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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

A movie directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi

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Where are the Chocobos and Moogles?

  • Nov 15, 2001
Pros: Great animation, Steve Buscemi is his good old squirrell self.

Cons: How could they slaughter the games like this?

The Bottom Line: This movie is an even bigger mockery of the series than Final Fantasy 8. Stop making this a required category.

After seeing Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, one has to wonder: Just what were these people smoking? Come on! You would figure that it would be impossible to screw up a screen adaptation of a cinematic game like Final Fantasy, yet somehow they managed to pull it off. Actually, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is the most watchable video game adaptation to date, but in a way it is also the biggest letdown.

First, though, my compliments: This being a Squaresoft game-er, movie-, the graphics-I mean animation- is absolutely fantastic. At a single glance, you would never know that this thing was animated. All the characters look real and move with lifelike fluidity. The hair of the main character, Aki Ross, is amazing. The animators claimed to have spent some 60 percent of the time working on the movie on Aki's hair, and that there are some 60,000 digital strands on top of her head. Another highlight is the animation of the phantoms, colorful creatures which can change their shapes and adjust their sizes to move through small openings.

It's a real shame that the animation is all that the movie has going for it. Being based on one of the all time monuments of video gaming, an adaptation of the Final Fantasy series should have had everything going for it. The filmmakers had nine of the most incredible, moving and epic plots to choose from, with what will undoubtedly be a tenth due out early next year and 11 and 12 in the works. But instead of throwing them all in a hat and drawing one out, they had to go out and try to make one up. The plot that we get stuck with is thinner than tissue paper. It has something to do with some sort of giant meteor (nicknamed "Gaia", go figure) crashing into or at least getting really close to the Earth. "Gaia" is loaded with strange ghostlike creatures called phantoms, which are apparently going around and killing everybody. Of couse, no one ever says that they go around killing people. I merely jumped to that conclusion because there doesn't seem to be anyone living on the outside of the giant bio-dome lodged over New York city. Anyway, our hero, Dr. Aki Ross, runs in a desperate race against time to find a group of "spirits" that will destroy the phantoms before the evil General Hien can use his ion cannon to destroy them first, along with the planet. That's it.

Oh, but this is Final Fantasy! The deep, well rounded characters will redeem the lousy plot! Again, no, sorry. This is another thing that should have been real easy. After all, the producers had seven sets of the deepest, most well rounded and realistic characters to choose from (I discount the faceless characters from 1 and the shallow characters from 8). But no. The producers again had to ignore one of the trademarks that made the series special in the first place. In The Spirits Within, we get a tyipical crew: You have the well meaning main character, Aki; the hard nosed general/love interest who protects her, Gray; the doctor who helps her, Sid (aha! The other major port from the game!); and Gray's crew, the big black guy (his name escapes me); the tough as nails chick, Jane; and wisecracker Niel. They are fighting the evil Hien and the phantoms. As for their development, well, we know for a fact that Aki and Gray have some sort of past together, but not a single clue as to what that past is. I jump to another conclusion by saying that it wasn't a romantic past, as the two of them don't generate the chemistry needed to pull off that kiss. That and Niel is single.

See what I mean now? This movie lacks everything that the games epitomize. Where is the honor, betrayal, redemption and other powerful themes that made the games so memorable? Where are our great characters-our Cecils, our Terras and Vivis? And a mean, truly loathable villian like Kefka or Sephiroth? What about a grand showdown at the end? We don't get that either. Instead, we get Hien overheating his big gun and blowing himself up. A truly good adaptation of the series would have had all that.

So is there ANYTHING good about the movie? Well, much as I hate to admit it at this point, yes. The action scenes are pretty cool. So the movie is a great junk action movie for those nights after stressful days when you just don't feel like thinking.

Such a letdown. Five bucks down the drain. And the fact that Squaresoft, the company that makes the games, produced the movie, makes it even more of a letdown. Final Fantasy should have been an easy silver screen conversion. But instead of the cinematic epic that we all were wanting and expecting, we get just another movie that plays like... well, ironically, a video game.


Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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November 17, 2010
LOL! your headline just grabbed my attention! entertaining review! thanks!
More Final Fantasy: The Spirits Wit... reviews
review by . July 10, 2001
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Great Visuals     Cons: bad story and pacing     The Bottom Line: Once again Hollywood has to learn that great visuals do not make a movie.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. The challenge of turning a popular video game into a feature film has long resulted in less then stellar moments in cinema history. One only has to look at such clunkers as “Mario Brothers”, “Double Dragon” “Street Fighter” …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie


Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi (who also created the best-selling series of video games that inspired the film), the groundbreaking FINAL FANTASY, which stars a startlingly lifelike cast of animated characters, is the first photo-realistic computer-generated feature film ever made. In the year 2065, Earth has been taken over by a race of alien phantoms and transformed into a barren wasteland sprinkled with dome-enclosed barrier cities--the last remaining bastions of human civilization. Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by actress Ming-Na) has teamed up with Captain Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin) to search for the "eighth spirit," a powerful entity dwelling in an unknown life form somewhere on the planet. It holds the key to perfecting a system of energy waves that will neutralize the phantoms. Ross's opponent is the reckless General Hein (James Woods), who is determined to put a stop to the alien invasion by firing a satellite cannon directly into a nest of phantoms located deep within the Earth, even though this could ...
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Cast: Jean Simmons
Director: Hironobu Sakaguchi
Release Date: 2001
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (October 23, 2001)
Runtime: 1hr 46min
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