Mothering Nature
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Review by Ross Anthony

"Every night I have the same dream," Dr. Aki Ross recounts to her journal. Driven by science, love of the planet and a dangerous gift of alien visions, Aki risks her life and those of a Final Fantasy: The Spirits Withinteam of soldiers to conjure up eight ingredients she's sure will dissolve the strength of the vicious aliens infesting our lovely Earth.

Most remarkable, the computer animation comes eerily close to simulating human actors. In fact, these pixel recreations are so "not cartoon" that the voices of beloved actors like Alec Baldwin, James Woods and Donald Sutherland seem dissonantly juxtaposed in their mouths. While the Hollywood debate regarding film vs. tape rages on, we all forget about animation. Is it conceivable that animated actors can replace real ones on screen? "Final Fantasy" hints at this future possibility.

Besides the lifelike talent, "Fantasy" flaunts a rich collection of animated set designs. From wasp-like spacecraft to dragon/caterpillar aliens. Visually, very impressive (you'll love the zero-G portions), with a thumping, resonating score that vibrates theater seats.

Aside from Aki's dreams (which certainly compel) and the eventually revealed truth regarding the aliens, the story plays formulaic, beat by beat. Sporting no strong dialogue, the film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Withindabbles in ecological new-ageism to distinguish it from other films we've seen in the genre. Not that this is a bad thing, but a bit of toning down would have strengthened the story.

Some other improvements: Upon first introduction, make the aliens awesome and frightening, perhaps, kill off a human or two right of the bat. This will intensify the viewer's sympathy to other humans in the picture. I would have preferred a less obvious villain, the Woods character begged to be less type-cast, why not make the audience voyeurs to his dreams (family killed by aliens) as well.

Having shot my fair share of footage in the past, I had to chuckle at the scenes that simulate the imperfections of hand-held camera movement. (With CG, you can move the camera without restriction, so to force the computer to handle the cam with human restriction is oddly humorous.)

Gleaming, but not without faults, "Fantasy" still enjoyed audience applause at its conclusion.

"This is the first time that a film inspired by a video game has been directed by the creator of the game, in the medium of the game," comments producer Chris Lee.

  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Copyright © 2001. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring the voices of: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Peri Gilpin, Ming-Na, Ving Rhames, Donald Sutherland, James Woods.
  • Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi.
  • Written by Al Reinert, Jeff Vintar.
  • Produced by Jun Aida, Chris Lee.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:10:56 PDT