(2009) During what appears to be an alternative history/universe about the time of World War II (a phonograph plays a record of Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow"), the chancellor of an international socialist system (referring to "comrades" in English) hails the invention of a multi-limbed Machine with an advanced "brain," capable of created other machines for peaceful purposes. Unfortunately, the technology turns against humans, dooming them.
Awesome animation propels an otherworldly, cryptic fantasy from director Shane Acker's imagination (though somewhat violent and possibly scary for the very young, this film is appropriate for all ages), with screenplay by Pamela Pettler, involving Jeff Bell as visual-effects supervisor, Tim Burton as a producer, and Danny Elfman's musical themes (developed into an original score by Deborah Lurie). The story fixed my fascination more firmly than did Wall-E, which it in some respects resembles.
"The gas killed everything during the war," #1 (voiced by Christopher Plummer) in priest's guise with red cape and conical hat explains to new arrival #9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), the youngest and last of his kind. Only the beast, a steel-skeletal monster, who has snatched #2 (voiced by Martin Landau) along with #9's talisman, out there in the emptiness remains.
Asking "pointless questions," #9 comes to the cathedral after finding #2, who repaired his innards, making him capable of speech. Small like children's toys, made of a mesh fabric (like burlap), having goggle eyes and soft slit for a mouth, two arms and legs, each has been fashioned differently and numbered on the back: #9 has a zipper down his front and hands of carved wood with molded copper, others are buttoned or laced up. Big, burly #8 (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), the muscle behind #1's authority ("We have rules"), looks like the Michelin man.
Hesitant initially, then disobeying #1, one-eyed #5 (John C. Reilly) accompanies #9 in search of the beast in hopes of rescuing #2. "You forgot to remember to be scared," says #5, admiring how #9 resembles #2. Carefully picking their way across a ruined landscape strewn with rusting machinery, inside the beast's lair they find #2 held captive inside a bird cage.
Made aware of their presence, the beast appears to have the advantage when #7 (voiced by Jennifer Connelly), a courageous female, swoops in, slaying the monster by decapitation. Recovering the talisman (divided into a trinity of symbols) and acting on impulse, #9 inserts it (as if compelled) into a larger, inert contraption, powering up its red eye, unwittingly awakening something even more terrible than the beast.
Suffering the loss of #2, #7 takes her two companions to seek the mute twins ("Lost in the past. Looking for answers"), cataloguers of information. Also the drawings #6 (voiced by Crispin Glover) has been obsessively sketching resemble the talisman.
The many-armed Machine in becoming their new foe sends a black winged thing to attack the cathedral, setting it ablaze. "Guided by fear" of science, #1 opposes #9's plan of returning to the room where he awoke. Zombie-like with glowing blue eyes, #2 reappears with another machine-like agent, a cobra-headed scorpion, snatching up two more victims transfixed by #2's stare.
"We have to find the source," pleads #9, in order to save those now trapped inside the Machine. Back in the room where he was created, #9 opens a box from which a holograph appears of the scientist responsible for conceiving the Machine before imparting pieces of his soul (aspects of his being) into each of the nine remnants of his life: "You are all that's left of humanity."
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