Directed by Shane Acker
Written by Pamela Pettler (screenplay), Shane Acker (story)
No. 9 – Elijah Wood
No. 5 – John C. Reilly
No. 7 – Jennifer Connelly
No. 1 – Christopher Plummer
No. 6 – Crispin Glover
No. 2 – Martin Landau
CLR Rating: 3.5/5 stars
STITCHPUNKS CARRY ON IN A WORLD WITHOUT HUMANS
Attaching big names like Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted and Night Watch) to an animated film is a smart way to draw audiences. Add stars like Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, and Christopher Plummer to voice the characters, and the movie may just break the box office. While the dialogue of Shane Acker’s 9 is not particularly incisive, and at times it’s even downright cheesy, the visual dynamics of the film keep it moving. The stitchpunks are tiny creatures made of fabric, zippers, thread, buttons, and minute mechanical clockworks (expect trick-or-treaters decked out in pillows and potato sacks this Halloween). Their names are numbers, 1 to 9. Throughout the film they encounter machine after machine, each more terrifying than the last, struggling to discover why they exist and how they can survive.
9 is a renovated version of the technapocalypse that paranoiacs have been dreading for years. Underlying the film’s premise is a tense suggestion that human inventions will outlast us all. While its format gives it an automatic bent toward a younger audience, the premise and execution make it a heavily adult film. The tone feels similar to some of Don Bluth’s cartoons of the 1980s. In The Secret of NIMH (1982) and All Dogs Go to Heaven(1989), religion, science, and intelligent dialogue meshed oddly with cute animals and a distinctly dark sensibility (NIMH is, of course, about the horrors inherently created by animal testing, and All Dogs Go to Heaven bestows in canines the very human traits of hatred, love, and belief in God and heaven). In 9, charming little creatures Acker calls “stitchpunks” struggle to survive in a world in which nothing human remains. At a meager 80 minutes long, 9 is a quickie fix for beautiful animation, imaginative monsters, and technological breakthroughs (in a number of ways).
The film is truly gorgeous to behold. Starz Animation has officially given Pixar a run for its money. Each surface is textured minutely; the film feels so real the audience could almost reach into the screen and scoop up a stitchpunk for themselves. The spooky brain monster against which the creatures must defend themselves is reminiscent of the machines in The Matrix—a glowing, glaring red eye centered in a mass of metallic tentacles. Though the voice actors are talented, the dialogue is few, far between, and unimportant to the film’s plot. This movie is eye candy.
9 is an intelligent, wondrous piece of animation that will leave audiences rapt. It experiments with themes that have been explored before, and it doesn’t do much differently with them. The film’s last line hands the world to the audience. “The world is ours now, “ says 9, “It is what we make of it.” Indeed it is, and the film seems to beg that as we strive for technological innovations, we not lose ourselves in the process.