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 Afringe Home / Reviews / Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 06/13/2024 



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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Hinrobu Sakaguchi
Columbia Pictures
The most realistic CGI film ever is also the least interesting CGI film of all time (not that there's a lot of competition).
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
By Jake Forbes

Anyone who has ever played the Final Fantasy video games knows that no two are ever alike, so when the Square Pictures announced that they were developing a feature film "inspired" by the game, it should have been no surprise that it bears no resemblance to any of the video games besides a guy named Sid. But no one was prepared for something this different in appearance from the worlds of Cloud and Cecil and Squall. In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of some of the most brilliantly conceived games of all time, has done what many thought impossible- created story and a world as mundane as the rest of Hollywood science fiction.

The film is set on Earth in the year 2065, several years after alien Phantoms invaded earth and decimated almost all life on the planet. The remaining humans life inside of shielded cities, researching ways to eliminate the Phantom menace (heh heh) and reclaim their planet. Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) and her mentor, Dr. Sid (Voiced by Donald Sutherland) believe they have found a way to counter the negative energy of the Phantoms by creating an Energy Wave made up of eight distinct "spirits" that can be found in life forms that have resisted the Phantoms. How do they know their plan is working? Because Aki has one of the spirits living in her chest, and the five spirits found so far have kept the parasite at bay.

When Aki drops into Old New York to find the sixth spirit, she meets up with the elite military team Deep Eyes, led by her former lover, Captain Gray. They've come to stop her from entering the quarantined area, but soon, the team is assigned to help Aki find the remaining spirits. What Gray and Aki don't realize, is that they are being set up by the sinister General Hein, who believes that force is the only way to stop the Phantoms, not new-age mumbo jumbo. The remaining Earth government has constructed an orbital "bio-etheric" laser, the Zeus Cannon, which Hein believes can destroy the phantoms at their source.

What exactly are the phantoms? Only Aki has any clue as to the nature of the beasts, as while she dreams, the Phantom inside of her gives her glimpses of the Phantoms' home world. What she discovers changes her view of the nature of life and death, and gives new credence to Dr. Sid's Gaia theory. Now she must not only find a way to stop the Phantoms, but she must also prevent General Hein from inadvertently destroying Earth itself!

Well, that all sounds very exciting, but what it all comes down to is space marines shooting aliens and gathering stuff so that scientists can put it together and stop the boss alien. That's pretty much it. Sure, there's a few times when the eco-friendly Gaia theory is discussed, but it's little more than a cliff-notes look at Transcendentalism made literal and silly. This wouldn't be so bad if the marines were super-cool and the aliens did things we've never seen before, and the action was intense and different. Unfortunately, the marines are dull as dirt, the aliens just morph through wall and grab people, and the action is cliché. It comes off as a poor imitation of Aliens, which is a shame considering the talent involved.

Not all of the film is just mediocre- some of it is downright awful. Namely the dialogue, which is funny when it shouldn't be, and falls flat when there's a joke. Then there's the fact that the marines are using machine guns to fight "ghosts." And the Gaia theory goes from being sweet and innocent to downright dumb when we learn that the Earth's life-force is a big lake of blue energy that lives underground. The good life-force vs. bad life-force works in Final Fantasy VII, where our heroes include an animated stuffed toy, a lion, and a vampire. By setting the film on Earth with "real" people, Sakaguchi looses the power of allegory and his philosophy comes of as silly.

Once can't look at FF:TSW without considering the animation, which really is amazing. So amazing, that you often forget that it is animated. Some of the sets and environments look so real that you would never suspect that the were CGI at all if it weren't for the hyperReal characters. The "cyber-thespians" are wonderfully expressive- especially in close up. The animators mastered facial movement, but body movement is still sometimes awkward. Dr. Sid is by far the greatest achievement in the film. His design, his voice, and especially his performance, show that the future of "cyber-thespians" will be bright indeed.

Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within is an amazing achievement in technology, and promises a bright future for Square's game cinemas and future Final Fantasy films. As pure entertainment, however, it is the low point of the Final Fantasy franchise, being dragged down by excessive clichés, poor writing, and a theme that comes off as silly. I just hope it does well enough at the box office that Sony will green-light a sequel so that Sakaguchi can take us to a world that we've never seen, instead of an admirable replica of what we know.

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