Directed by Shane Acker
9 is a visually impressive look at a post-apocalyptic world, but it doesn't have quite enough punch to make it a classic.
Battle of the 'bots
The world of 9 is populated entirely by robots. Humans make an appearance only in flashbacks, the race having been extinguished by a science project gone afoul. It was a project intended to make life better for all mankind.
The titular 9 refers to the last of a series of mini-robots called "stitchpunks." Made of carved wood, copper and burlap, 9 (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) is the most refined of his robotic breed. He's the curious one, open-minded, questioning and adventurous.
The eight other stitchpunks exhibit an assortment of characteristics. 1 (Christopher Plummer, Up) is, as his name implies, the first and he certainly acts the oldest. He's considered the leader of the pack. There's also the highly agile, martial arts-oriented 7 (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind). The other 'punks exhibit traits and interests including science, mysticism and brute force.
Truth and Consequences
Based on director Shane Acker's 2005 short, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Short Film category, this version is a scant 79 minutes long, including lengthy end credits. Short as it may be, it's a quality piece of work that does offer plenty of food for thought.
The underlying story behind man's destruction – man's machines creating more machines and then staging a revolt against their creators – isn't particularly fresh. But the story does dig into a series of life lessons that are well worth mulling over.
At the forefront, of course, is the underlying question of whether or not the continual pursuit of technology will ultimately wind up being man's undoing.
One of the questions asked of 9 more than once is, "What if you're wrong?" 1 would much rather do nothing than take a chance at making things better. 9, on the other hand, is of the type that "forgets to remember to be scared."
And, indeed, when 9 goes off to rescue 2 (Martin Landau, Ed Wood), his efforts have dire consequences, including the unleashing of an even bigger demon than the one that captured 2 in the first place.
All About Soul
Four of the nine stitchpunks.
Image: Focus Features
With a bigger, badder foe lurking on the horizon, the 'punks exhibit a tremendous amount of resourcefulness as they work together in using their various talents to defeat "The Beast" and take back the planet.
If there are no humans left, then what's the concern about saving Earth? Well, the movie answers that during a heart-tugging conclusion that boasts quite an amount of soul, both literally and figuratively. And its final message, that the world is what you make of it, is both timeless and timely.
Sporting a nifty production design that has a heavy H.G. Wells vibe, each frame of 9 is packed from corner to corner with detail and it boasts a cinematic sensibility that is rarely seen in animated movies.
One particular case in point involves a scene during which Judy Garland's Somewhere Over the Rainbow is juxtaposed against the emergence of The Beast from smoky, murky depths. It's eerie, poignant and highly effective.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.