9 posterVisually, 9 is one of the most amazing films that I have seen in some years, but probably the most amazing thing about it is that it is writer/director/creator Shane Acker's first feature film. Acker is a recent film school graduate, and before this film the only things he had written or directed were two short films, both under two minutes in length, and the 2005, 11-minute version of 9', which you may remember was nominated for an Oscar in 2006. It is one of the rarest things in cinema for a young director to come galloping out of the gates with something as powerful as his new film, which is already good enough to earn him a lot of well-deserved recognition, even before the Best Animated Feature nomination which will be bestowed upon him in a few months.If you've read anything about the film, you've probably heard the film criticized for having an undeveloped or incomplete story, despite the stunning visual achievements. True, there is a lingering sense of incompleteness in regards to the full story arc of the characters' lives, but on the other hand, the movie also feels like a brilliant short film that has been fleshed out into a feature length film without losing its heart. When short films are made into feature films, there are usually two things that happen an imaginative and impressive short film can be overshot in the feature film department with too much budget and too many big-name actors (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), or a bland short film can be fleshed out into a feature film without the addition of a single new idea, resulting in a half-witted idea spread much too thin over a full-length running time (A Day Without A Mexican).9I somewhat agree with the thought that adding voices to the characters was a bit of a creative misstep (it definitely brings a major atmospheric change to the proceedings), although I would also argue that he did it while still maintaining his original artistic vision. Voices were one of many necessary additions to justify a feature running time, and the voice performances are impressive as well . It is true, however, that the dialogue and action take a distant back seat to the incredible visuals, although as a debut film, 9 remains a towering achievement.The plot Nine little ragdolls have been created and left in a world in which all humans have vanished, leaving only themselves and a population of machines bent on their destruction. They have to save themselves, destroy the machines, and figure out what their problem was in the first place. 9They exist in a bombed-out wasteland of an Earth, which they refer to as "The Emptiness," and from which they stay in hiding pretty much all the time. Almost immediately, an enormous mechanical beast comes after 9 but he's rescued by 2, who the beast takes away. He is presumed lost by the rest of the numbers, but 9 insists upon a rescue mission.While attempting to convince the rest of the curious cast of characters of the importance of the mission, our heroes have numerous run-ins with the monsters and also learn of their own origins and the cause of the destruction of the Earth, and of mankind.As you can clearly see from this plot description, this is hardly a Pixar film with the family in mind. The movie starts off right at the beginning with deeply affecting images of destruction and death, and maintains its post-apocalyptic mood throughout the entire running time with little if any pause for comic relief. 9It's well-known that Tim Burton has taken a Producer's role with the film, and it is up for debate whether the permeating darkness in the movie is a result or a cause of his involvement, but either way, Burton and Acker seem to have similar visions and tastes for tone and mood.The atmosphere created by Acker is so imaginative and such a brilliant and vividly realized darkness that it is understandable that the lesser things about the movie, such as the dialogue and the relatively unimaginative action sequences, have come under attack. It is pretty clear that Acker has a better talent in the visual department than the storytelling department, but he is certainly one of our most formidable young talents, and we should keep an eye on the development of his career.The Bean Meter [caption id="attachment_55551" align="aligncenter" width="303" caption="4 Beans out of 5."]4 Beans out of 5.[/caption]