9 is a 2009 computer-animated post-apocalyptic action film directed by Shane Acker, written by Pamela Pettler and produced by Jim Lemley, Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov and Dana Ginsburg. The film stars the voice of Elijah Wood as the titular role, alongside other voices of John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover with Martin Landau and Fred Tatasciore.
The film is based on Acker's Academy Award-nominated 2005 short film of the same name created at the UCLA Animation Workshop. Focus Features released it theatrically on September 9, 2009. It received generally mixed reviews from critics and earned $48.4 million on a $30 million budget. It also received an Annie Award nomination for Best Animated Effects in a Feature Production. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 29, 2009. As of 2019, this is the only adult animated film released by Universal Pictures (under Focus Features) to date.
In an alternate 1930s world, a scientist is ordered by his dictator, Chancellor Ferdinand, to create a robot in the apparent name of progress, and so the scientist creates the B.R.A.I.N., a highly intelligent robot. The dictator seizes it upon the scientist seemingly completing it, and turns it into the Fabrication Machine, an armature that can construct an army of war machines to destroy the dictator's enemies. But the B.R.A.I.N. was seized before the scientist could give it a soul, thus causing the Fabrication Machine to decide to exterminate all of Earth's population. The Fabrication Machine reprograms the other war machines to attack humanity, wiping out all plant, animal and microbial life with toxic gas and chemical weapons. On the verge of destruction, the scientist uses alchemy to create nine homunculus-like rag dolls known as "Stitchpunks," giving them portions of his own soul via a talisman he created. He dies upon completion of the final doll.
Some time later, the final Stitchpunk, 9, awakens in the workshop. Taking the talisman with him, 9 ventures into the devastated city and meets 2, a frail inventor who gives him a working voice box and is surprised to see the talisman. The last active machine, the Cat-Beast, attacks the pair and abducts both 2 and the talisman. 9 collapses, but awakens in Sanctuary, the tower of an empty cathedral that is home to other Stitchpunks - the dogmatic leader 1, his large bodyguard 8, the cycloptic engineer 5, and the mentally unstable oracle 6. 1 immediately declares 2 as dead, but 9, having seen the condemned factory where the Cat-Beast took him, decides to rescue him. 9 and 5 venture to the factory where they find 2. The Cat-Beast attacks the trio, but are saved by 7, the only female of the Stitchpunks. 9, drawn by curiosity, connects the talisman to the derelict Fabrication Machine, reviving it, and it subsequently kills 2 by sucking out his soul. 9, 5, and 7 manage to escape the factory.
7 takes 9 and 5 to an abandoned library, where the silent scholar twins, 3 and 4, have taken residence, and show 9 the Fabrication Machine's origins. 5 realizes the talisman's symbols match the clairvoyant drawings of 6. 9 and 5 return to Sanctuary to investigate, but 1 intervenes and reprimands them for disobeying his orders. Meanwhile, the Fabrication Machine assembles new robotic creatures; one of them, the bird-like Winged Beast, attacks Sanctuary, leading to a battle between it and the Stitchpunks. 7 joins the fight, but is injured. The Stitchpunks win, defeating the Winged Beast, however, they lose their safe-house, as a fire had started during the fight.
As the group retreats to the library, 6, 3, and 4 cryptically explain the talisman's origins, but 1 reveals to the group that he sent 2 out of Sanctuary on a scouting trip to die (declaring that, "sometimes, one must be sacrificed for the good of many"). 7, shocked by this, attacks 1, but flees when 9 intervenes. Meanwhile, the Fabrication Machine retrieves 2's corpse and uses it as a hypnotic lure for another one of its robot creatures, known as The Seamstress. The Seamstress attacks the library and captures both 7 and 8, but 2's body is recovered and given a funeral by the others. The others then run to the factory to destroy the machines. 9 goes in alone, kills the Seamstress, and rescues 7, but not before 8's soul is absorbed by the Fabrication Machine. 9 and 7 escape while the others destroy the factory.
The Stitchpunks celebrate the destruction of the factory, but the Fabrication Machine, which survived, suddenly emerges from the ruins of the factory and absorbs 5's soul. The Fabrication Machine attacks the group as they run away, and finally captures 6, who is absorbed but tells 9 to go to the Scientist's workshop to find answers. 9 follows 6's instructions, finding a holographic recorded message from the Scientist, explaining B.R.A.I.N.'s origins and that the Stitchpunks have his soul, making them the only hope for humanity. Following this revelation, 9 uncovers the purpose of the talisman and returns to his friends.
9 reunites with the other Stitchpunks and decides to sacrifice himself so the others can retrieve the talisman. Having had a change of heart, 1 redeems himself by saving 9, pushing him out of the way and allowing himself to be absorbed while 9 removes the talisman. 9 activates the talisman and reabsorbs the souls taken by the Machine, resulting in its final destruction. Afterwards, 9, 7, 3, and 4 free the souls of 5, 1, 6, 2, and 8 from the talisman as they fly up into the sky, causing it to rain. The final image shows that the raindrops contain small flecks of glowing bacteria, bringing life back into the world.
- Elijah Wood as 9
- John C. Reilly as 5
- Jennifer Connelly as 7
- Christopher Plummer as 1
- Crispin Glover as 6
- Martin Landau as 2
- Fred Tatasciore as 8 and a Radio Announcer
- Alan Oppenheimer as the Scientist
- Tom Kane as Chancellor Ferdinand
- 1 (Christopher Plummer) is the fearful, arrogant portion of the Scientist's personality. He is the self-appointed leader of the group, demanding absolute loyalty from the others and frequently clashing with 9, who refuses to follow him. He is seen to be quite rude, lacking guilt for his actions when the others do not do as he is asked.
- 2 (Martin Landau) is the creative and genius portion of the Scientist's personality. He is a kind, delicate old inventor. He is fascinated by garbage and scrap, and loves to explore the wastelands and look for parts for his inventions.
- 3 and 4 are twins, and the historians of the group and parts of the Scientist's personality. Both are unable to speak, but are capable of using flickering lights in their eyes to communicate with each other. They project images from their eyes to share information with the other Stitchpunks. They are very intelligent and energetic. They were found alongside 5 by 7 during a battle between man and machine. Their genders are unknown and never revealed throughout the movie.
- 5 (John C. Reilly) is the healer part of the Scientist's personality. 5 is caring, nurturing, and the loyal, bighearted "common man" who always tries to play the peacemaker. He is seen as the most frightened by the situation, as shown throughout the movie. He lost an eye during a battle between man and machine after 7 found him with 3 and 4. Despite being afraid of conflict, he is skilled with his weapons of choice and is seen to mend the other members of the group when they are hurt.
- 6 (Crispin Glover) is the artistic portion of the Scientist's personality. He sees things that the others in the group do not see. 6's fingers are made of ink pen nibs, which he uses to draw. His eyes are disproportionate in size, possibly to represent his mental instability.
- 7 (Jennifer Connelly) is the fighter part of the Scientist's personality and (possibly) the only female of the group. A rebel and a loner, she is willing to take many risks for the good of her people. She seems very attached to 3 and 4 and acts as a mother or older sister figure to them.
- 8 (Fred Tatasciore) is the brutish ruffian from the Scientist's personality. He is a master of weapons and wields one half of a scissor and a knife. He is the largest of the group, but the least intelligent. He is also responsible for protecting 1 as seen in a battle with the winged metal monster.
- 9 (Elijah Wood) is the youngest of the group that represents the Scientist's humanity, bigheartedness, thoughtfulness, and sincerity. He is very intelligent, but he can make mistakes due to his curiosity. He seeks the truth in the history of his creation, and wishes to know the meaning of life.
- The Scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) invented the Fabrication Machine and later the nine stitchpunks to fight against the Fabrication Machine, hoping that they would continue the spark of life. Each of his creations contains a portion of his human soul, embodying both his qualities and flaws. The Fabrication Machine only contains his intellect but no soul, which he later regrets not giving, as it led to the Machine's corruption.
- The Chancellor (Tom Kane), who is the dictator of his country, was responsible for causing the Fabrication Machine to turn against humanity after refusing to honor the Scientist's deal during the creation of the Fabrication Machine.
- The Cat Beast is the first machine that 9 finds. It was the last active machine in the world until the reactivation of the Fabrication Machine. With a gait somewhere between a lion and a monkey, it has spines on its back, a cat skull for a head, a red mechanical eye in its left socket and a light bulb in its right, which it uses to see in the dark.
- The Fabrication Machine/B.R.A.I.N. (Binary Reactive Artificially Intelligent Neurocircuit) is the immensely-sized machine and the creator of all the other machines. It was designed by the Scientist as an instrument of progress, instilling his own intellect onto it during its creation. However, before the Fabrication Machine could be completed by gaining a soul, the Chancellor failed to honor the agreement he made with the Scientist, and the former had it taken to be exploited as an instrument of war production. Due to the lack of soul, the Fabrication Machine would ultimately decide to exterminate humanity, turning the war machines it created on the humans and subsequently destroying all organic life on earth with chemical weapons. By the events of the film, the Fabrication Machine has been deactivated for some time, only to be reactivated accidentally by 9, where it would begin hunting the Stitchpunks to harvest their souls from them.
- The Winged Beast is a pterodactyl-style machine constructed by the Fabrication Machine to hunt down the creations. It has knives and scissors for a mouth, four small red eyes around its "head", a tarp or flag for its chiropteran wings, and a harpoon on the end of its tail. Several human bones are integrated into its structure. It can fly through a combination of its wings and an electric fan in its body. In battle, it uses the blades on its head, the claws on its wings, or its harpoon tail, which can be fired and retracted at will.
- The Seamstress is a cobriform robot designed by the Fabrication Machine to capture the Scientist's other creations; it is also its most formidable warrior. Its serpentine body bears numerous spindly metal limbs that end in a variety of claws, scissors, needles and blades. Spools of red thread are attached to its back, and 2's lifeless body is attached to its tail. Its head is a mixture of a skull and a broken doll mask with a requisite red mechanical eye hidden by the black fabric of its body, surrounded by smaller limbs that can spread the fabric to reveal its face. It flashes light through 2's eyes to hypnotize its victims, immobilizes them with its thread, and binds them in its own body to take back to the Fabrication Machine.
- Seekers are large hot air balloon machines with searchlights and alarms similar to air-raid sirens that scout around the factory.
- Spiderbots are small tarantulid robots that are made by the Fabrication Machine to repopulate the humanless world.
- Steel Behemoths are large, two-legged machines built by the Fabrication Machine as autonomous weapons. They formed the bulk of the Chancellor's army during the new war; this decision backfired on humanity when the Fabrication Machine went rogue, as its Behemoths were already spread across the world and could begin their mass extermination of all life. They are visually similar to a cross between the Tripods from The War of the Worlds and the smaller Imperial Walkers from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. They are fast for their size, and use powerful machine guns that can penetrate concrete. They can also launch capsules that exude toxic gas. As said by 1, the gas kills all life, including bacteria. They don't seem to be able to kill bacteria higher up in the atmosphere.
The film soundtrack was released only on iTunes and on Amazon eight days before the film was released. It includes the themes created by Danny Elfman, Deborah Lurie's film score and "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria. The latter song was used in two trailers for the film, with minor censoring for the full song in the soundtrack. Along with "Welcome Home", the teaser trailer also features an excerpt from "The Captain" by The Knife, which was also not included in the soundtrack. Other songs within the film that were not included in the soundtrack was the traditional "Dies Irae" chant, performed by Crispin Glover as part of the background score, and "Over the Rainbow", the song from The Wizard of Oz and performed by Judy Garland. The song plays in a lighthearted scene when the surviving stitchpunks were celebrating the destruction of the factory and played it on a 78rpm phonograph record. Right after Deborah Lurie finished the score for the film, she moved on to score Dear John.
All music is composed by Danny Elfman and Deborah Lurie with soundtrack, except "Welcome Home" (lyrics by Claudio Sanchez, music by Coheed and Cambria).
On December 25, 2008, a trailer was released on Apple.com that features The Knife's "The Captain" and Coheed and Cambria's "Welcome Home".
9 is the second animated feature film to be released by Focus Features, the first being Coraline, written and directed by Henry Selick and based on the book by Neil Gaiman. The trailer for 9 preceded Coraline when it was shown in theaters and released on DVD. A second trailer for 9 first appeared on G4's Attack of the Show and was later shown before Land of the Lost. It is an extensive trailer which includes a bit of the background story behind the existence of the creations. In April 2009, the film's "Scientist" began making journal entries on a Facebook page called "9 Scientist", including essays about each of his nine creations. The "9 Scientist" Facebook page seemingly references events leading up to the release of the film. A viral campaign promotional website for 9 was launched. It shed some light upon the background of the 9 world. The trailer featured several machines: the Cat Beast, a catlike ambush predator that appeared in the original short film; the Winged Beast, a pterodactyl-style machine with movable blades in its mouth; the Seamstress, a hypnotic serpent; Steel Behemoths, large two-legged machines armed with a machine gun and poison gas missiles which can kill in a matter of seconds; the Fabrication Machine, a cyclopean, spiderlike machine with many multi-jointed arms; and Seekers, aerial machines with searchlights. Later trailers also reveal the existence of several small spiderlike machines. Part of the film's marketing strategy was its release date of September 9, 2009 ("9/9/09").
Shortly before the film's release, Life released a mobile game adaptation entitled 9: The Mobile Game for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating of 57% based on 184 reviews and average rating of 5.88/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Although its story is perhaps too familiar and less complex than some might wish, 9 is visually spectacular, and director Shane Acker's attention to detail succeeds in drawing viewers into the film's universe." On Metacritic, it holds a score of 60 out of 100, based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, by favorably comparing it to the works of Hayao Miyazaki and saying it is "beautifully animated and intriguingly unwholesome... nevertheless worth seeing". The general sentiment by critics is that the film is "long on imaginative design but less substantial in narrative." Variety's Todd McCarthy says, "In the end, the picture's impact derives mostly from its design and assured execution."
Its opening weekend landed it at #2 behind I Can Do Bad All By Myself with approximately $10,740,446 and $15,160,926 for its five-day opening. The film has grossed US$48,428,063 worldwide.
No plans for a sequel have been made, but possibilities were mentioned via the film's 2009 DVD commentary. Director Acker has also mentioned the possibility of a sequel being made because of the lack of darker animated films, claiming that everything is G- and PG-rated with little to no dark elements. In 2009 he said that he will continue to make darker animated films, either doing so with a sequel to 9 or original ideas for future films. Before the theatrical release of the film, Acker and producer Tim Burton stated they were open for a sequel, depending on how well the film was received. Since the film's home release, there have been no further mentions of a sequel, with Acker focusing on projects announced in 2011 (The Adventures of Thomas), 2012 (Deep) and 2013 (Beasts of Burden), all 3 of which have not been released as of December 2020.
However, despite the silence from Acker, in January 2017, the Facebook profile of the character "the Scientist" was updated with a rather cryptic message. The profile had been inactive since 2009, leading some to speculate the teasing of a sequel.