It didn't explain itself. It didn't even have dialogue. It was still the darling of many a film festival, a cryptic, arresting vision of a world gone wrong, one that star filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov got behind to see that Acker was able to make a full-length feature out of it.
A doll numbered 9 awakens in a ruined world-after-war. A scientist gave him life, but now the tinkerer is dead and the doll must fend for himself. Out in the big, bad, barren world, he finds other sentient dolls, chatting, improvising and surviving the attacks of "The Beast," a robotic dog-thingy.
So 9, who is given the voice of Elijah Wood, takes up with 5 (John C. Reilly) and tries to convince him to go rescue 2 ( Martin Landau) aided by the warrior doll 7 ( Jennifer Connelly). Stodgy, fear-mongering old Number 1 ( Christopher Plummer) preaches fear of the unknown and of knowledge itself.
"Sometimes fear is the appropriate response," he counsels.
Sure enough, "The Machine" is awakened to attack them and show them more evils of science, "Sanctuary" is lost and "The Source" is sought -- all phrases and concepts deeply rooted in sci-fi lore, but stitched together willy-nilly here. It's anti-religion, anti-science, pro-science, pro-humanity, a little mystical and supernatural to boot.
While the look is as arresting as ever, this 9 is a several digits shy of the original in wit, execution and mystery.
9 Two of five stars Cast: The voices of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly Director: Shane Acker Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. Industry rating: PG-13 for violence and scary images.