Film Reviews

FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

By • Jul 11th, 2001 •

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I paid to see this movie a second time. It is absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking in the execution of its photorealistic, computer-generated humans. I predict big things for Dr. Aki Ross (voice by Ming-Na). I’d like to see her save the world – again. Because not only does she save planet Earth from transparent alien menaces, she saves the life of her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Captain Gary Edwards (voice by Alec Baldwin!). This kick-ass temptress trend is not letting up.

Its only 64 years in the future and already Earth, as we know it, has gone to Hell in a hand basket. A meteor crashed unleashing millions of alien creatures that roam the Earth sucking the life-force right out of humans. What their goal is, how they survive, what they want, is not known. There are now glass entombed “barrier” cities (parenthetically, why not dome The Las Vegas Strip? Doesn’t anybody care we’re smack in the middle of a desert?) protecting the few inhabitants who survived the initial attack. Aki believes it is she who is somehow destined to save the planet. Her mentor, Dr. Sid (voice by Donald Sutherland) has some wacky, mumbo-jumbo idea about marshalling eight spirits to save the planet. Dr. Sid’s plan, which he can’t convincingly explain to anyone except Aki, is opposed by General Hein (voice by James Woods) who just wants to “nuke” them and then let the chips fall where they may. Okay, the story could have used some strenuous retooling – regardless, it’s beautifully executed. The computer-generated humans are dazzling. The attention to detail like this – folds in clothes that move ever so slightly and the tiny lines that ring our young heroine’s eyes – prove that this technology and artistry is the future (and far more sophisticated than the computer-generated work shown in the teaser trailer for SPIDERMAN). I especially liked the character of leather-clad General Hein. I was sorry to see him go; but then again, star voices can also be troublesome in negotiating sequels. Remember the James Earl Jones/Darth Vader brouhaha?

Now for my major complaint: There was absolutely no reason for “star” voices. It was a major distraction. I kept imagining Sutherland and Woods faces every time their characters spoke. It makes the chilling point that voices do reflect facial expressions and emotions. Baldwin’s voice is twenty years too old for his character – a military careerist in the Ben Affleck mode. It’s one thing to give a cute animated puppy Robin Williams’s voice, but here it takes away from our intention to set aside the fact that we are not watching live actors.

On the plus side: We’ll never have to watch Dr. Aki Ross grow old. She’ll never get a face-lift with add-on apple-shaped cheekbones. She’ll never demand a doublewide trailer or foot massages. She’ll never have to sign an autograph or bitterly complain about her bad press. I’ll never read about her faux romance with her gay co-star. Even if she’s not real, what’s not to like about Aki Ross?

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