Beautifully designed but short on depth or novelty, 9 posits a post-doomsday world in which the preceding war between man and machines resulted in the almost complete annihilation of both, leaving behind only a band of animated cloth-like dolls to pick up the apocalyptic pieces. Expanded from his Academy Award-winning short, Shane Acker’s directorial debut concerns 9 (Elijah Wood), who awakens to a frightening junkyard landscape in which compatriots – each bestowed with a number on their backs, and resembling slighter skinnier versions of Little Big Planet’s sackboys – struggle to survive while being hunted by a ferocious robot dog with an animal skull for a head. What follows is a visually arresting sci-fi Adam and Eve saga in which 9 accidentally rouses the Machine responsible for mankind’s extinction and then endeavors (at great cost to his friends) to thwart its plans for domination, a narrative that affords many hectic chase and fight sequences but scant emotional or thematic complexity. Pamela Pettler’s screenplay fails to provide imaginative context for her diminutive, magically alive protagonists, thereby frustrating investment in their bizarre reality, undercutting any serious attempts to imagine 9 as a vessel for civilization’s redemption and rebirth, and creating an inescapable sense that one has been down this Terminator/WALL-E path countless times before. Acker’s steampunk aesthetic is impeccably crafted, and his centerpiece clashes are orchestrated with vigorous flair. Too bad, then, that 9’s ideas never live up to its style.