Final Fantasy-The Spirits Within

Voices:    Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Ving Rhames, Peri Gilpin, James Woods, Steve Buscemi, Keith David
Director:   Hironobu Sakaguchi
Writers:    Al Reinert, Jeff Vintar; story by Hironobu Sakaguchi

Considering the expense involved making such completely computer generated films such as this one which boasts of state-of-the-art “life-like” characters, (that aren’t nearly as life-like as the makers would have you believe) why not just continue using human actors. Oddly, it probably would have cost them less to produce. These pasty-faced, stiff-bodied fabrications lack the range of human facial expression and often their body language doesn’t reflect the circumstances in which the characters find themselves. Sadly, even the voice work is uninspired. The movie is based on the popular video game series and for my money, that’s precisely where this enterprise should have stayed.

I’m a fan of good animated films. Just, go back to the Disney films; the characters and stories are capable of ripping your heart, they’re that good. And two years ago  The Iron Giant was a wonder to behold.   Final Fantasy, for all it’s special effects and 60,000 computer-generated hairs on the head of lead character Aki, is a bust. The basis of the story is rather good, I think, but it gets bogged down by murky (sometimes, stupid) dialogue, a convoluted plot and the characters, are, if anything, distracting.

It’s Earth 2065, nearly uninhabitable after spooky alien creatures that hopped a ride on a crashed meteor threaten to destroy everything in their paths. The earthlings, for the most part, live in highly protective underground bunkers. Meanwhile, the military force battles them from above. Dr. Aki Ross (Ming-Na) and Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) believe the military action is destroying the Gaia, the spirit of the earth and they want to find a better way to cope with the terror. Aki holds the key to understanding what these creatures are all about and how she and Dr. Sid can save the planet from certain doom.

When Aki’s life is threatened by the alien force, she is saved by a rough-hewn military commando, none other than former love-interest, Capt. Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin). Gray, along with his commando team of the solid Sgt. Ryan (Rhames), pragmatic Jane (Gilpin) and the irreverent Neil (Buscemi) aid Aki and Sid in their scheme to thwart the aliens as well as the hawkish actions of military bigwig General Hein (James Woods) whose plan is to blast every alien to kingdom come, even if means destroying Gaia. You can’t expect the military high command to believe in such existential claptrap as earth spirit, now can you?

Lotta says: The “alien” effects are good as are the skyscapes and landscapes and the story, once you get a handle on it, is okay. If you’re a sci-fi fiend, by all means see it. Otherwise, if we’re lucky,  Final Fantasy will indeed be the final fantasy of the producers of this videogame to film creation.

Reviewed 11/9/01