Release Date: September 9th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Shane Acker Actors: Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly
t would be easy to dismiss “9” as simply an instance of visual artistry masking an underwhelming post-apocalyptic story; but upon closer inspection, the plot actually only suffers from too many ideas for the truncated runtime. Many of the concepts are clever and new and the elaborate action sequences provide thrills, but the setting and man vs. machine apocalypse have seen more than their share of incarnations. If the story lacks in expected profoundness, the generally impressive character designs more than make up. All nine “stitchpunk” protagonists are memorable and easily distinguishable (the variety of celebrity voices doesn’t hurt), and the enemy machines possess all manner of sharp weaponry and enormous statures. Perhaps the focus on action over origins keeps the excitement from fading, but for a world so full of possibilities, it seems like the answers should have been as exhilarating as the explosions.
“Stitchpunk” creation 9 (Elijah Wood) awakens to a desolate world ravaged by war. Full of questions, he ventures forth and encounters 2 (Martin Landau), a being like himself, only less complex in design. But before he can learn much about his surroundings or his past, his newfound friend is captured by a gargantuan metal beast and dragged away to a mysterious factory. 9 soon discovers more stitched beings, including the one-eyed 5 (John C. Reilly), the cryptic 6 (Crispin Glover), the battle adept 7 (Jennifer Connelly), the brutish 8 (Fred Tatasciore), the mute twins 3 and 4, and their ominous leader 1 (Christopher Plummer), who rules the group with fear and paranoia. In a hasty attempt to rescue 2, 9 accidentally activates a terrible creation, and must now lead the group on a perilous mission to uncover the secrets of the past in order to save their future.
The blind pursuit of technology brought humankind closer to doom, leaving in its wake the charred remains of civilization and the arrival of tiny, intellectual patchwork puppets. With little more than a couple of sentences to explain the vast, frightening, “Terminator 2” styled post-apocalyptic world, “9” jumps right into the mystery and wonder of deciphering a new existence and fending off mortifying, robotic creatures. Gathering clues about these strange critters and learning their purpose is half the fun, although with a short runtime and far too much to clarify, the plot suffers from abrupt solutions. The introduction of a mystical talisman, for example, provides a rather unlikely and vague explication for the formidable predicaments.
As with most futuristic and science-fiction films, the setup often requires so much background that either it’s left obscure or it envelopes the entire movie. With “9,” the setting is dwarfed by the visuals, dwelling almost entirely on incredibly creative designs and taught action sequences. The environment is beautiful in its daunting desolation, and the enemies are wickedly crafted from mercilessly sharp, rusty, and jagged metal scraps. The nine sack dolls are also inventively pieced together with the oddments of the shattered human race (the remnants of steampunk), and like “The Magnificent Seven,” each serves a unique mental and physical purpose. With fascinating, abrasive visuals, a PG-13 rating, and a few scares that are too intense for younger audiences, “9” confirms the birth of a notably mature computer animated feature.
– The Massie Twins