Toy Story meets Terminator in a strikingly animated post-apocalyptic fantasy. In a world destroyed by sentient technology, a scientist's rag-doll creation discovers he is the last of nine similar entities who must unite to destroy the machine that has obliterated humankind. With dark fantasists Tim Burton and Timur 'Day Watch' Bekmambetov acting as producers, director Shane Acker evolves his own Oscar-nominated short to eerie and wonderfully textured effect.
John C Reilly
From producer Tim Burton and JK Rowling to the mighty Pixar to the Almighty himself (and beyond if you count James Cameron), higher powers are clearly at work in Shane Acker's dystopian animation.
Set amidst apocalyptic bleakscapes (Wall.E, Terminator), it unites curious yet endearing beings against a common foe (Toy Story, The Nightmare Before Christmas) in a story that embraces the idea of one soul existing as separate parts (the horcruxes of Harry Potter) while pondering the meaning of life and creation.
Elijah Wood provides the voice of '9', last in a line of electronically enhanced rag dolls (Acker calls them 'stitchpunks') created as a last resort to save the world from malevolent, unstoppable machines.
But their noble purpose only comes to light as they try to avoid the mechanical terrors that ceaselessly hunt them down in the ruined city.
Their enlightenment begins when brave old #2 (Martin Landau) is captured while saving #9 from a skeletal hound formed of tin and bone. Flying mechadactyls and insatiable snake-beasts are yet to come.
9 immediately forms a rescue plan. But while one-eyed #5 (John C Reilly), visionary #6 (Crispin Glover), feisty she-warrior #7 (Jennifer Connelly) and mute brainboxes #3 and #4 would love to help, cowardly dictator #1 (Christopher Plummer) and his big, dumb enforcer #8 won't allow it.
Going anyway, 9 is delighted to find 2 alive. Unfortunately, he also manages to reanimate the all-powerful, spidery automaton that wiped out humanity - and now intends to suck the lifeforce out of the stitchpunks.
Only by pulling together and solving the mystery of their own existence can the rag-tag survivors hope to kill the beast.
Extending his original 11-minute short by just over an hour, Acker crams plenty of vision and ambition into what's still a tight space.
Despite using a limited palette of earth tones and cold metals, there's a satisfying richness and depth to his CG world. Against unforgiving and ominous backdrops, the characters emerge with genuine soul.
And with a sackful of dynamic set-pieces, the images and ideas form an arresting patchwork.
But while Acker takes time to explain where the techno-fear and nihilism come from, it's not clear where he's going with all that odd religiosity.
One thing is for certain. It's the deepest, darkest story about animated socks you'll ever see.