by it. Those who think differently are best advised to stay away.

Fortunately, this movie stays entirely away from sex and profanity—not a single innuendo or bad word throughout the entire thing. Very commendable on the filmmakers’ part. However, it’s likely your kids are going to want to see this movie, so I ought to mention that in spite of the fact that this is animated, and the cast consists entirely of rag doll people, it is intense, scary, and violent. There is never any blood or gore, as the rag dolls can only be killed via the removal of their souls. However, the scenes where this happens are very intense, and young children are probably going to be unsettled by the fact that most of the rag dolls do not live to see the end credits. There were children in my theater, and they were visibly unsettled.

If your children are older, or have watched movies like this before, they may be able to stomach it as a rental. But please, please do not assume the PG-13 rating was a mistake. No, it’s not terribly violent, but it’s every bit as nightmare-inducing as “Coralline” and then some. Know your kids.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Matt Triponey, age 18 (USA)
Neutral—Not bad, not great. Just a modest medium of mediocrity. It’s clean and honestly overrated in the literal sense of the word. I think kids 8 and older or thereabout would be just fine watching this movie. Heck, back in the day, there were and likely still are cartoons rated TV-Y7 FV that are more violent than “9.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Mega Tron, age 23 (USA)
Negative—Though this was the best option (for morals) compared to everything else in the PG-13 range at the theater, this movie is so boring. I saw it with my friend who liked a couple of the surrounding environments that served as foreshadowing but still agreed that the ultimate point of the puppets was pretty stupid. I almost fell asleep after the first 30 minutes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Jeremy, age 23 (USA)
Negative—To focus on the film in strictly moral terms, it is very offensive. The most obvious thing about it is the amount of occult. Souls are sucked out of the puppets, a shell of a puppet (after its soul has been taken) is used as a decoy but looks and acts very much like a ghost, along with some other instances. But the most offensive thing is at the end of the movie, when a séance-style ritual is held to resurrect the puppets that have their souls taken during the movie. The cloth they’re made of is arranged in a circle with fires beneath them, and one large fire in the middle. It looks almost exactly like a pentagram.

The souls of the puppets are then released in this séance, and they interact with each other in friendly ways, giving the very wrong and dangerous impression that dealing with spirits is a safe and fun thing to do. There’s also a clear agenda against faith here. In the end, after the séance, it begins to rain and droplets fall “against” the screen, while the narrator speaks about life beginning all over again. You can make out tiny lifeforms within the water—an approval of evolution.

The leader of the puppets is also shown as a bigoted, close-minded, fearful old man who won’t listen to reason, and makes rash decisions. He’s also the one wearing a pope-style hat, and lives in an abandoned cathedral. He’s also the one with a violent henchman that protects him. In one scene, the henchman also gets “high” off of a magnet. Getting back to being against faith, there is one scene in particular where 9 and the leader (1), confront each other in an argument.

9 accuses 1 of being afraid of change, the outside world, etc. In another scene, 9 has to rescue 1 from being killed, but in order to save him, 1 has to let go of his scepter (symbol of power). He refuses, and 9 has to find some other way of saving him. The movie also has very frightening images, which would most likely be too intense for children, especially young children. Not to mention the promotion of séances, the spirit world, the amount of violence, etc. I didn’t find it entertaining, and don’t recommend watching it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—M, age 18 (Canada)
Negative—I rented this movie with high expectations. Unfortunately, the movie did not exceed them. The animation was great as well as the idea for the movie itself. However, the dialog, the storyline, and character development are all lacking. The only multidimensional character in the film was the #9 doll (obviously, since he’s the central character). It seems as if the movie’s producers tried to put a huge storyline in as little time as possible.

It’s not a horrible movie; it’s just not a very good one. The film had promise but the producers failed to make the film better. I wanted to like this film but I couldn’t. There was no sex or profanity or nudity, however, there are some very scary violent images which earn the film’s PG-13 rating. Be forewarned, this is NOT a film for children. Think of it as a cross between “Coraline” and “Mad Max.”

There’s not much of a spiritual message in 9; it seems as if it embodies a pessimistic, godless environment where it’s every man (or doll) for himself. It also implies that the church is anti-progress (doll #1 is seen wearing papal regalia and sitting near the tower of the Notre Dame cathedral; he is opposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking). Director Shane Acker developed this movie from an 11 minute short film he made while in film school. Acker’s idea for “9” was a good one, but it lacked a lot of depth.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Shannon H., age 28 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was amazing! The animation was breathtaking and the action was just plain cool. I didn’t find it boring at all, and the art-style was very original. While the story wasn’t incredible, the action and animation made up for it. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 11 or 12. It was creepy and the robots were very nightmarish. Overall, I loved this movie, and I recommend to anyone not scared easily and like action/robots.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Thomas, age 13 (USA)
Neutral—“9” is a movie filled with action that goes on forever in some scenes and in some it’s just boring. The backgrounds, though, are very amazing in some scenes, but it failed in plot. All in all, it was a good movie with a bit too much violence and not much of a plot.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jason, age 16 (USA)
Positive—The action was amazing in this movie. I like this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Ethan, age 11 (USA)
Positive—I liked this movie. I would recommend it to people 12 and up.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Joseph, age 12 (USA)
Neutral—I was surprised at how disappointed I was with this film. There was no character development, awful dialog and an Okay story. Even the actors seemed bored in this movie. The art direction in this movie was extraordinary but that’s all this movie had to offer. I’m making this review short because I don’t have much to say about this movie.

It has a good amount of action in this movie but that’s about it. There really isn’t anything objectionable in this movie except the violence can be quite violent at times. Does this movie have to do anything with Christ? No, not really. If you want to see a good movie, you should see “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” or “Where the Wild Things Are.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Langston, age 12 (USA)
Positive—This movie was good. I personally think that it should have been rated PG, I’m sure most kids can take the violence and the scary images.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Bobby, age 16 (USA)
Neutral—Well the movie was okay, but I thought that it wasn’t good at all, and you probably wouldn’t either. I would recommend it to 8 and up because it isn’t very scary at all which I was hoping it would be.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joseph, age 13 (USA)