FINAL FANTASY: THE
VOICES OF: Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi,
Peri Gilpin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods
2001, 105 Minutes, Directed by: Hironobu Sakaguchi
Earth is a desolate wasteland in Final
Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Humanity has been decimated by an invasion of
Phantoms, insubstantial aliens that extract and devour the spirits of
living things. The few remaining humans have retreated to a handful of
cities that are protected by massive bio-energy shields. The beautiful Dr.
Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) and her mentor Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland)
have discovered that the energy signatures of eight key Earth spirits can
cancel out and destroy the Phantoms. With the help of Captain Edwards
(Alec Baldwin) and his band of marines, they must scour the globe for the
last two remaining spirits before General Hein (James Woods) manipulates
the refugee government into attacking the aliens with an orbital laser
that may also destroy the Earth.
It was inevitable I suppose: a movie based on a computer game generated
on, erm, computers. Final Fantasy is a computer-animated movie that, unlike
let's say the recent Shrek, aims for complete photo-realism.
That, of course,
leaves the question whether it wouldn't have been better to use live actors
and real sets instead of computer generated ones. The question hangs around
until the first frames of the movie - then all doubts disappear.
Technically this movie is really, really excellent. Sure, it may at times
feel as if you're watching over someone's shoulder as they're playing
one of those games that comes on several CD-ROM disks and requires some
serious processing muscle (like the Wing Commander
games at one stage), but on the big screen Final Fantasy is simply
astounding. Try to see this movie in a cinema: its splendor lies in its
minute details like shadows, cracks, skin textures, etc. I don't care
how big your TV screen is and how mean your DVD player; the truth is that
if you haven't seen Final Fantasy on the big screen, you simply
haven't seen it at all. Like one reviewer remarked, it's a
Heavy Metal comic strip come to life (I was thinking more along the
lines of the British 2000 AD comic).
this movie didn't do that well on the big screen (especially in the States)
probably proving once again that U.S. audiences are only interested in
cute furry singing Disney animals when it comes to animated movies. Animated
SF seems to be dead in the water if the financial woes of efforts like
the recent Iron Giant,
Titan AE and even Disney's Atlantis are taken into account.
All of which is a pity really, Final Fantasy cost quite a pretty
penny to make ($140 million apparently). Who said Hollywood wants virtual
computer generated actors because they'd be cheaper? While watching it
I kept on wondering about some great science fiction novels and comics
that could be made into movies this way.
Not only would the movie's incredible production values be lost on video
(it also boasts a truly effective score by Alien
3 composer Elliot Goldenthal), but one would be forced to focus on
the movie's biggest flaw: the storyline. While mainstream reviewers expressed
bewilderment at the film's often muddled storyline I suspect that SF fans
will have an easier time following proceedings. They would however be
disappointed by the film's mechanistic plot.
In the year 2065 humanity is forced to live in crowed domed cities while
alien wraith-like invaders roam the rest of the desolate wasteland. Some
scientists are devising a way to regain the planet, but some hot-headed
military types could ruin those plans. Not only the characters are computer-generated,
but the script also it would seem!
Some viewers might also be freaked by the movie's frankly New Age sensibilities,
but to be honest I rather liked the whole rabid mad military (bad guys)
versus hippie scientists (good guys) scenario. Lately it would seem as
if the Pentagon runs Hollywood when it comes to the glorification of the
US military in movies like Independence Day
and StarGate, and this is a welcome change.
Also, the alien creatures are both intriguing and scary. If it's still
showing at a cinema near you, go see it now - don't wait for it to pop
up on video one day . . .