A group of sentient rag dolls (also known as 'stitch-punks') fight for survival in the ruins of a decaying post-apocalyptic world.
9 is a full-length adaption of director Shane Acker's 2005 short film of the same name. The story feels very original, and yet somehow the plot ends up being very easy to deduce. It seems marketed to children, but some of the images (the cat monster in particular) would probably be too terrifying for small children. This seems like a movie that would be great for precocious children or childlike adults.
9 is the main character, a stich punk who awakes in a strange room in a wrecked building. Unable to talk and unsure of who or what he is, 9 wanders down into the streets and meets '2' - a kindly, older stitch-punk who examines 9's construction, noting that 9's hands are better than his own, more advanced. 2 fixes 9's voice but the pair are soon attacked by very scary robotic creature with the skull of a cat.
2 is captured by the cat beast and dragged away, leaving 9 wounded. The newcomer is rescued by 5, a shy, retiring stitch-punk with a good heart, but not as much courage. 5 lost one of his eyes early on, back when the world was 'less quiet'. 5 brings 9 back to Sanctuary, where the rest of the stitch-punks live.
Each of the stitch-punks has their own personality. 1 is the leader, and he has a know-it-all, defeatist attitude -- and a typically grand hat. 7 is the only female stitch-punk, and the group's warrior. 8 is a brutish, cruel, stupid stitch-punk who enforces 1's rules on everyone else. Other stitch-punks fulfill the standard archetypes -- the mystic, the historian, etc.
9 quickly comes into conflict with 1, who insists on leaving 2 to his fate. 9 organizes a rescue attempt and then the plot begins to roll along from one disaster to the next.
The visuals are phenomenal and the film itself is very entertaining, but the ending feels tacked on. In the original short film, 9 defeats the cat creature which killed stitch-punks 1 through 8, frees their souls from the cat monster's soul-catching amulet, and then marches off into the wasteland like Mad Max. In this version of the story the titular hero does not vanish into the wastes, but remains with a few companions (very few) and the promise of a world with more life in it.
But they're still little dolls in a sad, empty world!
Also, the creator of the stitch-punks seems a bit odd. Named 'The Scientist' - this godlike creator made the stitch-punks in order to try to set the world free from one of his earlier creations, a sentient machine called 'BRAIN' that killed off the human race and has since created the various mechanical monsters that threaten the stitch-punks. So 9 is sort of like Raggedy Ann and Andy versus SkyNet.
The Scientist imbued each of the stitch-punks with some of his life-force through a very non-scientific amulet with some cryptic symbols on it. How this qualifies as science is never explained, but hey, it's a whimsical movie, right?
The imagery is very dark and affecting, and beautifully executed, but it doesn't feel like children's fare to me, even though it does suffer from the tacked on happy-ish ending that doesn't offset the film's sad, dreary atmosphere. This made the film seem somewhat confused. Acker should have settled for a sad, ambiguous ending as he did in the original short film.