9. Shane Acker, director, story, precursor-short auteur. Pamela Pettler, script. Ben Gluck, Head of Story. Tim Burton, producer (one of four). USA, Luxembourg, Canada: Focus Features (production and US distribution), 2009; see IMDb for full credits for production and distribution. Featured voices: Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly.
Animation, mostly for adults.
Reviewed by Ritch Calvin, SFRA Review #291 (Winter 2010): pp. 22-23.
The narrative begins with [Stitchpunk doll] 9 awakening and, much like Frankenstein’s Monster, discovering both his body and the world around him. Eventually, 9 joins the other dolls, and he discovers that all humans have been destroyed in the human-machine war. The Scientist, working within a Nazi-like regime, had produced a “Brain.” Although intended for peaceful pursuits, the Chancellor takes the Machine from the Scientist and turns it to destruction. Once the Machine has killed all humans, it turns its attentions to the dolls, since they hold both the talisman that drives the Machine and enables the transfer of souls. [...] As with the Monster in Frankenstein, who seeks knowledge, in part, to be included among humanity, 9’s pursuit of these questions makes him human.
In part because he inadvertently causes the death of several of the dolls, he remains determined to destroy the Machine. He also discovers the secret to the dolls, their relationship to the Scientist, and the means to free them from eternal destruction. In a scene reminiscent of the rooftop scene of Blade Runner in which the android Roy releases his soul, and the white bird flies up into the heavens, 9 releases the souls of the dolls who have been killed by the Machine. They fly up into heaven, sending back down a cascade of rain — which washes them clean and promises new life. (Calvin p. 22)
The film got all positive or mixed reviews on Metacritic and — in context — mildly praised by Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune for (relevant here) its "strikingly original set-up and its cool steampunk visual vibe." Read that, however, as a post-apocalyptic, Industrial "vibe."
It is the subject of a thorough article on Wikipedia, which includes a section on "Machines" as characters/significant plot elements, and the Plot section of which begins with the beginning of the story, the backstory to the narrative Calvin supplies.
In an alternate 1930s world, a scientist is ordered by his dictator to create a robot in the apparent name of progress, and so the scientist creates the B.R.A.I.N., a highly intelligent robot. The dictator seizes it upon its apparent completion, and turns it into the Fabrication Machine, an armature that can construct an army of war machines to destroy the dictator's enemies. But the B.R.A.I.N. is seized before the scientist could give it a soul, thus causing the Fabrication Machine to decide 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 uses alchemy to create nine homunculus-like rag dolls [... "Stitchpunks"], giving them portions of his own soul via a talisman he created. He dies upon completion of the final doll.
See for the transgression of boundaries among the various machines for a theme of hybridization and the making of chimeras, also for combining mechanism with mysticism, or at least a kind of spiritualism and magic. Plus a fear of machine take-over, in this case with successful extermination.
Note reference in Netflix DVD blurb to the "small community of [small] rag-doll robots" hiding "in fear from dangerous machines out to exterminate them." This largely and strongly technophobic film, stars hand-made small machines and accepts them as living beings, and spiritual entities, with the religious possibilities made explicit with conservative theocratic rule contrasted to a more venturous spirit/spirituality. For issues of size, see Margaret P. Esmonde's "From Little Buddy to Big Brother: The Icon of the Robot in Children's Science Fiction." For some of the threatening war machines, just see, e.g., THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and other films in the initial STAR WARS series: some of the threatening war-machines in 9 are pretty much just imported from that cinematic universe. Other dangerous machines are like those in THE MATRIX and related works, combining arthropod and more explicitly insectoid image, for which see Dunn and Erlich on "The Ovion/Cylon Alliance."
RDE, finishing, 2/7Mar21