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9 Blu-ray Disc Review

The animated film 9 is perhaps the perfect Blu-ray release to watch on the PlayStation 3. From top to bottom, 9 exudes PS3 sex appeal, with a Blu-ray audio and video quality that’s rivaled only by Pixar and a title character that’s as much a clone of LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy as he is a unique ragdoll personality. But to really appreciate 9’s triumph as a film and a Blu-ray release from Universal, you have to understand the film’s roots.

The film 9 originated as an 11-minute thesis project conceived, produced and executed by a single man, Shane Acker. One of the bonus features on 9’s Blu-ray disc is the original short, and it’s basically required viewing — after the full-length film is watched (to avoid spoilers). To see Acker’s original one-man show is nothing short of inspiring, but even more impressive is to see the evolution of the 11-minute program into a full-length film knowing that its core tenets are intact even after going through the ringer of corporate Hollywood. Set in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited only by ragdolls and robots, 9 tells a story of survival, redemption, generational conflicts and at times faith. The fact that it accomplishes all this with less than five minutes of human characters is quite Disney-esque, but its darker tone makes it somewhat easier for adults to endorse the film on its merits alone, not because “the kids wanted to watch it.”

The Blu-ray presentation is just as admirable, with a video quality that’s virtually unmatched among animated releases. Considering how dark 9 is — and not just in content and plot — the use and depth of color are particularly impressive, especially in light of the film’s ability to take a washed-out palette and never let it feel unsaturated or monochromatic. Post-apocalyptic videogames such as Fallout 3, for instance, can at times feel visually boring because of the limited range of colors. 9, on the other hand, takes essentially the same thematic setting and injects it with ocular life.

Again considering the film’s modest roots, 9’s transition to and use of DTS-HD Master Audio reinforces just how important audio is to viewers’ immersion in a motion picture. You think visuals are vital to a post-apocalyptic setting? Try “living” in one without the subtle surround-sound of clanking metal, wistful breezes and echoes in a barren landscape. For as little as the core content changed from short to full-length film, the audio is night and day different. And that’s a very, very good thing.

As mentioned, the original short is one of 9’s seven bonus features, three of which are exclusive to Blu-ray Disc: Acting Out, a nigh-requisite featurette for animated films that discusses the animators moving around to get a feel for how the characters would move; The Look of 9, a little ditty about the textures and colors in the film; and 9 – The Long and Short of It, which discusses the evolution of the original story as Acker and his production team worked their way from storyboards to script to finished product. 9 also has full D-BOX Motion Code support, one of the best such uses we have ever experienced, but we’ll save those impressions for a stand-alone article.

9 may not have received an 2010 Academy Award nomination (although its like-named kin “Nine” and “District 9” both did), but the film’s Blu-ray release is still definitely worth the price of admission. Had the industry released Blu-ray Oscars, 9 would surely be on the list. Check it out today.

Click here to buy 9 on Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Score: 9.3

— Jonas Allen

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