Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/08/2001

Two stars out of five
Running time: 106 mins

Visually stunning computer-animated sci-fi flick that unfortunately betrays its video-game origins with poor characterisation, an appalling script and a badly thought-out plot.

In order to combat the er…"phantom menace", Dr Aki Ross (Ming-Na) and her aged mentor Dr Sid (Donald Sutherland) scour the apocalyptic ruins of Old New York looking for life-forms (or "spirits", hence the sub-title).

These can be used to tap into the Earth’s mystic "gaia" or life force, which they believe holds the key to ridding the planet of the creatures.

(Please note the words "appalling" and "script" above). Meanwhile, gung-ho militaristic General Hein (James Woods) has no patience with such hippy-dippy solutions and instead plots to destroy the aliens the good old-fashioned way – by blowing them up with A Really Big Gun.

There’s no denying that, visually, Final Fantasy is a treat for fans of cutting-edge computer animation. A phenomenal amount of both time and money has been spent on getting the tricky details just right, such as the blemishes on Aki’s skin, or her shampoo-ad hair.

The landscapes, too, though bleak and grey as the plot dictates, are nonetheless impressive. Sadly, however, the quality of the animation alone isn’t enough to sustain interest in the film over its 105-minute running time and the fault for this lies in both the script and characterisation.

Firstly, the film suffers from an oddly jarring effect whereby the characters look nothing like the people voicing them. This wouldn’t be so bad, except they each resemble other famous actors.

For example, Aki’s love interest Grey (voiced by Alec Baldwin) looks like Ben Affleck, wise-cracking soldier Neil (voiced by Steve Buscemi) looks like Jason Priestly and, worst of all, General Hein (malevolently voiced by James Woods) looks like Jack Dee.

Worse still, their lip-movements are badly synched-up so that the film looks badly dubbed into the bargain. On top of this, none of the characters are given much life.

This of course makes it very difficult to care what happens to them. (What the filmmaker’s expect the audience to feel when Aki and the aptly named Grey kiss is anybody’s guess).

The script is also extremely poor, with a confusing plot and a lot of new age mumbo-jumbo about "gaia" and the like being central to the action.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the target audience weaned on the video game didn’t come to the movie in order to learn how to be "nice" to the Earth.

Basically, although the film is technically impressive, it is sadly lacking in thrills, laughs, decent dialogue or anything else that would have elevated this above its video-game origins.

This is a pity, especially given the quality of the vocal talent on board. For animation fans and game-players only.

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