Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is the second videogame based movie after Tomb Raider in as many months. The Final Fantasy games are extremely popular, with ten sequels available on various platforms. The movie sucks. The one redeeming quality is the amazing level of computer animation used in bringing the characters to life. Sometimes, it's hard to tell that these are not real people on the screen. There was a huge fuss made about the number of hairs rendered individually on Aki Ross' head to make it look more lifelike, and care and detail used is obvious. However, somebody forgot to write a half-decent story. Every video game has some backstory that plays out, say between levels. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within feels like one of those stories. There is a whole lot missing from the plot, and the movie suffers as a result.

Unlike the games, Final Fantasy the movie takes place on Earth. It is the future, and humans are reeling from an invasion by a ghostly species they call the Phantoms. They crashed to earth years ago on a huge meteor. Dr. Ross (voiced by Ming-Na, ER, Spawn 3) is looking for a holistic way of defeating them. She is searching for the spirits of the Earth with her mentor Dr. Sid (voiced by Donald Sutherland, Space Cowboys, Panic). They believe in something called the Gaea theory, which makes absolutely no sense as presented in the movie. Ross goes around collecting spirits from various things using her computer to locate them. How exactly is she locating these spirits? How does she know she needs all eight spirits? Or for that matter, how does she know that there are eight? Ross and Sid are doves, up against the very hawkish General Hein (voiced by James Woods, Scary Movie 2, Recess: School's Out). Hein wants to use a giant laser to destroy the meteor, where the Phantoms are the strongest. Just think of Ghostbusters in the future with better special effects.

Ming-Na (she lost the Wen a little while ago) is a veteran voice-over actor, and for the most part, the actors are okay. Woods is a little extreme, going for his usual crazy man schtick. This is serious overplaying of his character, who turns into a caricature. Oddly enough, he still has credibility within the story. Alec Baldwin (Pearl Harbor, State & Main) is far and away the worst actor here. He plays Gray Edwards, the person in charge of guarding Ross. He also has romantic history with her. Baldwin sounds bored, tired, and awkwardly reads his lines. Hironobu Sakaguchi, a producer for many of the games, directed and conceived the story for the film, with Al Reinert (Apollo 13) and Jeff Vintar (Long Hello and Short Goodbye) writing the screenplay. It may not seem possible, the story gets even more confusing as the movie nears its conclusion.

There is little to do except look at the pretty pictures, which more than make up for the lack of discernible plot. People are making a big fuss about how realistic Ross looks, but the most realistic character is Sid. He really looks like a balding, older man with lots of wrinkles on his forehead. The backgrounds and foregrounds look great, with strict attention to every detail. Sakaguchi also made sure to layer in great background sound effects. The only time that the characters (they like to call them synthespians) look unreal is when they slow down to talk or react. The computer technology used still cannot quite simulate some of the grace of natural movement, but it is still impressive. Little things like the crunching of pebbles as people walk through an abandoned building really help to make things even more realistic.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

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