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I went into 9 with some fairly high expectations based on the trailers I had seen. The animation is crisp and well executed, if occasionally too drably colored. The basic color scheme of the film is brown with some gray thrown in for an extra deadness. The film is far from pretty thanks to this.

The basic story/premise of the film is left muddy to the point of being unable to really grasp it. In a nutshell a brilliant scientist developed a machine to benefit humanity and a Stalinesque dictator usurped it to bring about the end of humanity. Sorry if that’s a spoiler but it is presented through dull black-and-white “found footage” that was so wholly uninspiring that I almost stopped paying attention during it.

The other big reveal I will spare you but it comes across as equally vague and utterly absurd, and revolves around the creation of the films heroes, a group of ineffectual sock monkeys who have so little personality that they go by numbers. Each is at best an archetype and little else, some less than that. There’s the plucky newcomer hero pushing everyone into action, intrepid girl bucking the system, the big dumb oaf following orders, the cowardly old leader averse to change, etc. Some of them I cannot really recall enough to tell you their number. Each of them comes off as quite a rote character.

Their nemeses come across as toys that were deemed to scary to be in the role of the mismatched creature from Toy Story. When one of them is destroyed by a ceiling fan it takes a lot of punch out of the feel of danger associated with them. The designed are quite creepy with their animal basis and they do seem threatening, or would if I cared at all about the protagonists. And that is really the worst thing about 9. It feels as though it were directed from an outline of a story that no one got around to actually writing. All of the big moments are loosely tied together, the idea of what happened to the world left vague other than clichés that were long ago beaten to death and a general sense of murkiness purveying both the story and the look of the film make it difficult to ever connect to the film. In the end it just becomes a forgettable diversion and unmemorable at that. 2 stars

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