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Overall Rating
3.56

Awesome32.46%
Worth A Look: 22.81%
Just Average: 24.12%
Pretty Crappy: 9.65%
Sucks: 10.96%

10 reviews, 168 user ratings


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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
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by Erik Childress

"The Phantom Menace"
3 stars

In a time when storytelling has been replaced with music video overkill and writers have been supplanted by reality shows with no need for all those pesky characters and witty dialogue, it was only a matter of seconds before we would be presented with an animated film that promised to look as real as the three-dimensional flesh packages we call actors. Animation has steadily (and sometimes rapidly) progressed throughout the years and continues trying to mold its colors and computerized pixels into authentic beings with celebrity voices. But while Final Fantasy does entertain and may go down in history as the best film ever made from a video game, its makers seemed so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they never stopped to think if they should.

Like any respectable science fiction tale, Final Fantasy takes place well in the future when a crashing meteor carrying alien invaders has made it increasingly difficult to find a home in the suburbs. Cities are in ruins and the only remaining humans seem to be either scientists or soldiers, tucked away in vast metal complexes in an effort to rid the planet of its unwelcome guests. Dr. Aki Ross (voice by Ming-Na) is one such scientist determined to find the eight “spirits” that may hold the key to repelling these creatures that are able to suck the lifeforce out of any being in comes in contact with.

Aki is aided by her mentor, Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) and a ragtag group of soldiers (who missed the casting call for “Aliens”) led by Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin) who used to have a “thing” going with her. Naturally, scientific reasoning and far-fetched theories aren’t enough to satisfy the surviving warmongers amongst us, including General Hein (James Woods) who would prefer to apply his “nuke ‘em” mentality in order the save the Earth even at the cost of its own obliteration.

Aki is determined to find a more natural (and less destructive) method to turning back the aliens. Using (and piecing together) a recurring nightmare she’s having, she begins to suspects that these invisible “phantoms” may not be all that they (or don’t) appear to be, leading to a revelation that is both ironic and downright silly considering their pet names for the invaders.

In its unfolding, Final Fantasy turns out to be the closest an American studio has come to capturing the essence of Anime (or Japanese Animation or JapAnime or whatever it’s being called now), not only in its imagery but also its story. Fantasy doesn’t go strictly for the video game thrills and spills of a Tomb Raider or Mortal Kombat, instead reaching out for the more in-depth (but slower paced) role-playing games and is (mostly) successful. Sure there’s action and even a little humor, but many will be surprised at how many different ideas it has. So much so, that if you’re not paying attention you’re liable to be asking the person next to you what’s happening now only to find out that they are completely lost.

The one aspect of Final Fantasy that everyone will obviously be paying attention to (and is the high concept draw of the film) is the amazing visuals which raises as many questions as the amount of jaws being dropped. Here’s an animated tale that is all but trying to get you to forget that you’re watching an animated tale. The characters move more fluently than Stephen Hawking at an Ecstasy rave. Their hair, the close-ups of the skin, whiskers and their body motions are about as A+ with extra credit as you can get. But once you accept the fluidity of the imagery, where do you go from there? At some point the festival of wow must end and it must evolve into something that will involve you past the point of eye candy.

Final Fantasy creates characters with distinct facial features and bodies, yet has some very recognizable voices behind their lips. It’s a tad strange to hear the voices of Alec Baldwin and Ming-Na protruding from two leads that eerily resemble Bruce Campbell and Bridget Fonda. On many occasions I found myself distracted trying to pick out voices and faces. Doesn’t that big black guy sound like Ving Rhames? That tough chick with the voice of Frasier’s producer (Peri Gilpin) looks like that woman from Space: Above & Beyond and Final Destination (Kristin Cloke). Wow, they sure did a job on Steve Buscemi’s face after that knifing he took a few months ago. That one spaceship seems like a tribute to James Cameron resembling both the gunships from Terminator & Aliens and the “breast ship” from his work on Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars. And now I’ve segued from realizing what’s supposed to be an inanimate object and what is not.

Animation is a term we use to define the painted images of films and television shows that are devoid of the dimensionality that we can touch and feel. Who Framed Roger Rabbit combined animated characters with walking/talking human beings. But when we stop using the word “cartoon”, that’s when we start calling it a “special effect” even though it may still be a form of animation. Look at movies like The Mummy Returns and Star Wars Episode I with huge computer-generated armies marauding the battlefield. Realistic animation or special effects are almost a non-issue anymore. Richard Donner made us “believe a man could fly” and Steven Spielberg made us believe dinosaurs could still walk the earth. Final Fantasy is mainly making waves as it tries to gene-splice animation and live action, Goldblum-style, but comes up a disappointment by not exploiting its full potential.

In this summer’s Shrek, there was a single moment when the camera swooped across a bridge hovering over what appeared to be hundreds of feet over a moat of molten lava while our heroes tried to cross. Therein lies the issue. While we can be occasionally exhilarated by the approach a live-action filmmaker takes, whether he uses special effects or not, the boundaries of action, stunts and camera angles are torn down by the unrestricted limits of animation. So why not use the format to explore the things that can’t be done in live-action cinema instead of telling a story that may be nothing more than another average sci-fi adventure in the live-action world?

The issue of the project’s inception may overcloud what does work in the picture. The visuals are an understatement, and as previously stated, not enough to recommend Final Fantasy. But there is an intriguing story at work here and even through some of the cliches of escaping peril, the resolutions never come with easy answers and will shock many with its bleakness. Action scenes, chiefly the (surprisingly) effective extended compound escape, are well handled if not earth-shattering.

With a tagline like “Fantasy Becomes Reality”, audiences should come to truly expect not only the unexpected, but also the unimaginable. No one would dare call films like Akira or Princess Mononoke mere “cartoons” and Final Fantasy will join the same camp. But is it as visually stunning as it presents itself to be? On one dimension, yes. But consider how certain images, such as the stunning boundless exteriors of the bases, might look like nothing more than a special effect when placed against the foreground of human actors and real machines.

Why not save the money and time, do a live-action Final Fantasy with Campbell and Fonda battling the phantom menace and mocking them with chants of “I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!”? I suppose the point is that technology can only take us so far in the movies. There’s an infinitude to the visuals and how they can be manipulated, but it takes a master manipulator to open our eyes further and bring us new excitements when the written material isn’t quite as fleshed out.

Go back and watch South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut which used the bare minimum of animation (next to stick figures) and still involved us in a laugh-a-second comedy that not only was one of the greatest musicals in history but actually felt like a live-action movie because of its flawless storytelling. As my friend stated as we left the screening of Final Fantasy, “if it wasn’t for the animation, that movie would have sucked.” Certainly something to think about.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2141&reviewer=198
originally posted: 07/10/01 00:35:24
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User Comments

2/19/11 Ark The phantoms were creepy and the chick was hot, even if she was just cg! 4 stars
10/25/09 JXL63 Otherwise, with respect to human well-being, it will continue to be outranked by these othe 4 stars
10/25/09 Ganry95 How could there be so many different opinions on what the truth of God really is? , <a href 5 stars
10/24/09 Alex86 Making Sure Your Surgery is Safe Check with your insurance company to find out if you may 5 stars
10/23/09 Ganry79 Food must be grown in with a short growing season, and all of the farm stuff that used to b 4 stars
10/23/09 Miss23 Again, a recurring question and a common one in most interview :can u pls send me some samp 3 stars
10/22/09 driver16 Are there rules about how I have to do my housecleaning? , 3 stars
10/22/09 GanjaBoy20 What are your Terms of Service? , 3 stars
8/06/09 The man with the van crappy story good graphics, enix should try making a movie like this but with a good story 3 stars
9/02/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
5/15/08 PAUL SHORTT THE RESULT IS UGLY, CONFUSING AND BORING 1 stars
3/17/08 mr.adolescent FUCKING SHIT MOVIE. SO FUCKING SHIT, ID RATHER EAT MY OWN FUCKING SHIT THAN WATCH IT. 1 stars
12/27/07 mb Ridiculous and Deceptive 1 stars
6/15/07 al smith critics fuck off this movie is stunning 5 stars
5/10/07 Dude Stunning 5 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Another slice of Jappy-crap. Wasnt worth the 20p I spent on it. 1 stars
3/20/07 man brilliant 5 stars
9/28/06 phiuk yiu Wait a minute, this was supposed to be FInal Fantasy. This film sucks everyone's dick 1 stars
8/29/06 Joe Great animation, but I had no idea what was going on. Still love the games, though. 2 stars
1/20/06 Rob Winsor Should've been titled "Spirits Within" as it has nothing to do with FF. 5 stars
12/04/05 Zigga As a FF fan if it wernt for the special FX this would have been worse. 3 stars
12/02/05 Ronin This one is so so. I am saying it as a Final Fantasy game series fan. 3 stars
10/09/05 Anus You guys are joking, right? This movie is shit! Shit dialogue and acting. 1 stars
9/30/05 Craig swift best film ever 5 stars
8/10/05 ES Should have been so much more. . . 2 stars
6/01/05 Chris Great special effects! 4 stars
2/18/05 clinger26 no, no , no, noooo- the horror! 1 stars
10/01/04 whatevr Just another crappy movie based on a video game 2 stars
8/22/04 Andrew Lythall Great film, great special FX, superb soundtrack and Aki Ross is beautiful!! 5 stars
8/16/04 Herolder Way toop esoteric 4 stars
7/20/04 The Talking Elbow The plot is confusing, but its brave enough to enter new grounds with sci fi. 5 stars
6/13/04 Jack Bourbon Made absolutely no fucking sense 2 stars
5/12/04 RevoHead Forget the name FF, This is 3dcg Science Fiction and nothing more. 4 stars
4/30/04 MetallicA This shows how superior the best movies are to squares games. 1 stars
3/31/04 bob excellent 5 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser Good! Good! Good! 5 stars
3/03/04 aeryn sun aki ross is just a great woman like me 5 stars
1/08/04 tatum Anyone else just rather have flesh and blood actors in this? 3 stars
12/08/03 Rob If only this horrible movie put Squaresoft out of business PERMANENTLY!!! 1 stars
11/27/03 Joseph The videogame series sucks, and THIS is one of the worst movies of 2001. Fuck Squaresoft. 1 stars
8/17/03 Lord Chu In my mind, THE MOST underrated film of ALL TIME. 5 stars
5/24/03 Tommy Awesome animated movie!! 5 stars
5/20/03 Jon Lyrik (sarcastically) Ooooooh...ahhhh... 1 stars
5/11/03 Jack Bourbon That this movie is liked by many is evidence of national crack problem of epidemic prop's 2 stars
4/07/03 silvercheetah14 Great Animation and Action/Bad story 5 stars
3/16/03 mans0n are people commenting on the animation? or the film? the film just sucks! badly! 1 stars
2/19/03 Dave Underrated movie, but I'm into all things Japanese, so that's just me. 4 stars
2/12/03 Loyd OK this movie owns. The ending sux. The characters are weird...Now SquareMovies is dead :'( 5 stars
2/10/03 Ubu the Ripper This is why the Japanese shouldn't make sci-fi movies. Worst ending ever. 4 stars
11/07/02 Phantom8425 Underated, people didn't expect such an unusual story (I expected another Starship Troopers 5 stars
11/04/02 Michael Buehler What amazing potential, utterly unrealized. 2 stars
9/30/02 Zefram Mann If this were a live-action movie it would have made Hiroshima look like a lit fart. 3 stars
9/26/02 John McNew Shows great imagination through AMAZING visuals but stints on story despite its potential 4 stars
9/21/02 syrius what the hell was this shit?u people r just amazed by all the money wasted on the animation 1 stars
9/19/02 Agglepraxis Ten minutes of technobabble followed by a moving and captivating film. 5 stars
9/02/02 P.Rodriguez The Animation was phenomenal, but thestory was a bit thin. Still good first try. 4 stars
6/01/02 Dark Barøn Story not faithful from the series, none of the elements are there. Poor Square Pictures. 2 stars
5/28/02 Butterbean A visually stunning "Aliens" with romance and without the edge-of-your-seat thrills 3 stars
5/14/02 Blake The animation in this film was great! 5 stars
4/05/02 Junshi it wasn't emotionally successful, but somewhat satisfying 4 stars
3/31/02 Joe Schulz You know what sucks about being a Baldwin, Nothing 4 stars
3/17/02 mn i felt asleep halfway through the movie. my brother-in-law's taste of entertainment stinks 2 stars
2/26/02 Alan Smithee The plot is really weak, but the visuals almost make up for it. Worth a rental. 4 stars
2/21/02 FADEUR Fabrice Marvellous animation film 2 stars
2/20/02 Alexander Sila Sorry plot but visually fucking awesome!!!!! 5 stars
2/17/02 Mark Lloyd Loved the animation, but unfortunatley the storyline was blah 3 stars
1/10/02 max zhang seven fifty -- for this? They should've made another Final Fantasy game. 1 stars
12/20/01 Mister Char i copy andrew carden, "Video Games Should Never Be Made Into Movies." 1 stars
12/01/01 The Bomb 69 graphics amazing, storyline solid, good movie overall 4 stars
11/29/01 The $1.98 Pyramid This is a vast departure from the game series. Very disapointing. 2 stars
11/27/01 Andrew Carden Video Games Should Never Be Made Into Movies. 1 stars
11/11/01 Jed It may be flawed but personally it was way too un-mainstream for America. 4 stars
10/30/01 Sumixam Really fantastic movie, surprisingly great, the future looks bright 5 stars
10/13/01 Tracy Willams Disappointed .Lacked the epic plot and story found in the incredible game series. 3 stars
10/07/01 stephen its kewl 5 stars
9/26/01 Jeff Cordray Even though I thought it could have been better, this was my favorite movie of the summer. 5 stars
9/18/01 kelvyn so what if it looks real? Why bother with CG humans when actors will do. I don't get it. 2 stars
9/11/01 Ian Barr Screensaver: The Movie 2 stars
9/07/01 Ian Maloney Square sucks, Final Fantasy sucks, and they wasted their and my time with this movie. 1 stars
8/29/01 Slicer It's got a Squaresoft plot, but this movie owns anyway 5 stars
8/27/01 Justin Fowler Sweet Jesus the future is NOW! 5 stars
8/23/01 fernando gonasd i piss like a cat 5 stars
8/18/01 Matt Jackson Great underated sleeper. A treat for those without a boring mind. 5 stars
8/17/01 Matthew Bartley Feast for the eyes, shame the plot was incomprehendable 4 stars
8/11/01 Nathan The storyline was a bit suspect, but so was Episode I. 4 stars
8/07/01 Sealiah Intriguing dalliance w. Gaia theory; amazing CG 5 stars
8/06/01 ted v. EXCELLENT computer animation, BORING movie! I'd rather play the game than watch this again! 2 stars
8/06/01 Brett Williams Best film ever made 5 stars
8/06/01 Cl1mh4224rd Not just Playstation, you dolt. Breathtaking visuals. Decent story, but could be better. 4 stars
8/01/01 Poy-Poy Nice Graphics, Lame Story and the ending is really sux 4 stars
8/01/01 Elendil Pretty! Pity its plot, chars and style reminded me of a crappy 80s American action movie 2 stars
7/30/01 viking Great animation. All it needs a good story. 3 stars
7/30/01 Ro Sho Excellent editing and overall design. Aki is cute 100%! 5 stars
7/28/01 Dom Corleone Steve Buscemi got some of films worst lines 3 stars
7/28/01 Belinda Absolute rubbish 1 stars
7/27/01 Bill Clinton I like to pack lots of fudge with my friend Joe Stark. Oh the movie....the chick was hot 5 stars
7/27/01 e help! hollywood co-opted my favorite video game, and now it sucks! 2 stars
7/27/01 bront in a word: wow!................ 5 stars
7/26/01 tovah Great animation, characters lame. Save your money, buy the Playstation Game. 3 stars
7/26/01 Denz doesn't make sense 2 stars
7/22/01 nila great special effects 4 stars
7/22/01 Gracy Lionheart Wonderful graphics. A simple story for a short film. (Were you expecting Shakespear?) 5 stars
7/22/01 Eth'mae Look for what it is: Armstrongian step forward in animation. Film purists, get over it. 5 stars
7/21/01 Hawkeye I wanted to like it, but I just didn't care about the characters. Great animation, though. 3 stars
7/21/01 Luke It does the games graphics justice!! 5 stars
7/20/01 sdfk Are they going to let us download the meshes and plugins? 4 stars
7/20/01 Natalie Movie kicked! Great review ;) 4 stars
7/20/01 Ray Raspberry Story was lacking [comparative to the FF games]... Where Were The Swords?! Overall A- 4 stars
7/20/01 davebo great effects and characters less wooden than the Matrix 4 stars
7/19/01 Jeff Unbelievable.... And the trailer didnt just show the best parts! Awesome animation. GREAT! 5 stars
7/17/01 the scarecrow It just kind of abruptly ended, without expaining anything else plot wise. 3 stars
7/17/01 Chris Aki is so intoxicating, you'll break a leg on all the plot holes. 4 stars
7/16/01 ajay good graphics (duh), story wasn't as bad as I expected... 4 stars
7/16/01 Erin Alien:The crappy version 1 stars
7/16/01 Nicht Gefunden So real you forget it's animated - So lame you'll want to cry. 3 stars
7/16/01 Morgan Cranny Visually astonishing, story touchy feely but alright 4 stars
7/16/01 Danglia J. Zen Excellent CG - story got worse and worse 4 stars
7/15/01 ARCbird 99 Awesome visuals, decent story. Great for a video game flick. 4 stars
7/15/01 mo This is an event in the movie industry 5 stars
7/15/01 Shelley Great movie! Story is deep and engrossing. I plan to see it a third time, maybe a fourth. 5 stars
7/15/01 voyant awesome effects, with a good story. 5 stars
7/15/01 Erica Peterka neat-o! 5 stars
7/15/01 Third Ivan Thunderbirds 2001! The visuals are worth the price of admission. Plot isn't everything. 5 stars
7/14/01 Mike visually stunning, definitely the best videogame movie ever created 5 stars
7/14/01 Rampage nice CGI animation and story, proves better than the mediocre Tomb Raider movie 5 stars
7/14/01 strider3700 Bad jokes and shitty dialogue but the story wasn't bad and oh so pretty 4 stars
7/14/01 Mitch Outstanding in EVERY aspect, including story. 5 stars
7/14/01 Trevor beautiful movie, not bad story 5 stars
7/14/01 R Bretlin Hugely disappointing 1 stars
7/14/01 Brian very slow movie but the graphics are good enough to go to it for 3 stars
7/14/01 tommy who gives a shit bout ratings by ol' guys as long as u like it then its good 5 stars
7/14/01 KURT OWENS Clutch Cargo and Godzilla were more believable! 1 stars
7/14/01 RazorDog If you're not a fan of the games you won't get it. 5 stars
7/14/01 RazorDog If you're not a fan of the games you won't get it. 5 stars
7/14/01 MaG Great Movie. awesome computer visuals, and okay story 4 stars
7/14/01 MaG Great Movie. awesome computer visuals, and okay story 4 stars
7/14/01 MaG Great Movie. awesome computer visuals, and okay story 4 stars
7/14/01 MaG Great Movie. awesome computer visuals, and okay story 4 stars
7/14/01 final fantasy very slow movie so far so good. 4 stars
7/13/01 cybersquid Beautiful, fun story. Maybe worth seeing twice. 5 stars
7/13/01 Blood Saber Could have been worse. A great movie smeared by spastic dialogue 4 stars
7/13/01 Drixorial Visuals unlike anything ever seen before, plot pretty average 4 stars
7/13/01 raybass square blew pixar out of the water and beat them with an ugly stick 5 stars
7/13/01 prashant wu its pretty cool...not amazing 4 stars
7/13/01 Michael Dickerson Fans of the games will appreciate it the most! 4 stars
7/13/01 King0fAgarttha It has all the charm and realism of a Final Fantasy Game. In fact... it WAS one. 4 stars
7/13/01 Dr.Paradise Great, beautiful renderation, and a story as rich as all the games 5 stars
7/12/01 CableMage Great Visuals, Great Potential. Whoever wrote the dialogue, however, should be castrated. 4 stars
7/12/01 Dr Doom Thank god you didnt screw this movie up square. 4 stars
7/12/01 Kevlar Beast It's Final Fantasy VII with no interactivity, better graphics, and no likable characers. 4 stars
7/12/01 Human Shield The next standard for animation has your typical Japanimation plot. 5 stars
7/12/01 Nyartholep go see it on a digital projector. 4 stars
7/12/01 Tiroth Good story, amazing eye candy 5 stars
7/12/01 Rachel Unique, beautiful to look at, great story 5 stars
7/12/01 Darren Shea Gorgeous animation can't save this cliched and derivative videogame plot. 3 stars
7/12/01 frank pretty good story; stunning visuals 4 stars
7/12/01 HunterX Reminded me of FF7 near the end, but overall, another really good plotline from Sakaguchi. 5 stars
7/12/01 TheFirkin It's the story that REALLY makes this movie, the rest is just eye candy! 5 stars
7/12/01 guyguy this movie sucks and i hate the stupid hype surrounding it, i could care less about cgi 1 stars
7/12/01 Gentle Fury WONDERFUL!! I loved every frame every second every minute and hour!!!!! 5 stars
7/11/01 FRO! Pretty fucking cool. I was fooled about 1/3 of the time. 4 stars
7/11/01 mr. char What a piece of crap. I completely disagree with the majority on this one 1 stars
7/11/01 azzo! bitch! I like Venus Wars 5 stars
7/11/01 9th hate Why they didn't use radiosity? 1 stars
7/11/01 Travis J. Lehmann Beautiful cgi and compeling story what else do you people want 5 stars
7/10/01 Danny Stedler Looks amazing! Story was good, but it's the CG that makes this special. Top stuff! 5 stars
7/10/01 Neo Lan-ga Bad story 1 stars
7/10/01 John Chambers Amazing visuals. A strong female lead. A dark tone. A nice summer surprise! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  11-Jul-2001 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Jul-2001 (PG)




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