Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

A important historical landmark in computer animation, but a forgettable movie.

Rating: 2 out of 5.
The BestThe Worst
Incredible, lifelike visualsBoring plot
Some great voice actingBoring characters

I distinctly remember when this movie came out, and not having the chance to go see it in theaters. Fast forward to 2020, and I’m kind of glad I never saw it.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is one of those movies where the “making of” is far more interesting than the actual movie. The Spirits Within was meant to put Square’s newly formed movie studio, Square Pictures on the computer generated movie map while allowing Square to funnel the projected success and research back into game development. Square Pictures also toyed with the idea of digital actors, with the main character of their first film, Aki Ross, intended to star in other projects.

(Screen capture credit to IMDB)

The gamble didn’t pay off, and The Spirits Within ended up being the most expensive video game based movie up until 2010. The movie cost 137 billion dollars, and only grossed $85 million… pretty much the definition of “box office bomb”.

Needless to say, Aki Ross never landed a second role, and Square Pictures never made a second movie (though it’s rumored they were to develop a Transformers and Everquest movie).

The Spirits Within is a departure from the usual Final Fantasy fare. Previous games up to this point had explored the sci-fi angle, but this movie dives in head first, with varying results.

(Screen capture credit to IMDB)

The plot is about two scientists, Dr. Aki Ross, and Doctor Cid trying to save humanity from alien invaders known as “Phantoms” in a post apocalyptic setting. Humanity lives in barrier cities, meant to protect citizens from said Phantoms. While trying to find a solution, they have to deal with General Hein, who wants to use weapons of mass destruction against the aliens.

Honestly, that’s about as much as I can say about the plot. It’s just not terribly interesting. I think the script was probably much more viable in writing and ended up taking a backseat to the visuals.

The movie isn’t awful, per say. But it commits an even worse sin: it’s not good, but not terrible. It’s just…there. Even a high profile voice cast (Alec Bladwin, Steve Buschemi) can’t keep the movie interesting, though I would argue the servicable voice acting saves the movie from being unwatchable.

You would think being in development for four years would have given this movie some legs, but ultimately stellar visuals and cutting edge technology don’t make a movie good by default.

(Screen capture credit to IMDB)

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