Scott Hardie | October 17, 2001
One of the many technologies demonstrated in the futuristic world of "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" is the ability to record a dream and watch it again. It's an apt metaphor for the sensation of seeing this film multiple times.

There's a definite plot, but the details are fuzzy. The characters are sometimes vague, like they lack real personalities. But the whole thing is a feast for the eyes, with breathtaking images that would seem only possible in the imagination.

Like a recorded dream, all of these elements improve the more times they're perceived.

Made by Square, the company responsible for the best-selling "Final Fantasy" video game series, the first film to bear the title is an imperfect work of art. It brings with it some strengths of the series, including a strong visual flair and an environmentalist theme. Unfortunately, the epic plot structures and vivid, dynamic characterization that made the series proud are nowhere to be found here.

The plot takes place fifty years from now, after a meteor has crashed on Earth, bringing with it non-corporeal aliens called phantoms. The surviving population hides under energy domes in the remains of major cities, and one of their leaders, the iniquitous General Hein (James Woods), wants to fire a newly-built "space cannon" at the meteor to wipe out the invaders. But heroic scientist Aki Ross (Ming-Na) believes that the Earth's spirit would be damaged by such an attack, and races against time to find the literal antidote to the problem.

Like a bad episode of "Star Trek," the plot is buried under thick layers of pseudo-scientific exposition, much of which is based on fictional futuristic technology anyway. The guiding philosophic principles believed by Dr. Ross and her mentor, Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland), are ludicrous, even if we know the movie's going to back them up. But none of that matters, because the point here is the animation.

Cinematic history could have gotten worse feature films to be the first ever to be fully computer-animated with photo-realistic characters. This film is a beautifully painted picture of a world worth seeing, and the visual authenticity of its characters is astounding. They're not completely convincing, but 99% is good enough. It's difficult to persuade the mind that these people, who look so unique and so real, are just polygons assembled by a massive computer in a corporate studio.

The characters are two-dimensional, but the film is over two hours long, and doesn't have much spare room for development. Some needed humor is injected by minor players Steve Buscemi and Peri Gilpin.

As a thoughtful action film with a science fiction plot, "Final Fantasy" is good, but as a milestone in animation and as a work of art, it is, well, fantastic.

Even though the filmmakers fell just short of their goal, their work is still a major achievement. That's because their goal was perfection.

[3.5 out of 4 stars]

Brannan Conrad | November 8, 2001
Being an avid FF fan, I must say something here. First off, there are 2 other FF movies. They were animes but didn't get much popularity cuz, well, they weren't very good.
I think there definitly were some faults in the computer animation, as is with all of those movies (besides monsters inc. IMO) Some of the voice acting was a little bad, and the plot was a little fuzzy at times, but overall I liked the idea, but other than that, I loved the movie.

Scott Hardie | November 9, 2001
Are they not very good, then? I've seen them in the video store but haven't rented them because I haven't played FF5 and I thought they were based on that. I've always wanted to see them, though. They're Final Fantasy. :-)

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