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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
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171 out of 193 people found the following review useful:

The right movie for the wrong audience

9/10
Author: Lars Hellberg from Sweden
16 December 2004

It's a pity this movie failed at the box office, because in my opinion, it's really good. It combines combines the classic dystopic sci-fi future with a scorched Earth, a few heroes struggling against enigmatic aliens and a corrupt military force, action style sequences that are at times quite intense, and the typical slow-paced Asian movie storytelling. Add to this a rich amount of influences from the FF games, including eight mysterious spirits that must be found in time or the heroine will succumb, as well as a lot of mythological references that must be taken for granted rather than analysed to bits if the viewer is to find any pleasure in this film.

The trouble is that the FF video game fans wanted a story based on the games, or on their particular favourite in the series, and were disappointed with both the story, the setting and the characters. The average sci-fi movie fan, though, who ought to have loved the wicked general (excellently voice-cast by James Woods) and his huge space cannon, as well as the 'Aliens' styled surroundings and technology, was put off by all the talk about spirits and world souls. Leaving for a few of us who went to see the film with no real expectations, to enjoy it.

Because it is a good film. The animation is, for the most part, excellent, even if some scenes have a too blatant 'look what we can do' boast to them. Particularly all the scenes of Aki's hair waving in the wind. Personally, I didn't think the story was either too slow-paced, nor too weird. It works well, especially if you like Asian movies. For the European and American market, though, there's probably not enough action and too much talking.

If this movie had been released this year, it would probably have been given a better reception. The thought of fully computer animated films isn't as new and strange anymore, and with films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ring and Hero, the west is opening up for the Asian way of telling stories. I hope to see more films like this, at least if they are this well made. 9/10

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126 out of 164 people found the following review useful:

Good Film

Author: David Guarneri from San Antonio, TX
27 October 2004

I don't know why nearly all the critics bashed this film. I thought it was great! The main reasons people have dogged it is because they don't follow the plot and they don't think the animation looks real enough.

I did not have any problem following the plot. The second word in "Final Fantasy" is a description of the type of movie this is. It deals with the supernatural. The spirits, or "essences" of earth are gathered to fight the alien gaia, as the arms and weapons used against the alien spirits are ineffective and in fact destructive.

This movie introduced me to the concept of the gaia, which I believe is a great metaphor for understanding how all life on earth shares a common spirit. I don't truly believe there is a gaia, and you don't need to either to enjoy this film. But perhaps some found that this conflicted too much with their beliefs.

Now as far as the animation, this is the most realistic portrayal of human characters to date generated by a computer. If you watch some anime films, where there is a lot of action, they will show a frame for a long time with only the mouths moving. People enjoy these animations. Then why is this movie criticized so heavily for not looking real enough? It's rather ironic. You should watch this movie expecting an animation, not a full-feature film with real actors.

One explanation for this reaction is that, like figures in a wax museum, characters that look too real but are not creep us out because they remind us of dead people. But perhaps this is fitting for this movie, because the soul of the earth is sick and life on the planet is reaching its end.

In any case, I enjoyed this movie, and I liked the message. If you like animation and enjoy a good fantasy story, you will like this movie.

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116 out of 156 people found the following review useful:

Superb - watch, listen and immerse yourself

10/10
Author: BlueDragon from UK
22 October 2001

A superb film - I'm so very glad that I ignored those who condemned this. I bought it on the recently released 2 DVD set (which in itself is worthy of purchase even if you didn't like the film - simply loads of extras, commentary tracks, etc).

I loved the overall 'feel' of this movie - it invokes a sense of wonder in me that few films have managed to achieve. It goes without saying that visually (and aurally) the movie is a feast, but more than that it is a movie for the soul.

Ignore those that don't like it - inevitably they simply didn't understand it. It IS a convoluted (but ultimately simple) plot and you need to pay attention, but if you do so you will be well rewarded.

Definitely a movie to be savored.

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69 out of 81 people found the following review useful:

Not bad at all....

7/10
Author: Darren Zolnowski from United States
11 May 2005

Wow, I guess there is SOME hope for video game adaptations. While not a direct translation of the Final Fantasy video game franchise, it is written by the series creator, whose name I cannot remember. On top of that, his video game company branched off into a film company (Square Pictures) just to go and make this movie. At least one can't complain about the handling of the material.

But the big question here is: Do these guys know anything about film-making? Maybe. Maybe not. Truth be told, they don't need to. The beauty of this movie is that it does something new. It blends the world of video game technology and storytelling with the art of film-making. It cuts corners on film-making, but its uniqueness makes up for it. I will admit that I'm a gamer, so I appreciate what was attempted here. What we get out of this movie is an impressive display of what animators and video game technology can do together. I know there are other CGI movies out there, but, unless I am mistaken, they have all followed the over-the-top cartoony path. This is where Final Fantasy stands out. The animation is swelling with reality. From a technical standpoint, this is a gem, and a reason at the least to give it a rent.

The storyline is subject to much scrutiny though. It's not for everybody. This IS a film of Japanese origin, so anime fans will be right at home with it. For the mainstream audience, however, that remains to be decided. Although the script was revised to suit North American localization (and done very well might I add), it still is very Japanese in style, albeit with a bit less surrealism. It's fast-paced and a bit abstract at times, but it is coherent.

In the end, I would say that one should rent this just to see the technological achievement at the least. It's safe to say that all would agree with that point. Depending on the person, you may get into the storyline as well. Either way, you'll walk away with at least part of you satisfied.

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57 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic

10/10
Author: franklin_phraner from California
10 November 2001

This film is a dream come true for any science fiction fan. Unfortunately, this film was not as popular as it truly deserved to be. It shows how powerful the media can be when it comes to squelching a foreign (in this case Japanese) film. It is by far the best computer animation ever to be shown. If only the American computer animators could be this good! I was really sorry they took the film out of the theaters so soon... before the general public had a chance to really enjoy this film on the wide screen.

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33 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Improbably good

7/10
Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
13 March 2006

I never played the computer game, and knew nothing about it. I was drawn to this film because of the bold animations, but didn't expect the film to do anything for me beyond simple entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised. The excellent voice talent and stunning animation allow Final Fantasy to drawn you in just as well as a live-action version would have. It is very easy to forget that the characters you are watching are animations, and the action is CGI.

A meteor has struck the earth, carrying with it phantoms who strip away the life energy of whomever they contact. Dr. Aki Ross and her mentor Dr. Ced are locked in a stand-off against the earth's military forces, whose solution to this invasion may be worse than the invasion itself, and the mysterious phantoms who seem to have no specific purpose and can not be fought using conventional means. Following up on a quasi-mystical theory of Dr. Ced, they set out to collect 8 living spirits which must be used to harness the life force of earth itself in defense of the planet.

This film is dark and beautiful, with each scene a masterpiece of animated art. It feels less like a computer game than an immersive experience in an alternative universe.

A fast-paced action film, Final Fantasy blends elements of folklore, science and animated battle sequences into a satisfying, well balanced and well paced film. It is probably the most thoughtful computer game -inspired film I have seen.

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63 out of 101 people found the following review useful:

Criminally Underrated

Author: Adrian Thomas from Amersham
6 June 2004

Just to clear up a couple of points:-

a) This is a FILM, not a computer game. b) CGI people don't look or move exactly like real people. That stated, Aki Ross is still a more convincing character than ANYONE played by Keanu Reeves.

Final Fantasy is misnamed; there's little about the story that is "final", nor is it especially fantastic, but what it IS is a pretty decent mystical-science fiction (no, NOT "sci-fi" space opera) yarn. Possibly owing to the real inability to successfully portray facial expressions in the CGI characters, the mood throughout is sombre and hard... so rather more like real life than your average Hollywood space-opera swashbuckler. Frankly, because this story actually tries to make a POINT, it probably disappoints the type of viewer who would like a film like "Aliens". The overriding message is simply that brute force is no use without understanding, and that's a timeless message that many cultures would do well to think about.

And, of course, this film is just BEAUTIFUL. Probably best watched while tripping on acid, if the truth be told.

7/10 and a future classic, as far as I'm concerned. This film will be remembered long after things like "Starship Troopers" have been forgotten.

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27 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Most will be impressed, some disappointed, but it's worth the price of a ticket for all...

Author: Jesse Aaron Miles (elison777@yahoo.com)
11 July 2001

I've waited for this one for quite a while, as have most of Square's fans. There is a lot riding on this film, including the future direction of CG in movies, the proud heritage of a name brand, and the chance to release a worthwhile movie during a string of bad summer flicks. So, does Final Fantasy live up to it's hype?

Mostly.

First, the bad. No, it has nothing to do with the games other than name, but then the majority of the storylines of the games had nothing to do with each other, either. The plot is not necessarily original, with marauding aliens nearly vanquishing humanity while a desperate band of outsiders hold the key to winning (tired sci-fi, to be sure) and even the animation has it's faults, mostly with the mouth movements and a few emotions lacking, as the eyes and lips, and even hair had detail but no-one's cheeks or throats moved, giving the characters a bit of a puppetry feel at times. The movement of humans in CG is still not quite fluid, but getting much better. Also, the movie slows down considerably during the last twenty or thirty minutes, which is perhaps necessary for the plot, but the change in pace was notable, even with the awe that the movie's end was aspiring too.

But enough nit-picking.

The Good. The imagery in this movie is startling, imaginative, complex, even awesome at times. It's amazing that while the machines, vehicles, and mechanics in the movie are so realistic and detailed, so too are the organic forms such as the alien presence (sometimes seemingly more fluidly animated than the humans!) and the incredible landscapes. It is obvious how much imagination went in to so many aspects of this movie. The soundtrack, while not exceptional, is very complimentary and captures the dark feel with the fast action and triumphant climaxes. The characters were distinct, like-able, and voiced very well (even if the digital mouths don't quite match up most of the time). The emotional scenes, while certainly not perfect and a bit awkward, should be given grand credit for achieving the level they do convey. If you let yourself go, it's not impossible to be entranced by all that this movie actually manages to pull off. If nothing else, then the effects alone are worth seeing, if the somewhat hokey spiritual elements of the plot turn you off. (If you consider the Force to be hokey, don't bother.)

The Surprising. Well, I was a bit put off by the simplistic way the characters would look at each situation and then spell it out to the audience, though there is more to the plot than casual sci-fi fare. Because of this, the dialogue was a bit goofy at times, but at least it usually fit the characters. But every good thing you've heard about the quality of the CG work in this movie is true- it really is a site to behold, if nothing else than for the effects. As I mentioned earlier, if you consider how much this movie is trying to do, it's amazing that it pulled off everything nearly as well as it does.

So, I think that most will be pleased, some will critique it heavily on the negatives and not be as impressed, but the bottom line is that it is definitely worth seeing. Quality work in most areas, even story and screenplay in my opinion (though that's certainly the most debatable point.) I left the theater without being disappointed, something I cannot say for the majority of cinema fare.

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19 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

good if not all I expected of it

Author: daisuke69 from California
18 August 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie isn't a paramount to the 7th art but it certainly broke some new ground. I expected a lot in the animation department and I was pleased with what I saw. Being based on a video game prepped me for a rather unconventional and perhaps lame plot.

Firstly, the animation: the use of realistic CG characters by this movie is good, most of the movement of the animated people was very good except for a bit of problems with speaking and expressions, you can also tell that the animators learned how to make the characters walk as they made the movie, the walk during the first 20 minutes (especially at the beginning) is noticeably stiff. It gets better as the movie wears on though. The detail level of vehicles and scenery is superb, you can even see dust falling as the light streams in a window, this gives you an idea of how detailed it can be.

Second: story line, not too original, while not the best sci fi out there by a long shot, it still has a decent if somewhat complex story line which is hard to follow at times. It borrows heavily from typical anime plots (with the biblical and mythological references, the mystic stuff and so on) however what else can you expect. The ending is typical of anime so it seems that the animators and writers themselves still regarded this as animation and weren't trying to make it a true movie. It also borrows from well tried elements like the military commander bent of the use of force over logic, but as an animation it sure eats up disney's childish plots.

Summing up, this movie is worth watching for the animation, a second watching will also probably clear up some things in the plot, it gives a good idea as to what to expect from future animation and sets a new standard. I came out of the theater with a sensation of money well spent and I'll probably watch it again, not my favorite of all time but certainly decent.

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54 out of 98 people found the following review useful:

Eye Candy But Nothing More

Author: marblespire from West Coast, USA
10 October 2002

For a movie based on a video game, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was very good. Next to such atrocities as Tomb Raider and Street Fighter, it positively shines, and when compared to the complete gibberish known as the Super Mario Bros. Movie...

Having said that, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within could have been A Lot Better.

If you paid attention to the Final Fantasy games, to any of the hype surrounding the movie, or to the CGI industry in general, you already know the computer animation for this movie is far-and-away the best ever done. Back when Square first started producing the movie in 1998, they were progressing at a rate of about one second of film PER DAY, because of the immense quality of the graphics, and none of that quality was lost as technology caught up and time passed. The backdops are jaw-dropping and the CGI actors look more real than some actual actors. Really simply, Square declared itself the current king of CGI animation. Pixar, Dreamworks, move over--the studio that cut its teeth on PlayStation games is in the house.

Unfortunately, having been a fan of the Final Fantasy games since it first sprouted on the original Nintendo, I'm a little jaded towards visual grandeur. And when you take that away, there isn't much left.

The plot is pretty standard--Earth is a wasteland; most of Terra's population has been wiped out by the unexpected invasion of mostly-invisible aliens called Phantoms. The remaining Earthlings struggle to survive. Aki Ross (the main character) and Dr. Cid (there's been a character named Cid in EVERY Final Fantasy production since 1991) have isolated eight Earthborn Spirits--not ghosts, but tangible lifeforms; one of them is a plant, and don't ask me how the plant has a spirit--that, if combined, can wipe the Phantoms off the planet entirely. With the help of Captain Grey Edwards and his crack band of soldiers, the Deep Eyes (Final Fantasy also has a knack for weird names--I mean, who came up with 'Premium Heart'?), Aki sets off to find, capture and use those eight Spirits. And then finally there's General Hein, a megalomaniac fellow who's just trying to blow everything up using a a very large gun.

No problem there. Anyone who plays Final Fantasy is used to Fetch Quests (in which the main characters perform a service to a ruler, generally retrieving a stolen object of enormous power, in return for help from that ruler). What I want to complain about are the characters themselves.

They are FLAT.

A lot of them die, and we don't miss them except that they don't speak any more lines. Grey and Aki (male and female lead) don't really evolve over the course of the story--and Cid is just there to provide technobabble. Oh, and by the way, there's almost no 'fantasy' elements in this movie, with the sole exception of the Spirits.

My two favorite games in the Final Fantasy series are numbers Eight and Ten. They are my favorites because they have unique, interesting, convincing characters. True, most Final Fantasy games take 40 hours or more to play, giving the writers a lot of time to flesh the characters out, but generally within the first five minutes of being introduced to a character (sometimes within the first few SECONDS, as with Zell and Kimahri) you know most or all there is to know about them--they are already convincing, already realized in the player's mind. Square's GOOD at doing that sort of thing.

If Square had bothered to invent real characters for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the movie would have SOARED. As it is, it just barely limps along under the power of a few snappy lines of dialogue and a lot of pretty vistas.

It's worth seeing once, for the same reason any museum is worth visiting once--you'll get to see things you've never seen before and may not see again. But if you're like me and prefer your movies to have interesting characters and plotlines, be prepared for a disappointment.

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