Not only is 9 set in a spooky post-apocalyptic cityscape, but an alternate-reality one at that, where distinctly Euro architecture mingles with menacing high-tech robotic horrors. The humans are dead, and the last resistance left against mechanical killers are nine tiny, conscious rag dolls, imbued by their scientist creator with clashing personalities and a vague sense of carrying on humanity's unfinished mission. They look a bit like moving hacky sacks, but with large round eyes that helpfully light up in the dark ruins. Their leader is One (Christopher Plummer), a nihilistic, doubting old coot, but the real visionary is Nine (Elijah Wood), a resourceful and gutsy little guy who finds a way to stop the spider-like villains, but only with great risk to himself and his friends.
The movie has a gorgeous, handcrafted quality, with loving designs for the "stitch punks," including individual touches that help to tell them apart, like the nifty little bird-skull helmet worn by lady warrior Seven (Jennifer Connelly). But if you're a fan of Terminator, Road Warrior or other bleak, dystopian fantasies, it looks like so much rubble. Yet for all the lush visuals, the film's essentially a long chase scene, with some shallow "War is bad" philosophy tossed in, leaving 9 pretty to look at, but as hollow as hell.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].