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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Square Pictures/Columbia Pictures
  • July 11, 2001
  • September 15, 2001
  • August 3, 2001
B- 27 total ratings
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Did it deserve to dive?

A Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within review Author: Phoenix Down Published: July 09, 2002
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We all know the entirely computer generated Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a disaster. Because of the film's lacklustre performance at the box office, Square have now withdrawn from the movie business, citing 'extraordinary losses' as high as 3.16 billion yen, or 115 million US dollars. Even Japan gave the movie a lukewarm greeting, and its apathy was reflected in Square's losses.
Why did this happen? Is it really a dreadful movie or were Square unlucky? They had two possibilities when making the film: take a previous Final Fantasy story and turn it into a movie, or make up a whole new story. Most fans would have been delighted to see, for example, FFVI or FFVII turned into a movie. These are games whose stories and characters deserve to be seen by a wider audience. One might say, "Why bother? The stories are in the games." But, by that logic, there would be no reason to turn manga into anime.
The premise is promising: set in a post apocalyptic world, humans are restricted to cities protected by bio-energy shields because of lethal Phantoms who roam the surrounding wasteland of earth. Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na), is searching for a way to defeat the Phantoms without causing further destruction. This threat of further destruction is represented by General Hein (voiced by James Woods), intent on destroying the phantoms using a space-based laser that may harm the planet more than the Phantoms themselves.
Aki is a fascinating character. Infected by the Phantoms, but striving to eliminate them, an intriguing internal conflict is set up. Hein is also interesting: his family were killed by Phantoms, and his plans, although destructive, are benevolent to the human race. His motives are understandable and the audience is sympathetic to them: his hatred of the Phantoms is deep-rooted and justified.
What interest Hein's character may garner is diminished by his portrayal; his constant scowl and long black cloak is B-movie territory. James Woods has what sounds like the time of his live as the embittered, destructive antagonist. Indeed, he has too much fun and Hein unfortunately becomes a caricature; a pantomime baddy in big black boots.
Less convincing than Hein, and often laughable, is The Deep Eyes Squad--a military organisation formed to fight the phantoms. They are straight out of James Cameron's Aliens: gung-ho, high testosterone macho men with the obligatory butch female and sarcastic wise cracker. They are too clich?d to care about. They ham up the action and undermine any philosophic interest that is explored elsewhere in the story.
The root of the film's failings is the appalling dialogue of Al Reinhart's script, known for his work on Apollo 13. Final Fantasy: The Spirit's Within's script is a trite mess of clich?s and outdated Hollywood conventions. There are no memorable lines, the plot devices are painfully obvious and scenes of emotion are reduced to gags by the banality of the dialogue. A film's script is its backbone. No film, no matter the quality of the rest of its parts, can be good if its script is second-rate. All this reduces the film to what it will be remembered as in film history: a mere showcase for CGI trickery.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is embarrassing to Final Fantasy fans. The feel of the video game series is absent. By making the film appeal to all audiences, the very essence of Final Fantasy is lost. All that is left is a very average movie with an interesting setting and glorious visuals. Aki, in all her pixellated perfection, is a saving grace. But she is little aid to a film deeply wounded by a lazy, shameful script. Beautiful visuals are not a convincing reason to love a film.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "The film is a tragic waste of opportunity. Normal audiences were baffled and Final Fantasy fans disappointed. A lazy script undermines the quality of the basic plot, and turns several characters into laughable cardboard clich?s."
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Phoenix Down
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Member since July 09, 2002
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