If you crossed WALL-E with the Terminator franchise, then synthesized it through a World War II milieu, you would have 9, Shane Acker’s visually stunning animated film.
Like WALL-E, the film takes place in a world devoid of human beings, but like the Terminator, this world was destroyed when intelligent machines turned on mankind and killed them all. All that is left is what looks like war-ravaged 1940’s Germany and a band of nine creatures made of burlap and metal parts, and a fearsome machine-monster named “the beast".
When “9” (voiced by Elijah Wood) awakens for the first time, he sees his creator lying dead below him. He ventures out, where he meets “2” (Martin Landau), an elder adventurer who is seeking a way to defeat the beast and allow his friends to live in peace. “9” inadvertently revives the original machine that destroyed mankind, and soon the band of small survivors are battling a variety of cool but deadly mechanical creatures, including a snake monster with the head of a devil baby doll.
9 is scarier than most animated films, so it isn’t a movie to take all kids to see, but it is suspenseful and filled with wildly imaginative fights and set pieces.
Similarities to WALL-E continue when the cloth creatures crank up a Victrola they find and out floats Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow,” as opposed to Barbra Streisand’s cohorts singing “Put on Your Sunday Clothes.” The difference is the sense of ever-present danger lurking in 9’s destroyed world, although both films have technology as the villain. I recommend 9 as the product of a very imaginative visual team. If Acker could have imbued his burlap heroes with more life and soul, 9 would be a timeless classic.
As it is, 9 lags behind District 9 in character development, and probably behind Nine for out-and-out entertainment potential.
UPDATE: 9 is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.