From the looks of 9, it is clearly a post-apocalyptic world with its characters exploring the wreckage and surviving the post-disaster dangers. Writer/director Shane Acker distinguished his apocalypse from other cinematic wastelands by speculating on an alternate timeline. If the apocalypse had happened right after the industrial revolution, that's when 9 would have taken place.
"I think what's different is it's not our world that's been destroyed," Acker said in an exclusive interview on Aug. 21 in Beverly Hills, Calif. "It's this kind of alternate reality world. It's this steampunk world that's fallen into disrepair that's been destroyed so it's as if the Victorian era or the industrial age had been allowed to progress for a couple hundred years beyond what it did. It's all analog. It's all pre-digital. It's a world that was in celebration of the machine and it's the kind of industrial revolution aesthetic where even within the machinery itself, there's ornamentation and there's beautiful detailing. So it's not about just practicality. It's about celebrating the mechanics and the industrial age. Then that world has collapsed."
Setting 9 in a post-Victorian apocalypse allowed Acker to differentiate his visual language from the likes of The Road Warrior or I Am Legend. "I think it's a really visual, rich language," Acker continued. "I love that Victorian era, the beautiful ornamentation, the filigree and the wrought iron work. So it's form and function and ornamentation all combined together because I think that's just a really visual, rich world. Also the difference is it's told from a perspective 9" off the ground. It's not our perspective so it's creatures that are inhabiting this ruined world, but they interface with it in a completely different way than we would. It's about how they're creating new life in this environment."
The creatures of 9 are mechanized ragdolls, dubbed "stitchpunk" by the film's creators. After humans have died out, it's just the stitchpunks versus the beastly machines left over from our downfall. Jennifer Connelly, who plays the voice of a stitchpunk creature named 7, saw parallels between the film's themes and today's issues of dependence on technology.
"I like that it was looking at the sort of fallout of a conflict between man and the machine," Connelly said in a separate interview. "I liked that there was a piece of the puzzle was held by the machine, was sort of in the world of reason and a piece of the puzzle was in the realm of the spirit. They had to be put together for the soul to be released. I thought that was interesting. It is something I think about. I think that we have incredible technology and we've made incredible advances in medicine and science and I don't think those can be denied. But, I also think that there's a cost to some of the technologies that proliferate and that we employ. I do think that there needs to be a balance of knowing where things come from and where we come from. I think there is a delicate balance that sometimes gets skewed."
A short film Acker produced attracted the attention of producers Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton, who helped make the feature film. The short also became a calling card to attract actors like Connelly and Elijah Wood.
"I love the short," Wood said in a separate interview. "I loved how it led you to question who these characters were since there's no dialogue. It doesn't give you any context as to who they are and where they are beyond the fact that you kind of get the idea that they're in a war torn version of our world. So I loved mostly the history, how the characters came to be, who they are and ultimately how they got there. In the film you get to see that in the way of flashbacks and news reels. I love that part of the film. I think it's some of the most fascinating elements because it gives you a greater sense of the world and of context whereas the movie takes place in a small area in what is a larger part of the world. I love being able to look into how those things happen."
9 opens Sept. 9.