Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Year: 2001
Running time: 106 minutes
Certificate: PG
Language: English
Screenplay: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Al Reinert, Jeff Vintar, Jack Fletcher, Ramin Mebdy, B. L. Jurgens
Directors: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara
Starring (voices): Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Peri Gilpin

Aki's dreaming again.
Final Fantasy is, of course, better known as a hugely successful video game franchise, but developers Square thought it a good idea to make a CG movie and stamp the well-known name on the product.

The big thing about this movie was to show what could be done with computer technology, and the results were undeniably very impressive. Even now, they hold up reasonably well. It was a not-quite-but-almost successful attempt to render photo-real humans on screen. Before we get to the humans though, the gorgeous landscapes deserve special mention – particularly the final scene and the dream sequences, which look spectacularly, stupendously good.

On an Earth of the future, humankind is under threat from an invading force of alien phantoms. Much of the planet is uninhabitable, with survivors cowering behind cities encased in gigantic force-fields. Dr Aki Ross (Ming-Na) and her mentor Dr Sid (Donald Sutherland) are on a mission to find a peaceful solution before the sinister General Hein (James Woods) launches a massive attack on Earth to wipe the alien invaders from the face of the planet, likely along with the remnants of humanity as well. Helping Aki and Sid find the evidence they need in the dangerous wasteland outside of the protective walls is the Deep Eyes military squadron, led by an old friend of Aki's, Captain Grey Edwards (Alec Baldwin). Under the shell of flashy animation and action set-pieces lies a heart of spirituality. Peace is the key to saving all, and Aki and her team race to resolve the conflict before Hein destroys everything.

Dr. Sid tries to press the case for peace.
The animation is genuinely impressive, with lingering moments spent on Dr. Aki’s exquisitely animated hair and the creases in General Hein's black leather coat as he stands in his office or glides through zero gravity. A particularly astonishing job was done with Dr Sid, with lifelike blemishes and liver spots making the old man look more convincingly human than the others. However, for all the technical wizardry, the characters are not quite 100% convincing. Sometimes they don’t quite move like they should, and there are awkward pauses that only come from matching voice-work to animation and not from real people acting.

So the animation is impressive, including the landscapes, the action and the characters. The story, although not the top priority here, isn’t too bad either, if a little re-hashed, covering a number of emotional bases, including spirituality, unresolved love and sacrifice, with the obligatory ray of hope at the end.

Score: 6/10

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within doesn't seem to be quite as vilified as I had thought, if this review at Triple J and this one from Roger Ebert is anything to go by.