Andrew Garfield, Mahershala Ali, Ruth Negga, and five others received their first-ever acting nominations for 2017. While these actors are new to the Academy Awards, you may recognize them from their earlier work.
This fast paced documentary has it all: production art, pre-viz, block models, motion capture footage, boards & blasts, concepts, but what it doesn't have is any body's name on screen whenever one of the behind the scenes people speaks. Luckily a lot of them introduce themselves. The second, extra filled disc that comes with some versions of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is almost as inventively done as the movie itself, starting off with a brilliant little intro that sees Aki and other animated characters walk off the set and into the real world. Unlike other DVD menu's that you want to skip immediately and get to the content, this one has so much stuff to look at it's a shame you can't pause and rewind it. And it leads directly into the extra features menu, with emphasis on this 30 minute main documentary (which in my book justifies me writing almost an entire paragraph about it).
Don't expect a lot of input from the voice cast going in. Most of the big name stars do make an appearance, but none are on screen for very long and some can literally be missed in the blink of an eye. What we get instead is a lot of useful insight into the development of the movie as conceived by Sakaguchi san that is all about the Gaia theory (in fact, the original title of the film was Gaia). Bits from the blooper reel pop up again and as usual all the whiz kids and animators are recognizable by wearing goatees or big soul patches. It turns out that one of them, Matt Hackett, was the facial inspiration for General Hein and not Jack Nicholson (or voice actor Jimmy Woods).
On a project like this, everybody has a cool sounding job. For instance, Takao is supervisor of the Phantom project. Spencer Knapp goes deep sea diving to simulate the effects of the High Density Gas (HDG) as seen in the film. It turns out you need a lot of footdust when a crowd of phantoms is running, so that becomes some people's day job on this show as well. Sakaguchi wanted a unique sound for this movie. to not sound like any other. So Randy Thom uses animal sounds and when these don't suffice, he makes some himself. On top of all this information, there are a whole bunch of short interactive side tracks (I lost count at 17) that the viewers can choose to pop up and interrupt the documentary. These range from interesting tidbits to some more questionable inclusions, and together they just about double the documentary's running time. And I still think the film would have done just fine at the box office if only the (doomed) distributing company hadn't been called 'Square Pictures'. That was just asking for trouble.
8 out of 10
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