Saturday, April 04, 2015

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Warning:  This review gives away major details.

I had heard that “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” wasn’t that good. Most movies based on something other than a book (or another movie) tend to be below par when compared to other movies. (This is most apparent with the Saturday Night Live skits that were made into movies. “Wayne’s World” was the only one that did well, in my opinion.) I think that Final Fantasy did a lot better than other game-based movies, but is still lacking in some respects.

I have to admit that the plot is kind of thin. It’s 2065 and what’s left of humanity is fighting these alien phantoms that came to Earth with this big meteor. For some reason, they like to attack people by grabbing their souls from out of their bodies. Whenever one phantom is destroyed, a new one appears, keeping the number of phantoms steady. Aki Ross is looking for 8 spirits that, when combined, will eliminate the alien threat (or phantom menace, if you will) permanently. The movie starts out in space, but Aki soon returns to what’s left of New York City to look for a plant. This is the sixth of the spirits. She still needs to find two more. She’s operating under the guidance of Dr. Sid. (From what I understand, there’s a Sid in every Final Fantasy game, although there may or may not be a connection between any of them.) If they succeed, they can eliminate the phantoms without any threat to humanity.

There’s an opposing views on how to handle the phantoms, though. General Hein has been working on this big mega-super-weapon called Zeus that could theoretically blast every last phantom to bits, assuming they can’t run fast enough. Sid and Ross think that this is a bad idea because it might injure the Earth. (Both believe in a Gaia, or life force, within the Earth and all of its inhabitants.) Hein, along with many of the other characters, think that it’s a bunch of spiritual rubbish and want to use the weapon. However, the ruling council decides to wait.

Eventually, Ross figures out what’s going on, due mostly to these dreams that she’s been having. What she realizes is that the meteor is what’s left of another planet. The alien Gaia and many alien souls came to Earth on it. She claims that they’re lost and confused, but they don’t seem to have any reservation when it comes to killing people. About the same time, General Hein gets permission to use Zeus to destroy the meteor. Ross, Sid and a few others have to get to the planet to find the eighth spirit before Hein destroys everything.

The story is interesting, but not really that involved. There’s no explanation as to why the aliens attack humans. Are they doing it to feed? Are they really just thrashing out? What’s the deal? There’s also little explanation as to why the 8 spirits are important. Yes, there’ that whole thing about canceling out the spiritual waves or something, but how do Ross and Sid know it will work? How do they even know what they’re looking for?

Also, there’s little mention of other people except when it comes time to kill a bunch of people. It’s also implied that there’s at least one other outpost of humanity left, other than New York City and Zeus, which is orbiting Earth, but no one ever says how many people are left or where they might be or what they’re going through. There’s really not much of a story beyond the main characters, and all but two of them get killed. It basically comes down to a peaceful solution versus a military solution. It’s a good story, but the writers could have done a lot better with it.

The big thing was the animation. The animation was fantastic, giving us characters that you’d swear were real at times. The auditory technology isn’t quite as good, so the movie has to use actors to do the voices. (Alec Baldwin voices Captain Edwards and Ming-Na of ER fame does the voice for Aki Ross. You may also recognize Donald Sutherland as Dr. Sid.)

Now for the big question: Will I recommend this movie? Yes, but I wouldn’t rush out to the store go rent it. One of the advantages of having NetFlix is that it’s a flat fee for as many movies by mail as I can rent in one month. (Blockbuster and Walmart are offering similar services.) If you’re looking to fill up your queue, go for it. It’s a great movie if you’re looking for a no-brainer to watch on some weekday night.

IMDb page

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