"'Final Fantasy' is a computer game that has gone through countless versions and editions. Taken as a whole, this mythos is probably one of the best know games in its genre. It is clear from the beginning of this film that Sony and Hironbu Sakaguchi (producer, director, and writer) were intent on topping an already brilliant history of graphic accomplishments. In a sense, 'The Spirits Within' represents a piece of history in the making. It is the first film that presents a startling approximation of life using only automation.The plot is simple. An asteroid falling to earth carries within it a host of phantom creatures that seem hell bent on destroying earthly life. Civilization has been reduced to living in shielded enclaves, and it is only a matter of time before the planet becomes a haunted wasteland. Aki Ross and her mentor, Dr. Sid, are working on the creation of a neutralizing 'wave' based on the eight basic phantom life forms. General Hein does not trust Dr. Sid's theories about a Gaia, or planetary spirit, and wants to use a huge orbital laser cannon to destroy the original meteor, possible destroying the earth in the process. The conflict between these points of view and their shattering effects on the planet are the meat of the film. Captain Gray Edwards, once Aki's lover, crystallizes this struggle between the material world of violent reaction and the spiritual world of growth and synthesis. The film plays a bit like an evolved 'Starship Troopers.' In many ways, it presents the same visual image, and deals with the same issues. The problem for the director and the viewer is to get past the magnificent graphic work to experience the abiding spiritual faith that is its meaning. Ironically, the film itself is a metaphor for the issues it expresses.It is almost futile to discuss the film's animation and design. They are so far above what we are used to that the required superlatives sound trite. In essence, the animation staff set out to create something that is even more real than life, and to a great extent, they have succeeded. This hyperrealism, combined with an almost ballet like feeling of choreography create a sense of moment that makes this seem far more than an action film. The overall animation is carefully balanced so as to keep the focus on the characters. Even so, this film has such a sensory effect that the viewer is tempted to forget the plot and simply observe the screen.The primary DVD provides the film and a whole set of commentaries (directing crew, animation and staging, composer, and production staff), plus the usual trailers, etc. In the special edition, a second disk adds an extensive 'Making of...' segment, the entire screenplay and some analysis of character, vehicle, and prop design. Technically, this is an important film, despite its simplistic plot and characters. For the first time, the definition of what is acting and what is animation is being challenged in a thought provoking fashion."
One of the most underappreciatiate works of all time
firstname.lastname@example.org | Mount Carmel, TN United States | 07/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched Final Fantasy in a small theatre about 3 days ago. Since I read the relatively bad reviews for the film, I didnt expect a huge turnout. Well, I was the only guy in the theatre. This is good in one way and bad in another. It was good due to the fact that I could sit in the theatre and watch the film without dealing with the typical loudmouthed movie crowd. I could pay more attention to the movie and the story itself. It was bad in that this film which deserves to make a whole lot of money, is not successful. I would recommend Final Fantasy to any fan of science fiction, video games, oh heck anyone! This is one of the all time best movies that I have ever seen. I was floored by the ability the filmmakers had to give a completely generated character emotion. These guys are making Gepetto flip over in his fairy tale grave! I was amazed at the depth of the story and the overall feel of the film. I am really impressed at the way the plot was similar to the series of games not by carrying on the same story over and over, but chronicling the adventures of new characters in new dimensions each time. Simply amazing!Many thanks to Hironobu Sakaguchi and Square for making such wonderful stories and games. I give a hand to Alec Baldwin, Ming-Na, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Donald Sutherland, and all the filmmakers for making a film that I will cherish for a very long time.........just bring it to DVD QUICK!"
So much potential, but wasted...
Jason Anticevich | Schaumburg, IL | 10/10/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There have been many reviews about this movie that have ranged from excellent to shoddy, but mine will fall in the middle for a couple of reasons I will get to. I'll tell you what I found cool and what I found to be lacking. First off, I saw this movie in a digital projection theater. The colors were mind-blowing to say the least. I was constantly losing track of the story because I couldn't take my focus off the spectacular animation. The animation is so rich and textured...let's just say that you have never seen anything like it-real or fabricated. It truly is amazing. The voice casting is perfect. No slackers anywhere. The idea for the story is very innovative, not just some traditional sci-fi retread. But (and there always is a but), the actual dialogue and character development are lacking. Baldwin sometimes seems like a romantic distraction for Ming Na. Is Woods' character supposed to be a sympathetic bad guy because he talks about his family before he commits his bad deeds? Come on, I know 13-year-olds who don't fall for that. The question I was left with was: "Why invest all this money in voice talent, if you give them nothing to work with?" It's a testament to the actors that they were able to pull so much out of the dialogue considering what they had to work with. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, so I won't say anything else about it. ...I enjoyed all the characters for the most part, but I wish there was more to enjoy. I know sometimes that character development is lost because the studios want to get to the next big action event, but when people don't have anything invested in the characters, it just becomes a lot noise. It's too bad because, like I said, there was plenty of sources to draw upon.Bottom line: The best animation to date, but sorely lacking character and plot development."
Final Fantasy .. as long as it's not the last
strife0 | Middletown, CT USA | 07/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I fired up FF7 on my playstation console 5 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. On July 11 at 4:30pm I witnessed that dream come true.I could say it was all I was expecting and more, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. The games took 40-50+ hours to complete with a story that had numerous twists to the plot and character developement that went far beyond some bestselling novels. While I think it would be great to see a 6 hour Final Fantasy movie that had such an intricate plot, I realize that would be unrealistic for a feature film. All things considered, I think Square did an outstanding job compressing the story into the time allotted.The script could have been written a little bit better, but I think it was written the way it was so the average movie-goer would keep up with the plot. I know I didn't have any trouble following Dr. Sid's theories about Gaia and what the Phantom's really were. But that could've been from playing the games.. I saw sort of the concept in FF7, with everyone and everything having a spirit.The cg was astounding and tte physics were.. well, close. Although I think in 65 years, we may be able to bend the laws of physics a bit more, so this could possibly end up mimicing real life in 2065. I've read some film critics comment about the lack of consistency with the Phantoms, how they can move through walls and suck the life out of someone, yet can be harmed by conventional weapons. Those guns didn't look conventional to me... energy weapons would have the effect they did. Opinion: those film critics who commented about that didn't know what they were talking about.I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I intend to see it a few more times before it leaves theatres. This quite possibly gets my vote for the Best Movie of All time."
"This movie represents a breakthrough in computer graphics. For the first time computer artists have created images that are nearly photo real for an entire motion picture. The question is, of course, whether what is essentially a cartoon can hold the interests and provoke the emotions of an adult audience, the answer (proved indesputably by Final Fantasy) is that it can. Final Fantasy is essentially a science fiction/horror/spiritual journey of a film that, surprisingly, doesn't get bogged down by all the themes it attempts to engage. Its closest relative would be something like Aliens, although Final Fantasy is not nearly as terrifying. Still, there are some scenes that would disturb young children. The film takes place during a war for supremacy of the Earth that has presumably been going on for quite some time. Most of the major cities are in ruins and what is left of humanity can be found collected in the hearts of once proud urban areas under glowing orange "safety shields." These shields are designed to protect the humans from invisible "phantoms" that need only to touch a person to rip away his/her lifeforce (this is done numerous times with spectacular visual effects that never get old). The hope of humanity rests upon the shoulders of one woman and her mentor (a wise old scientist who looks like Obi-Wan Kenobi--the old one--and is voiced to perfection by Donald Sutherland). In opposition to the military leaders of the planet, our two heroes seek to understand the "phantoms" in terms of their mythical link to the legendary planetary and universial lifeforce called the gaya. It is always fun to see a movie so concerend with, what is essentially, a derivative of Hindu philosophy. It is a very unobtrusive idea and it is presented as pure fantasy rather than dogma. In a way, this film serves as an introduction to this type of thinking, just as "Star Wars" and "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" do. Final Fantasy definately keeps your attention. The action scenes are extremely compelling, and, for the most part, the computer generated human faces do a good job with displaying real human emotion (saddness isn't quite nailed to perfection, but what the heck?). It seemed sort of odd to me that this film would be so loaded with recogniziable voices. Recognizable are those of Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Ving Rhaymes, Steve Buscemi and James Woods. I don't understand why shuch a star-studded cast was assembled because it must have been a tremendous expense and, judging from the spectacular graphics, this film already had a huge budget. Maybe this was intended simply as a symbol that no expense would be spared, and, indeed, the vocal performances are all superb. I couldn't help but wonder if this movie might have been more effective as a live action feature. Certainly the plot was strong enough to carry it and it didn't seem as though the filmakers engaged in a lot of scenes that couldn't have been constructed with live performers. In many ways it looked like a standard movie, I was hoping they would do something radical like have the whole film be one continuous shot, something that couldn't feasibly be done in a standard movie. Although it is a little creepy to see actual human beings be replaced by computer generated images, all in all this movie is very entertaining and definately worth the time."