Shane Acker’s 9 Review: An Unexplored and Flat Post-Apocalyptic Animation Adventure

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It seems this summer has been full of science fiction based concepts, such as the new take on Star Trek and even the mechanized special effects monstrosity of Transformers. However, Shane Acker’s film 9 is a bit different and not just because it’s animated. 9 is a post-apocalyptic story about the survival of the human existence and while that might sound exciting the feature length version of a short concept film is as bland as its dialogue and lacks the credible expertise to deliver the science fiction genre’s deep and reflective characteristics on human nature, which results in a project that is uninteresting and looks much better in it’s animation than what is unfolding thematically on the screen. What’s incredibly disappointing with Shane Acker’s animation adventure is mostly due to the recycled story structure that’s been seen time and time again yet the details and concept of 9 are beyond the typical cinematic art direction and could have provided something new. With its unfortunately familiar plot line, horribly bland dialogue, a disappointing follow through with its interesting visuals, and a post-apocalyptic message that doesn’t quite hit home, 9 would have been better off as a non-dialogue animation short that was more interesting and had a much better follow through with its concept.

9 opens up in a typical science fiction fashion with war-ravaged society where all of humanity has been wiped out due to drastic advancements in technology. Our protagonist is a stitched up doll, known only by his given number Nine, awakes to find a dead man’s body and a strange device. Unknown about the nature of his apocalyptic surroundings Nine heads out when he sees a figure that looks just like him, where they both encounter a beast that seems designed solely for the hunting of these small figures, something that is never explained in possibility at all throughout the film. To simply describe the films convoluted plot, nine figures were created with the remaining parts of a scientist’s soul who seems to be responsible for building the machine that was responsible for the elimination of humanity. The role of each of these nine characters are never truly explored, nor are the characters very heavily developed resulting in a loss of sympathy and care to what happens to a couple of inanimate dolls, and the story remains a heavy homage to previous post-apocalyptic works such as Blade Runner and even The Road Warrior never moving past the typical science-fiction plot line remaining average in plot and story.

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While the story is quite average the animation is a bit stunning because of its detail and character designs. The dolls aren’t particularly enthralling but the various beasts and the “brain” that creates all of these mechanical demons that hunt the dolls are incredibly thought out and make the film a tad more exciting and interesting when they are on the screen. But while 9 comes off as a mystery adventure there is nothing drastically mysterious about it nor do the more adventurous sequences make the film more exciting. Visually they are well put together but because the film doesn’t build up any sort of sympathy towards the characters the audience’s expectations for their survival also lack development. A truly engaging science-fiction film would keep you on your seat and even have your nerves on edge, but 9 never even comes close to this climax of feeling. Much in the vein of typical blockbusters and even most animation films in the modern day 9 is truly more style than substance, visual rather than cerebral, which is definitely a mistake when it comes to science-fiction. Once Pixar shattered the standard of animation by putting substance at the forefront of their films expectations for a truly relevant story have risen and Shane Acker’s film doesn’t rise to the occasion.

After the 80s science fiction fell in societal relevance and even successful delivery. However, in the past couple of years with such gems as Children of Men and even Sunshine these films have impressed us with their philosophical depth and visual potency that reflects their messages. 9 unfortunately never follows through with its post-apocalyptic atmosphere and doesn’t provide anything new philosophically or explores anything original in its genre presentation. This is the ultimate weakness of the film because if a science-fiction movie loses it’s societal relevance by passing up the opportunity to explore such avenues as the dangers of technology or the concept of human nature, than the film itself falls apart. Some people might notice that there is no mention here of the exploration of the dangers of technology but that is because technology in this film is what saved the rest of humanity from the dangers of technology. This horrid contradiction and poorly thought out development are also drastic weaknesses to the overall films delivery.

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For those who haven’t seen the original animated short please do yourself a favor and watch this non-dialogue driven short that is visually impressive and thematically credible and leave it at that. 9 loses itself in the full feature presentation due to weaknesses in dialogue, plot development, and a loss of its originally proposed message. The film isn’t enjoyable nor is it extremely exciting, but does have some strength visually. Unfortunately with the science-fiction genre a film needs to be more than just visual it does indeed have to have an intellectual layer to the final product. Shane Acker commented earlier that he wished for his film to be for kids and adults, but unfortunately only a child could appreciate the simplistic storyline, lack of character development, and typical and recycled storyline that doesn’t offer anything new to contemplate or experience in the film as a whole.

Grade: C-

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Comments
2 Responses to “Shane Acker’s 9 Review: An Unexplored and Flat Post-Apocalyptic Animation Adventure”
  1. Rob Greco says:

    Liked the review. Great point about Children of Men and Sunshine (which is in fact one of my favorite sci-fi films of the last few years) being more revolved around their underlying meanings.

    Question: Any chance you’d do an ‘upcoming movie’ review? With all the heavily anticipated films to be released shortly, I would like to hear your thoughts on how each with be. Examples: Where The Wild Things Are, Avatar, Alice In Wonderland, etc.

    • octavarium08 says:

      Well I’d rather not speculate on upcoming releases…I might do a looking forward to section, which would most likely include Where the Wild Things Are. I’d rather see the feature before judging it.

      However, once I get some time to myself tomorrow I will have an early review for Zombieland, since I saw it last night.
      Otherwise, once I see it there will be a review.

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