One videogame adaptation has already come to the big screen this year, Tomb Raider, and while providing some entertainment, really left little to be desired for. So it was relief to see Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within at least trying to break some new ground, and, for the most part, it does.
Of course, the thing that everyone thinks about when they talk about this movie is not the plot, acting, or dialogue, but the graphics. Final Fantasy is completely computerized but tries its best to look as humanly real as possible. The characters have pretty lifelike expressions and amazing detail. Movements are pretty fluid. Textures are impressive. All in all, there is no doubt that Final Fantasy will be nominated for an award come Oscar time. However, actors do not need to fear for a lack of jobs. There is still a long way to go before these computerized people will be able to replace real people altogether, as it is quite obvious most of the time that they are fake. No matter how hard the graphic designers tried, and I'm sure they tried very very hard, the characters just do not look realistic. Their facial expressions are not perfect, their movements are not perfect, and their emotions seem forced. Everything is close, but not that close. Final Fantasy has awesome graphics, but it is still obvious that that is all they are: graphics.
In terms of plot, Final Fantasy has a pretty good one considering that it is adapted from a videogame. I mean, look at Tomb Raider and Wing Commander; those had awful plots that were not taken too seriously. Final Fantasy does take itself seriously (maybe too seriously at times, as if it is forgetting that deep down it still is a cartoon) and has a pretty serious plot; the Earth has been overrun by 'phantoms,' an alien life force that is invisible to the naked eye. If they come in contact with humans, the humans die instantly, so most of the Earth is vacant of life. Humans live in small outposts that are protected from the phantoms. Of course, the political machine has created a weapon that could wipe out all of the phantoms, but at what cost? Will the Earth die along with them? Okay, so the plot might not be the most complicated (it involves the typical evil politician who thinks he is doing the right thing by using full force, when the heroine is trying to figure out a way to get things done a little easier and cleaner), but it is gripping. It has some elements of Terminator in it, in a way. The only real problem I have with the story is the focus on spirits, especially on the Earth's gaia, which is what the giant laser, the heroine claims, will destroy if the World Council decides to use it. For a fairly scientific movie, Final Fantasy is a little too spiritual for my tastes (yes, I know, the title says otherwise). I also didn't really understand where the characters came to believe such a thing existed, and how they figured out they need eight 'spirits' to create an antithesis to destroy the aliens, and how they find those spirits. Those are just some questions that confused me.
There are only two somewhat big problems with the movie, one falling back on the graphics. As outstanding the graphics are, they are not real, but whoever made this movie forgot that. In the scenes where characters are getting teary-eyed, emotional, or romantic, it just isn't that interesting watching computer-generated pixels interact. The kissing scene didn't do anything for me. The scene where the main character cries showed me just how far of a way the computer graphics have to go before they are truly lifelike.
The other problem is the ending. After an extremely exciting scene in the New York outpost city, Final Fantasy resorts to a sort of stereotypical, or at least lame, ending. Nothing really interesting happens in the ending and it seems as though the creators chose to go for something more dramatic than action-packed, which doesn't really work for the genre. However, I must say that it could have been a lot worse...
I have never played the videogame so obviously Final Fantasy can appeal to an audience that doesn't know a thing about it. The graphics are impressive, though not lifelike, and the story is good enough to keep the movie going for two hours. All in all, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, is worth a watching.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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