It's been the end of the world as we know it -- and dolls and machines battle for the rest in 9, a tremendously grim animated film.

At the film's opening a small burlap doll, with lenses for eyes and a zipper running down its chest, awakens in a room with a dead body and a small round metal device with weird symbols on it. This is 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), who knows nothing about himself or the devastated world.

9 soon leaves and dsicovers other beings like him. 5 (John C. Reilly) is a friendly fellow with only one eye; 7 (Jennifer Connelly) is an aggressive warrior; 6 (Crispin Glover) is a near-lunatic with insight into what's going on; 2 (Martin Landau) is a fearless inventor. They all live in sanctuary in a church, led by 1 (Christopher Plummer), who enforces his rule with 8 (Fred Tatasciore), a massive thug.

The danger: machines. A variety of maelvolent machines wander the world, capturing and violently killing the dolls they find. 1 wants to stay in hiding (even after 2 is captured) and wait for the machines to simply vanish. 9 wants to take action, from rescuing 2 to finding out what happened to the world.

9 is a combination of stunning visuals and pedestrian story. The world of this movie is a vast wasteland of destroyed buildings, endless rubble, and frequent (but mercifully covered up) dead bodies. The little doll-beings each have their own unique features that match their personalities, from 1's various crowns to 9's "normal" traits. The machines are varied and frightening: mixes of doll parts and gears, boxes that fire rockets, and a partially-cloth serpent that slithers along.

Storywise, 9 is very typical: An outsider comes into a community, doesn't settle for the usual ways, and leads everyone to a new existence. The voice talent is good, but 9 doesn't try to be more than an adventure/action movie. Still, the visual impact of 9 is incredible, and the movie is entertaining.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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