FINAL FANTASYMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
So after all of our recycling of aluminum, plastic bottles, and paper*, our planet gets smacked upside the head by a meteorite, thus destroying the world as we know it.
Ah well. Who knew?
The meteor also had some nasty bads with it. An alien life form we call Phantoms - due to the fact that they are so damn ghostly - that pass through your body harmlessly enough, but suck the life force right out of you. Killing you dead, but leaving an undamaged corpse.
FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within opens with a bizarre dream by Dr. Aki Ross (Voice of Ming-Na: SPAWN [TV]). The dream is as mysterious to us as it is to the Doc. Soon she is landing her craft in a creepy part of New York City at night. I know that's not saying much but it's creepy because all of New York is deserted, people wise. As she travels on foot she fires off some kind of flare that bursts into glow bugs and where these glow bugs settle they reveal varmints that were otherwise unseen. Dr. Ross is trying to avoid these varmints.
Soon she is meeting up with some security folk in heavy armor that are trying to hustle her butt out of there. This place is dangerous doncha know? But Aki is there to find a life form in the barren city and she ain't leaving without it. Even if it means her life or the lives of the security guards: it's that important.
She finds the plant but now the phantoms she lit up before have sensed the presence of humans in their midst and are giving chase. The humans on the other hand have plenty of chase to leave and they are doing their best to leave it behind toot-sweet.
They get out of Dodge in the nick of time - or so it appears. Once back at base they each pass through some kind of scanner that picks up a bug, one of the phantom varmints, in the Security Captain's chest. After a touch and go moment, Aki is able to save the Captain, but refuses to take the scan herself. Just as things start to get sticky, Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland: DON'T LOOK NOW, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, THE PUPPET MASTERS, VIRUS) arrives, pulls rank, and gets Aki out of there. Of course, we all know now why she didn't want to be scanned, right?
Aki has a varmint inside her and it's growing. It's also slowly killing her. Soon the Captain of the guard, who is also her old lover (Alec Baldwin: BEETLEJUICE, VIRUS), is told and this puts him in an awkward position. He serves the military and Aki serves science. So far science and not the military have been all that's saving humanity from destruction and as far as General Hein (James Woods: VIDEODROME, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) is concerned, this has given the military a black eye. He will do anything to make the populace turn to the military and not the scientists for salvation. All he needs is an edge.
The discovery that one of the Science community's top people is infected and secretly harboring, an alien enemy phantom inside her, would allow him to prey on the fears of the humans who live inside a single greenhouse / stronghold on the outskirts of New York City. With this he could gain power and then run things His Way. In fact, if it wasn't for the General's permanent scowl^ and his voice like James Woods, he would make sense for the most part.
But the scientists saved the lives of all humanity! You say. Why would the people turn on the scientists now? You could ask the same question today and the answer still wouldn't make sense.
Onward: The man who saved earth, Dr. Sid, is growing old and as he does he is getting less careful about a secret of his own. It appears that Dr. Sid is taken to flights of fancy, believes in otherworldly, spiritual, and immaterial things. FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within takes the position that "All you atheists have got it all wrong, and we can't prove it! But we are going to show you something one day that will make you believe, we just don't know when."
Of such things are prophesies born.
That and it always makes a fine excuse for war and the slaughter of teenage boys who would probably be a bunch of delinquents if we didn't thin their herd by sending them off to a nice war Some Where Else.
Most movies~ would side the scientists alongside the military Industrial Complex with just maybe the lone voice of one scientist, after the shit hits the fan, saying "My God! What have we done?"
But here the two typical movie allies are split in twain with the scientists suddenly speaking like crystal rubbing bladder heads. In FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within these New-Age scientists are right of course, although the movie has to go through twists and turns and an anti-climatic, plot choking finale to pull it off.
Amazingly enough though, this movie gets an
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
And while we're at it, howz about a
Find more movies at the SCIENCE MOMENT page.
FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within biggest claim to fame of course, is the special effects. It is all one big SFX because everything in it is animated. Not only that, but the animators worked to make it all look real! Wasn't this awfully expensive? Hell yes, but a point was being proved, that point being: It costs more than if we didn't do it - BUT - we can still do it!
In this case the "it" was making computer animated people look like real people. Did they pull it off?
In a word, "No." In two words, "Not really."
Whenever the CGI people are in what should be bright light, their skin tones are pale; even grey. Even the dark skinned people in this movie have an overall grey appearance to them - as if they got a sunburn and ash-ed.
To be sure, the animators were probably aware of this and often have the characters moving about in what would be, if this were real, unnatural lighting. So-called outdoor shots also suffer for the same reasons. That said, movie moguls are hungrily envisioning flicks where they only need to hire top name actors while having extras, character actors and speaking roles given over entirely to computer animated golems.
It will be interesting to see if real actors can still act properly while addressing a green screen throughout an entire movie. It will also be interesting to find a whole new crop of actors since nearly all of them come from the ranks of extras and minor roles. So there may be a flaw in the logic, but nobody ever said, "Smart as a movie producer!"
There are just far too many animators to list for such a project but even with my critiques on the flaws of the CGI actors, the result is still magnificent to look at. No doubt what I saw with FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within is the polished draft toward what will become a final draft in digital actors: at least until freestanding holographic type actors become the norm. All the artists involved did an incredible job and have permanently raised the bar for all who come after.
FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within is good for another reason. The original creator of the FINAL FANTASY games, Hironobu Sakaguchi, is also director, writer, and one of the executive producers of the film. This is probably as good as the movie could ever be and is certainly above par with most Japanese Anime, even with the annoying preachiness that drips into the story at awkward moments.
Kudos must also go to Jack Fletcher (AEON FLUX, SPAWN), who in addition to being a voice actor also did an excellent job in hiring the best actors to give voice to the CGI puppets. The voices include Ving Rhames (JACOB'S LADDER, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD ), Steve Buscemi (TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: The Movie, BARTON FINK, RESERVOIR DOGS, ED AND HIS DEAD MOTHER, PULP FICTION, FARGO), Keith David (THE THING, THEY LIVE, PITCH BLACK), and Peri Gilpin.
Three Shriek Girls