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
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.
Most American animated films in the last decade have been simple, easy, uplifting tales about cute critters or toys that play while the kid’s away. Those movies have their niche, and will never go out of style—we all need a bit of heartwarming sometimes. However, animation is reaching a point at which it appeals to children and adults alike (Pixar seems to have cornered this market). 9 is PG-13, which will alienate a young audience (and rightly so—the imagery would give little ones nightmares); it also gives the filmmakers room to play with mature themes. One of the oddest aspects of 9 is its apparent indictment of Christianity (and perhaps Catholicism in particular). 1, voiced by Christopher Plummer, wears a pointed, distinctly Popelike hat; he carries a staff and adorns himself with a red cape fastened by a small jewel. His mechanical eyes are narrowed to slits, and he spouts rhetoric about “dark science” and proclaims that “fear is the appropriate response.” The remaining stitchpunks, led by plucky 9, gather to fight the machines which prey upon them, while 1 wants only to hole up in his cathedral and dole out punishment to those who think too hard. After his garments put him in peril (and he remorsefully sacrifices them to save himself), he eventually redeems himself. The indication here seems to be that there is no answer to the philosophical dilemma with which the human race perpetually struggles: humanity (and by default, man’s faith in himself and higher powers) vs. science. As we enter an entirely new era of technological mechanisms and communications breakthroughs, the film seems to point out that we’re in danger of losing ourselves to our machines.
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.
Julia Rhodes graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Communication and Culture. She’s always been passionate about movies and media, and is particularly fond of horror and feminist film theory, but has a soft spot for teen romances and black comedies. She also loves animals and vegetarian cooking; who says horror geeks aren’t compassionate and gentle? Bank Routing Numbers