Thursday Night Movie Club
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
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Release Date: 11 July, 2001
Director: Hironobu Sakaguchi and Moto Sakakibara
Alec Baldwin
Donald Sutherland
James Woods
Steve Buscemi
Ving Rhames
Peri Gilpin
Aki Ross
Gray Edwards
Dr. Sid
General Hein
Neil Fleming
Ryan Wittaker
Jane Proudfoot
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within poster
Final Fantasy posterI have not been this wowed by a movie since watching the Japanimation film "Akira". Let me start by saying that we have entered a new era of movie making. This film was created entirely using 3D computer animation technology and the look and feel of the movie are phenomenal. From wind blowing gently through a character's hair to freckles on skin, this movie is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. The story is excellent also.

In the future, an asteroid has crash landed on the Earth releasing an untold number of "phantoms". Believing that the Earth is under attack from an alien race, an all-out battle rages and nothing seems to be able to stop them.

The planetary government has two solutions to this invasion. Follow General Hein's direction and employ physical force from an orbiting super cannon to destroy the aliens or follow Drs. Aki Ross and Sid. They are research scientists who believe that the phantoms are just that... ghosts.

A full-out attack by a phantom results in immediate death. A minor attack results in infection that slowly leads to death. Aki Ross has been infected and through the quick thinking of her mentor, Dr. Sid, her infestation has been contained. These results lead the pair on a search for certain "spirits" found around the planet and contained within various life forms. Their idea is to create an equal but opposing energy wave that, in theory, will cancel out the phantoms.

Dr. Acki Ross (Ming-Na).Aki is also having dreams that she is convinced are coming from the spirits within her. They tell her the story of the origination of the asteroid and of intelligent life forms that destroyed their world through a weapon of mass destruction. I was reminded of the Doomsday Device from Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove." My impression of Aki's dreams comes as a warning that General Hein is planning to do the very same thing that started the conflict on Earth and perpetuate the cycle.

Fortunately, the Planetary Council has decided to allow Aki and Dr. Sid to proceed with their search for the remaining spirits to finish their energy wave. General Hein orders them to be protected by Captain Gray Edwards and his troops. Aki and Gray had been romantically involved in the past.

General Hein does not like playing "second fiddle" and secretly plots against Aki and Captain Edwards in favor of his plan. He decides to allow a few phantoms to attack the protected zone of New York City to force the council to order him to destroy the aliens with deadly force. When his scheme goes awry, it is every man for himself to survive.

This is certainly not the first film created entirely in 3D computer animation. Whereas the Pixar/Disney films are fun for the whole family, Final Fantasy is clearly intended for more mature audiences. Many people die horribly from the phantoms. This film is definitely not "touchy-feely" but a grim look at a grim reality. Only the incessant optimism of Dr. Sid and the unsaid love between Aki and Gray that keeps Aki going on her lonely quest. The spirits within her are becoming stronger and her time is rapidly running out.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within graphic.This movie had to be filmed using live actors with sensors. The motion of all of the CG characters is smooth and extremely lifelike. Many times during my viewing of this movie, I was convinced that Dr. Sid rendering matted a real human face on a computer generated body. He "looked" too real. I will definitely have to see this movie again as I had to remind myself to follow the story and quit being mesmerized by the CG animation. I would find myself watching how Aki's hair would softly move in the breeze, each single strand moving separately but all part of a whole. Absolutely fascinating.

The story telling is top-notch. The story is very complex. You really need to pay close attention at the beginning in order to comprehend the plot. Each character is well-defined and developed with special care taken to get the right voices for the characters. The actors do an exceptional job with the material. It is a fun to try to identify the actors before the closing credits. Although the mission is successful, the ending is positive, but not necessarily a happy one.

It is a new ball game out there. This movie only opens the door of creativity. Whereas, making movies with live actors will never be completely replaced by CG actors, this movie shows that it can be done and the future of story telling is limited only by the imagination.