The first time I fired up FF7 on my playstation console 10 years ago, I marveled at the opening cinematics. At that point, I thought it would be the coolest thing if someone made a movie just like it. Thank god for Advent CHildren because this film has nothing to do with the game. At the time of release, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within represented a breakthrough in computer graphics. The film takes place during a war for supremacy of the Earth that has presumably been going on for quite some time. The phantoms have ravaged most of the world, very efficiently killing any human they run into, and the survivers live in cities protected by sheilds. One woman, Aki Ross, beleives she can create a wave make from eight spirit energies that will counter-act the phantoms. With the guidance of her scientific mentor, Dr. Sid, and the aid of the Deep Eyes military squadron led by the courageous Captain Gray Edwards, Aki races to save both the Earth and herself.
First, many critics panned it, complained of wooden acting and a convoluted plot. But while opinions are very mixed about this film, I really enjoyed it, despite its obvious flaws. One being, the voice acting by Donald Sutherland, which made me cringe occasionally. The only part of the story that I found to be disappointing was the ending, which left a few things unexplained and unclear, but this may actually fit with the personality of the film by letting the viewer decide for themselves what has occurred.
The movie is a hybrid of the Eastern and Western worlds. The crew mainly consisted of Americans and Japanese whose sensibilites are seen in the product. since Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal has a movie stared at death like Final Fantasy. It invites the viewer to contemplate about death. Too many movies are of the couch-potato variety that you throw away soon after you’ve seen it. Discovery is ultimately more rewarding than having everything handed to you on a platter, and the film makers give plenty of visual and spoken clues in this movie. It truly is an exceptionally great film, and worth a second look for those who are willing to see past the fanboy hatred. While the level of detail on the characters isn’t so far advanced that you become convinced they’re human, the expressiveness of the faces and body language are mind-blowing.
In short, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is top notch, yet complex entertainment, that demands your complete attention, and perhaps multiple viewings too truly enjoy. The script was a bit more outrageous, until Sakaguchi handed it over to the man behind Apollo 13 for touchups. I don’t think this man thought the American public could handle the Fantasy nature of the script, so he did a bit of a overhaul. This film may not have the most compelling characters, but they do their job well and they do move the storyline along quite well. Give the movie a try if you enjoy Final Fantasy games, anime, or simply want to experience one of the most realistic computer animation pieces ever made as a full-length picture.