9 is a 2009 animated fantasy film directed by Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. The film, which expands on a short film of the same name, stars Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer. It is based on Acker's Academy Award-nominated 2005 short film of the same name. The screenplay for the film was written by Pamela Pettler. Casting for 9 was done by Mindy Marin, with production design by Robert St. Pierre and Fred Warter, and art direction by Christophe Vacher.
The film begins with the Scientist creating a little mechanical humanoid homunculus (called "stitchpunks" by fans and throughout this article) 9 (Elijah Wood) as he tells how humanity, in its blind pursuit of science and technology, went to its doom. He finally gives life to the doll with a talisman, and then dies.
9 awakes, unable to speak. He takes the talisman, depositing it in the opening of his body under the zipper. He opens the windows and sees a terrifying post-apocalyptic world, and someone walking. He leaves the building to see who it is. Outside, he sees several human corpses. 9 hears someone close, and then he meets 2 (Martin Landau), another, highly intelligent and inventive, stitchpunk created by the Scientist, who inserts a speaking device in 9 and becomes his friend. 2 tells 9 that there are others like themselves. 9 shows 2 the talisman, when suddenly the Cat Beast appears and attacks 2. 9 accidentally rocks the can he is hiding in, drawing the attention of the Cat Beast. The Cat Beast searches the can 9 hides in, but 2 distracts the Cat Beast allowing 9 to escape, tearing his shoulder in the process. The Cat Beast takes 2 to a towering factory in the horizon. 9 lies unconscious.
9 awakes in a church, the shelter of the rest of the stitchpunk tribe. He meets one-eyed 5 (John C. Reilly), another of the stitchpunk who fixes 9's shoulder. 1 (Christopher Plummer), the leader of the group, appears along with the much bigger and stronger 8, and tells 9 that they have hid ever since the machines won the war. Unintroduced, 6 (Crispin Glover) is seen drawing the Talisman over and over. 9 explains what happened to 2 and insists they save him, but 1 refuses to risk jeopardizing their safety. 5, on the other hand, is convinced to help 9. The two enter the factory and save 2 from the Cat Beast, which is decapitated thanks to the timely arrival of brave and nimble 7 (Jennifer Connelly). Noticing a socket shaped like the talisman, 9 inserts the talisman into it out of curiosity, only to have it open and instantly absorbs 2's soul, leaving 2 lifeless. This awakens the long-dormant Fabrication Machine, forcing 9, 5 and 7 to flee.
Seeking answers about the Fabrication Machine and the talisman, 9 is taken to meet 3 and 4, who reveal details about the machine's past, though they know nothing about the talisman. 5 tells 9 that 6 might have answers and return to the hideout, where 6 states they must "go back to the source," where the talisman's secrets can be found. However, they are caught by 8, who brings them to 1. 1 berates 9 for awakening the Fabrication Machine and argues that 9 will just lead them to more trouble. Suddenly, the hideout is attacked by the Winged Beast, a new machine created by the Fabrication Machine. Through a combined effort, the stitchpunks destroy the Winged Beast, though the hideout is burned down in the process. They seek refuge in a ruined library, but are attacked by another new machine, the Seamstress, which kidnaps 7 and 8 and nearly kidnaps 1 as well, using 2's dead body as a hypnotic lure.
9 infiltrates the machine factory where he is able to save 7 and destroy the Seamstress, though he arrives too late to prevent the Fabrication Machine from absorbing 8's soul with the talisman. 9 and 7 escape while the others ignite a barrel of oil and roll it into the gas-filled factory, causing the building to explode, thus leaving the stitchpunks to presume that the Fabrication Machine was destroyed as well. As the stitchpunks celebrate by listening to "Over the Rainbow", 5 wanders off to chase an errant record. He finds that the Fabrication Machine survived the explosion and, though damaged it is still active and no longer stationary. 5 barely manages to warn the others before the machine grabs him and absorbs his soul. During the protracted chase while crossing a very unstable bridge, 6 tells 9 that they shouldn't destroy the machine because the souls of the dead stitchpunks are trapped inside the Fabrication Machine. Suddenly the Fabrication Machine reaches out from below the bridge and grabs 6. While 6 is being pulled down by the machine, he tells the other stitchpunks to go back to the source, where 9 awoke. Then the Fabrication Machine absorbs his soul leaving him lifeless, and drops him into a deep chasm. Despite this, 1, 7, 3 and 4 decide to destroy the Fabrication Machine anyway, believing the dead souls cannot be saved. 9 decides to heed 6's final words and returns to the laboratory where he first awoke and found the talisman, determining that it is "the source".
Back in the laboratory, 9 finds a holographic message from the Scientist explaining how to use the talisman, why the stitchpunks were created and that they contain parts of his life force. When the others begin their attack on the Fabrication Machine (originally named B.R.A.I.N. for "Binary Reactive Artificially Intelligent Neurocircuit"), 9 returns with a plan to take the talisman back from the machine and use it to retrieve the souls, intending to bait himself to the machine and sacrifice his soul. 1, however, ultimately makes the sacrifice instead, allowing 9 to steal back the talisman and use it to retrieve the souls of the fallen stitchpunks, thus destroying the Fabrication Machine in the process. Afterward, 9, 7, 3 and 4 set up a memorial for 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8. 9 opens the talisman and releases the souls, which rotate up the sky. A rainstorm begins with each raindrop having a part of the stitchpunk's soul (the appearance of which seem to be a bacterium in the raindrops, implying that the other stitchpunks might have been reincarnated into bacteria and that the bacteria would soon evolve into multi cellular organisms), leaving the future in the hands of 3, 4, 7 and 9 and the spark of life renewed. The film ends with 7 asking 9 what happens next, 9 replies that he's not quite sure, but he also says that "This world is ours now, it's what we make of it".