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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Director:Hironobu Sakaguchi
Writers:Al Reinert and Jeff Vintar
Columbia Pictures; PG-13; 105 minutes
Release:7/01
Voices of:Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames

It's a publicity coup that'll give directors cause for concern: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is getting press not because of acting, cinematography, plot, character, or themes. Nope. It's not the artistry that has the world taking, it's the technology. This “film” is composed entirely of computer-based animations. Real-life actors contribute their voices to photorealistic characters. The visually ripe scenario takes place on an apocalyptic Earth where bizarre aliens suck the life force out of the few remaining humans. Amid all the money necessary to bring this cinematic vision to fruition, somebody forgot to hire a decent screenwriter. Based on a computer game of the same name, Final Fantasy inherits a game's baroque plot without the interactive interest needed to make it come alive.

Venerable voices such as Donald Sutherland, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames never really inhabit their characters' bodies as they fight to rid Earth of the phantom beings. Dr. Akira Ross (Ming-Na), Final Fantasy's cover girl, desperately seeks an ecological solution to the alien problem. The tale recalls Princess Mononoke's blend of green politics and magical realism. Whereas Mononoke's script was intelligent (just badly dubbed into English), Final Fantasy looks great but lacks necessary plot supports. Toy Story 2 and Shrek recently demonstrated how to be movies and cartoons. It's a good precedent that Final Fantasy doesn't quite live up to.


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