The film is based on Acker's Academy Award-nominated 2005 short film of the same name. 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.
In the 1930s, a Scientist is ordered by his dictator to create a robot in the apparent name of progress. The Scientist uses his own intellect to create the B.R.A.I.N., a robot with a soulless ability. However, the dictator quickly seizes it and integrates it into the Fabrication Machine, an armature that can construct an army of war machines to destroy the dictator's enemies. Lacking a soul, the Fabrication Machine becomes so corrupted, sadistic, and bloodthirsty that it has the idea 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 who created B.R.A.I.N. 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 as soon as the final one is ready.
Some time later, that final doll, 9, awakens in the Scientist's workshop. Taking the talisman with him, 9 ventures into the devastated city and meets 2, a frail inventor who gives him a voice box and is surprised when 9 reveals the talisman. The last active machine, the Cat-Beast, attacks the pair and takes 2 and the talisman. 9 collapses, but awakens in Sanctuary, an empty cathedral that is home to other Stitchpunks, including 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 has taken 2, decides to rescue him. 9 and 5 venture to the factory where they find 2. Meanwhile, 7, the only female of the Stitchpunks, arrives and slays the Cat-Beast. 9, drawn by curiosity, connects the talisman to the previously derelict Fabrication Machine, causing it to absorb 2's soul, reviving the machine and killing 2 in the process whilst 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, 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 decides to intervene by going up against them, and reprimanding them. The Fabrication Machine then assembles new robotic hitmen; one of them, the bird-like Winged Beast, attacks Sanctuary, leading to a battle between the Stitchpunks and the Winged Beast. 7 joins the fight, but is injured. Still 5, 6, and 8 win by murdering the Winged Beast.
As the group retreats to the library, 6, 3, and 4 cryptically explain the talisman's origins, but 1 gets upset again by announcing to the group that before he sent 2 out of Sanctuary on a scouting trip to die. 7, who gets shocked by this, loses her temper by lashing out at 1 before running off when 9 prevents her from attempting to murder 1. Meanwhile, the Fabrication Machine retrieves 2's corpse and uses it as a hypnotic lure for another one of its robot hitmen, The Seamstress. The Seamstress then 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 inside alone, assassinates the Seamstress, and rescues 7, but not before witnessing 8's soul being 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 stayed alive, suddenly emerges from the ruins of the factory and absorbs 5's soul after surprising the other Stitchpunks. The Fabrication Machine soon attacks the group as they run away with fear, and finally captures 6, who is absorbed but not before telling 9 to go to the Scientist's workshop to find answers. 9 follows 6's instructions, finding a holographic recorded message from their scientist creator, who explains that the Stitchpunks are all a part of himself, making them the only hope for humanity. After that 9 realizes how the talisman can be used against the Fabrication Machine to free the captured Stitchpunks' souls.
9 reunites with the other Stitchpunks and devises a plan to sacrifice himself to allow the others to retrieve the talisman from the Fabrication Machine. 1, having had a change of heart, redeems himself after saving 9 by pushing him out of the way, allowing himself to be absorbed and giving 9 the opportunity to remove the talisman. As the Fabrication Machine desperately tries to grab the talisman, 9 activates it 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.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.
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.
1 (Christopher Plummer) is the cowardly, 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's asked.
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 don't 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.
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. They are unable to speak, instead 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.
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.
The Scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) invented the nine creations to fight 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 Chancellor (Tom Kane) 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 Radio Announcer (Fred Tatasciore)
The Newscaster (Helen Wilson)
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 machine that built all the other machines. It was designed by the Scientist as an A.I. for use by the Chancellor.
The Winged Beast is a pterodactyl-like 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 bat-like wings, and a harpoon on the end of its tail. Several human bones appear to be 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 cobra-like 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-like machines with searchlights and alarms similar to air-raid sirens that scout around the factory.
Spiderbots are small tarantula-like 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 Walkers from Star Wars. 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.
9 was directed by Shane Acker, who also wrote the story based on his previous short film by the same title. The screenplay was written by Pamela Pettler. Acker, a young director, was influenced by Tim Burton, who worked with him on this animated feature. It was produced in part by Burton, Timur Bekmambetov and Jim Lemley, and was released on September 9, 2009. Animation began in Luxembourg at Attitude Studio, but subsequently moved to Starz Animation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The film was released by Focus Features. Originally, TriStar Pictures was supposed to release the film with Focus Features, but was later dropped out to distribute Planet 51.
While the surviving creations are celebrating, "Over the Rainbow", the song from The Wizard of Oz performed by Judy Garland, plays on a 78rpm gramophone record, which was not included in the original motion picture soundtrack to 9. "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria plays in the trailer for the film, with minor censoring, which is included in the soundtrack. The trailer also features an excerpt from "The Captain" by The Knife, which was also not included in the soundtrack. It was only available on iTunes and on Amazon before the film was released 8 days later. It includes the themes created by Danny Elfman, Deborah Lurie's film score and "Welcome Home".
All music 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". The trailer featured several machines: the Cat Beast, a cat-like ambush predator that appeared in the original short film; the Winged Beast, a pterodactyl-like 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 cyclopic, spider-like machine with many multi-jointed arms; and Seekers, aerial machines with searchlights. Later trailers also reveal the existence of several small spider-like machines. Part of the film's marketing strategy was its release date of September 9, 2009 ("9/9/09").
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.
Since the work of the Scientist is ultimately responsible for the destruction of mankind, it is of some note that the actor who plays this role, Alan Oppenheimer, is the cousin of scientist Robert Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Atomic Bomb". Although it was an animated film, 9 was rated PG-13 for "violence and scary images". NECA Toys released collectible action figures of 9 and 1.
Shortly before the film's release, SkyZone released a mobile game adaptation entitled 9: The Mobile Game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The plot is similar to the movie's plot, with minor differences. It received mixed reviews.
9 has received generally mixed reviews; critics praised its animation, visuals and tone but criticized its average voice acting, lack of character development, and pacing. Based on 182 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating of 57%, the critical consensus stating: "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 currently holds a score of 60 out of 100 indicating mixed or average reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, 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 5-day opening.The film has grossed US$48,428,063 worldwide.Honored with the Winsor McCay Award [for career achievement] (producer Tim Burton)
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 29, 2009, just three-and-a-half months after the film's theatrical release. The DVD and Blu-ray contained special features such as the director Shane Acker's original 2005 short film of the same name, cast interviews, and commentary by the filmmakers.
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 2012 (Deep) and 2013 (Beasts of Burden), neither of which have been released as of August 2017. However, despite the silence from Acker, in January 2017, the Facebook profile under the scientist character was updated with a rather cryptic message. The profile had been inactive since 2009, leading some to speculate the teasing of a sequel.