Sackcloth and ashes: “9″ hits the screen

9 and 2 go exploring in ’9′ (Image courtesy Focus Features)

There has been a great deal of excitement about the release of “9″ the sumptuous animated adventure by Shane Acker which opens today. For those of you who don’t follow these things closely, that’s “9″ released on 09/09/09. Clever, hunh?

(Last night’s preview screening was meant to start at 9.09 pm, but that’s a whole other story.)

The film is visually fantastic. Aker sets a group of robotic ragdolls loose in a post apocalyptic landscape which is terrifyingly beautiful.

Our heroes, who have numbers from 1 to 9 rather than names are made from leftovers: pieces of sackcloth, old garden gloves and electronic bits and bobs. Yet somehow they have learned the basics of walking and talking, as well as a great deal about emoting, particularly about bravery and fear.

These ragtag humanoids have a lot more personality than many actors we see on screen today, and they need all their grit and guts as they battle horrific monsters constructed from more malevolent cast-offs, usually including several large blades.

Sadly the visual spectacle is draped around a flimsy plot. It’s unfortunate because the animation is so good you want the film to succeed. I will be watching for Aker’s work in the future, but “9″ doesn’t hold up.

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