137. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

An alien haunting

Directed by: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara
Written by: Hironobu Sakaguchi (story), Al Reinert
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi and Ming-Na
When Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was released, it boasted the most realistic CGI to date. But with a story that lacks originality or thought-provoking ideas as a science fiction adventure, Final Fantasy simply revels in the technology of its 2056 setting, using phantoms, spacecrafts and hokey science to sustain a certain level of cool.

In a rather dystopian future where the Earth has been invaded by ghostly alien forms, Dr. Aki Ross (Na) works with a band of scientists and ‘Deep Eye’ troops to dispel the space invaders by using the eight spirits of Gaia. It’s a method no one believes in, and without much time before the aliens take over completely, Aki must save the world before her own time runs out – being one of the unlucky few who have been infected by the virus of the spirit-like aliens.

Looking for signs of life

Director Hironobu Sakaguchi has had extensive experience in directing and writing video game scenarios, including the very Final Fantasy games from which this film is drawn from. But while the story concept, visuals and the impressively detailed world of Final Fantasy may suit the video game conventions, as a film, it quickly exhausts itself of excitement and feels rather repetitive in its action sequences.

There’s no doubt that the quality of the film’s visuals are as high as the cyberspace in which these scientists operate. But when it comes to expressing emotion, the efforts of Final Fantasy‘s vocal talent and the capabilities of the muscles and wrinkles on the faces of its characters don’t match up. It’s an awkward thing to watch, and the cheesy dialogue doesn’t help either.

With elements of the fantastic and larger than life imagery, Final Fantasy could have been a sci-fi thriller that was futuristic for its time. Instead, it feels like an extended video game – only you’re not playing, and whoever’s playing isn’t playing very well.


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