<p>The new release to see this weekend is <em><a href="http://www.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/9/">9</a></em>, a strange and thrilling animated film that offers a new twist on one of the more fertile myths of our time: The dystopian nightmare of artificial intelligence going to war against humanity. Sure, it's set in a post-apocolyptic machine-ruled landscape, but the similarities to <em>Terminator</em> and <em>The Matrix</em> end there, in part because the humans in <em>9</em> are already extinct. The surviving protagonists are mysterious hand stitched machines huddling together for safety, each one named for the number drawn on its back. Produced by Tim Burton but directed by Shane Acker, <em>9</em> is the feature-length expansion of Acker's Academy Award-nominated 2004 short film; Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, and Crispin Clover provide voices. </p><p></p>Though the narrative does hew to a fairly familiar action-adventure plot arcâa terrifying, steampunk machine <em>must be destroyed</em>âthe world Acker's created is so bewildering and the story so full of twists and surprises, that there's never a dull moment. After exiting a media screening earlier this month, one man was overheard predicting the <em>9</em> would die at the box office. We hope he's proven wrong, but this is no <em>Kung Fu Panda</em>; it's probably a shade too dark for most young kids and too eccentric for mainstream popcorn munchers. Of course, that's what exactly makes it appealing to adults with a taste for post-apocalyptic gothic animation.