MagazineFeature articles

Just in | Library of feature articles


Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

01/09/2001. Contributed by Mark R Leeper

Buy Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in the USA - or Buy Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in the UK

author pic

The Final Fantasy movie makes it to the big screen.


(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This very dark sci-fi fantasy is magnificent visually but it has a nearly incoherent plot. FINAL FANTASY is a Japanese-American co-production entirely animated but with a very real three-dimensional look and with very real-looking characters.

In the year 2065 aliens that appear to us as translucent images, but still very deadly creatures, have invaded Earth. Saving the Earth requires resorting to semi-mystical means to understand and halt the enemy. If this film had been done in live-action, the scenes - more spectacular - than those of BLADERUNNER would have been hailed as a triumph. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

The art of the animated film continues to evolve before our eyes at an incredible rate. It seems that one animated film after another is released and advances the art of animation. I personally was very impressed with the visual images created in TITAN A.E. But there are images in FINAL FANTASY that go well beyond the power of that film's animation. The one problem is that if I applaud this film it will have to be mostly on the imagination of the concepts and on the visuals.

I don't think the story was a very good one. And the uncertain terms in which I say that are intentional. The telling of the story and the explanation of what is going on lies somewhere in the range between terse and incoherent. I frequently had no idea what was happening in the plot, thought FINAL FANTASY was never failed to be an enjoyable film to watch.

The greatest part of what was remarkable about the film was the animation work. The entire film is done in a three-dimensional technique. Every single image is as three-dimensional as a live action film. Of course, I am afraid one could always distinguish the images from real live action. And that is (intentionally) praising the animation with faint criticism.

The computer-generated images were almost photographic. And what images they were! There were planet-scapes and futuristic battlefields. There were alien monsters of towering height. There were things that cannot be described; they have to be seen.

The story opens in 2065, with the Earth already mostly destroyed and conquered by a diaphanous life form from space. Well, not just one diaphanous life form, but a whole class of gossamer life forms. There are things that are insect-like and things that look like floating dragons.

It is like a whole planet of creatures are cooperating and taking part in the invasion. Why?? Dr. Sid (voiced by Donald Sutherland) and his protégé Dr. Aki Ross (Ming- Na) want to find out. The creatures seem to burrow into the ground then attack with deadly potency.

Humans have reacted by retreating to force-field protected cities. A guard of power- suited soldiers protects these cities and what is left of the human race. Dr. Sid believes in the Gaia theory that planets are like a living organism with self-protection mechanisms. Perhaps they can be triggered to protect the planet. But Sid and Aki have to act fast. Aki's body has been invaded by one form of the aliens' essence.

AIDS-like it will prove deadly if the nature of the aliens is not better understood soon. Hironobu Sakaguchi, who is connected with the Final Fantasy video games wrote the story for this film as well as directed and acted as executive producer. Jeff Vintar and Al Reinert wrote the screenplay. Generally in an animated film of this sort, I complain that any starving actor could have gotten a good job doing the voice of an animated character. It usually seems wasteful and useless to give these voice roles to established and successful actors.

In this film it really did serve a purpose. The animation technique makes the characters realistic and even gives them some marvelous facial expression, but it leaves them seeming cold and without much personality.

That makes it hard to keep straight who is who. One thing that helped was that I found it easy to track four of the characters because they spoke with voices I immediately recognized.

Those were Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Donald Sutherland, and James Woods. I probably should have recognized the voice of Ving Rhames, but did not. The main character is played by Ming-Na best known for her roles in THE JOY LUCK CLUB and in the various Disney productions in which she plays the Chinese historic figure Mulan.

What is a little disconcerting is not that the voices are familiar, but that the faces do not resemble those of the actors. Dr. Sid may have unmistakably sounded like Donald Sutherland, but he looked very different. I kept expecting to see Dr. Sid with the Sutherland face.

This film from Square Pictures (whose logo is a rectangle) is animated to be just one step from live action. The viewer may come away not understanding the story or the future Earth on which is it set, but he will have seen some marvelous images set to the tune of some really terrible music.

I rate the film a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2001 Mark R. Leeper

Magazine > Feature articles

Just in | Library of feature articles

Add daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...


Post your comments


Warning: include(../../../comments/lib/2001/ failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/hunt0799/public_html/articles/features/2001/Final-Fantasy-The-Spirits-Within-5922.php on line 29

Warning: include(../../../comments/lib/2001/ failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/hunt0799/public_html/articles/features/2001/Final-Fantasy-The-Spirits-Within-5922.php on line 29

Warning: include(): Failed opening '../../../comments/lib/2001/' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/php54/lib/php') in /home/hunt0799/public_html/articles/features/2001/Final-Fantasy-The-Spirits-Within-5922.php on line 29

The all-new SFcrowsnest is now running at This is now the archive for pre-2012 content. Nothing new is being posted here.

Magazine Articles

- Features

- Movie/TV Reviews

- Book Reviews

- News

- E-mail magazine

- Encyclopedia

- Other formats: Kindle, Nook, Sony Ebook, iPhone & iPod


- Top books

- Top movies/tv series


- SciFi @ FaceBook

- Steampunk @ FaceBook

- Us @ Google+


- Search site

Reader Tools

- RSS news feed

- Facebook page for SFcrowsnest

- Twitter page for SFcrowsnest

- Google toolbar for SFcrowsnest

Webmaster Tools

- Add our content feeds to your site