Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Starring the voices of:
Ming Na, Alec Baldwin, James Woods, etc.
Directed By :
Hironobu Sakaguchi
Grade
B+

For those who think that the Final Fantasy name means this film will have anything to do with the series of fantasy role playing videogame series is to quickly be deceived. The only thing that the two have in common is the fact that Hironobu Sakaguchi and employees from Square put their time into it. Yes, there are a handful of semi-hidden (and even one obvious) reference to the videogame series, but other than that, this movie should be considered wholly separate.

The Spirits Within begins late in the 21st Century, over 30 years after a meteor has struck the Earth, infesting it with Phantoms, ghost-like aliens who were passengers upon the fiery rock when it slammed into the planet. These aliens quickly waged war with the Earth, killing millions just by passing through their bodies and removing their souls. To counteract them, survivors now live in cities surrounded by energy shells that repell them.

The main character, Aki Ross (Ming Na), is a scientist who goes out among the ruined cities to find lifeforms which hold "spirits", or energy wavelengths that can be used to build an energy wave pattern to counteract the Phantoms. She comes across Grey Edwards (Baldwin), a former love who's squad rescues her from the Phantoms as she locates a spirit in what used to be New York City. Not only is there conflict between the Phantoms and the humans, but between the humans. Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland), who works with Aki to find the spirits warns her not to let the others know of their theories for fear that members of the military, particularly General Hein (James Woods), will brand them for their spectacular theories about the world around them.

A review about this film can't go unfinished without mentioning the INSERT REALLY BIG ADJECTIVE HERE animation. While for the most part you know it's done by a computer, there are numerous segments where you have to stop and wonder. Characters move fluidly and act like real humans. The aged Dr. Sid is an amazing sight to behold, with his consistently believable appearance. The voice acting is pretty good, even with a few dry performances by Alec Baldwin and James Woods. Steve Buschemi and Geri Pelpin provide fairly good banter as side characters.

The Spirits Within is a well-paced science fiction story that doesn't bog itself down with too much science reality. Go and watch this to enjoy a visually excellent animated feature. If you go to see it because you think it's another James Cameron Aliens or Terminator, you'll be disappointed. This film isn't overflowing with testasterone. In fact, the theories about Gaia and the return of life-energy to the earth may be too soft for most action-hungry, sci-fi fanatics. This film requires a bit of imagination to enjoy.

While some of the characters were underdeveloped and the plot twists might have been few, the overall package of this film is well worth the effort to go see.

- - Vane

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