Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Watching this movie I was struck by the similarities and differences with The Phantom Menace. Both make heavy use of computer animation, both were based on characters or situations already popular from previous media incarnations, and both dealt with grand issues like Good versus Evil.
Final Fantasy provides a unique mix of science fiction, gadgetry, and mysticism. Phantom Menace veers toward fairy tale in its view of an alien populated universe where standard-issue concepts of good and evil play out. Final Fantasy makes such concepts secondary. It focuses on the hero’s quest for the root causes of a long running global conflict between aliens and humans where humans have retreated behind a few walled cities.
The impetus for this quest is provided by the hero’s dreams. They stand by themselves as some of cinema’s most spectacularly and grandly realized examples of alien worlds. The second DVD’s segment “Aki’s dream” is an extended version of the recurring dream.
As someone who grew up with the hard SF and off-world adventures of Clarke, Heinlein, and Asimov, I think this dream sequence when experienced in a decent home theater set up is a good glimpse at the alien worlds and situations some of our best SF writers have helped us to create in our heads over the years.
The movie is not without its faults. The story is quite “new age-y” in parts, given the hero’s quest for the different “spirits” that provide the focus for the story. This has turned some people off. Also, the characters are 100% computer animated and lack the total fluidity of human actors. But on this point, I must compare this movie with Phantom Menace and its heavy use of computer graphics for realizing alien and non-human characters.
The creators of Final Fantasy took a greater risk by doing human characters via computer, whereas Phantom Menace creates environments, worlds, aliens — but not human characters close up —- via computer. Yes, Jar-Jar Binks is a wonder of character animation, but I’ll take Aki’s close-up eye blinking and freckles over Jar-Jar any day.
The second DVD in this two-DVD set provides a wealth of information about the production, plus what may be the best single Easter Egg put on a DVD.
If you like science fiction, this is a great DVD.
Copyright (c) 2002 by Dennis D. McDonald