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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Reviewer: Apatt Seriniyom 09/27/2001

It is the year 2065. Earth is overrun by masses of semi-transparent and wraith-like aliens called "phantoms". Ever since these phantoms came to Earth on a meteor some years ago, mankind has been forced to live in artificial compounds surrounded by forcefields. While the military is planning to blow the phantoms to smithereens, scientists Aki Ross and Dr. Cid are working on a less destructive but outlandish solution based on the "Gaia Hypothesis". The "Gaia Hypothesis" basically postulates that the Earth is a living, breathing organism with a soul. To save the world, Aki and Dr. Cid must gather the eight spirits which are components of the Earth's soul...

Our webmistress Rowena has actually seen this movie, and is very much a fan of the Final Fantasy games. I, on the other hand, am an FF virgin who's been "touched for the very first time" by this movie. Fanatics of Ro's reviews are undoubtedly gnashing their teeth, seeing that she is not the one reviewing this... and instead delegated the task to this blasted infidel. Truth be told, Ro wants this movie reviewed on its own merit -- not tinged by any kind of gaming perspective and expectations.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a milestone in movie-making. While there have been computer generated movies before (most notably Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Antz and Shrek), Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is the only one that features human beings as the main characters. Virtually anyone who likes looking at unusual spectacles will be treated to a visual feast. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within looks incredible. The CG characters move very fluidly and have a lot more facial expressions than your average daytime soap actors. The technology is not yet perfect however, and at times the characters seem a tad mannequin-like. The plot is on the complex side, but I did not find it particularly confusing. Younger children looking for light entertainment in the vein of "Toy Story" and "Shrek" may find the story too perplexing though.

The main characters are voiced by famous actors such as James Woods, Donald Sutherland, and Alec Baldwin. The leading lady Aki Ross is skillfully voiced by the lovely Chinese actress Ming-Na Wen, who also did the voice for Disney's Mulan. But having popular actors doing voices for the characters is a two-edged sword. On one hand they have the star power to attract audiences. On the other hand, some of the voices are so closely associated with their faces that hearing them spoken by "people" who look nothing like them has a jarring effect on some viewers. For example, Alec Baldwin does the voice for a character who looks like Ben Affleck! Having said that, I personally was not bothered by this disparity but find it worth pointing out.

My only quibble with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is the characterization. Sad to say, the plot's complexity does not extend to the characters. I was indifferent to almost everybody in the movie, except maybe for Aki Ross (because I like Ming-Na Wen!). Thus, I did not really care whether they defeated the aliens or not -- although I was interested to see how they would finally go about it. The overall tone is also a little too sombre for my taste, and I found the slight touches of humor not particularly funny. I was not expecting a Shrek-style laugh-fest but a bit more lightness would have helped the movie become more emotionally balanced. Quibbles aside, the main pleasure to be had from this movie is the visuals -- and this is where the movie really scores. I hope the FF team makes more movies soon (albeit with better scripts). I certainly look forward to seeing more of their technological advances.

You'd think Aki Ross is a serious, no-nonsense virtual actress, but in fact she can "babe-out" with Britney and the rest of them.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
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Review Title:
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
100 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Adventure, Sci-Fi
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