Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Aki. Voice by Ming-na

This movie is Square's introduction to the movies. I have been waiting to see this movie for four years and it's just as I expected it to be. The only Final Fantasy game I ever got through was 7. I got the feeling then that they were better at making fancy graphics than writing plots. In fact, the ending of The Spirits Within reminds me a lot of the end of 7. The movie taps into several sci-fi elements and sets it in a sort of archetype of the Final Fantasy storylines.

A lot of people are poo-pooing the dialogue. I expected it to be much worse than it actually is. Steve Buscemi and the crew deliver sarcastic banter, but the comedic timing is hampered by the fact that nearly all the characters movements are captured except the lip movements. You get used to it, but it can be distracting.

The most obviously borrowed sci-fi element is the Aliens-like marine crew down to the masculine female warrior played by Peri Gilpin. This was helped along by the Aliensesque aural chords from Elliot "Alien 3" Goldenthal's score. He used a mix of London Symphony Orchestra, Polish avant-garde, Straussian brass and string instrumentation, and a bit of his Alien 3 tricks. The Aliens are a mishmash of creature types where the artists were left to experiment. They seem a nod to Lucas too. They are a phantom menace after all. The rest of this paragraph may be a bit of a spoiler. Feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph…..Okay, The whole aspect of the Alien dilemma seems like a mix of the menace of Species and the message of Contact. When Ryan (Ving Rhames) gets injured I thought he was going to get it first in the clichéd "black guy gets it first" way. Bravo, Square.

The best thing about this movie is the sense that seeing the impossible dreams of writers on film is coming true. Square always reminded me of Psygnosis, a game company better at fancy graphics than other things. Square should stick to the animation and find the most impossible to do live-action sci-fi story. I challenge ye!

Updated Semi-Spoiler thoughts: The plot refers to the 8 spirits. A few weeks ago I decided to take another crack at finishing the Forsaken Dungeon game in Ehrgeiz. This is a Square game and they are pretty set in their own technomythos or what have you. There are 10 Guardians in the game. They are basically spirits or gods. One is Gaea and one is Zeus. In the movie the Zeus cannon threatens to destroy Gaea unless they can find the 8 spirits, blah, blah 10-2=8.

So who are these 8 other spirits? Poseidon, Hades, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Bacchus. The spirit from the plant could have been Apollo, sun god. The one from the 7 year old girl that was not afraid to die could have been Hades, god of the underworld. The one from the bird could have been Hermes, god of travel. I'm not sure about the others. I think it would be cool to explore the Greek myth a bit more in the next Final Fantasy.

For future movies, Sakaguchi said he would like to use the main characters in the "Final Fantasy" movie — female lead Aki Ross and male hero Gray Edwards — and put them in new settings and stories. "It would be great if we could develop a star who would be something like a digital Julia Roberts," he said.

So it looks like Gray (Alec Baldwin) might not be dead after all. It doesn't seem like many people are left on Earth. Though they never come out and say it. Let's say there aren't many at all. Let's see these spirits trying to gain influence again. Typically a godly power base is said to come through worship. With so few people left it might be pretty easy for an ambitious spirit to gain a significant base of followers. Some spirits could works together. We could even have humanoid-animal avatars in the fashion of the Black & White game. Maybe these spirits see this as a time to seek a new dominant species like the Deathclaws from the Fallout games.

I think Square did a great nod to sci-fi movies of the past and now it's time to do the same for the game industry that it was born in. There are so many different ways this can go from here. The best movies have memorable characters. The original Star Wars had great characters and they failed to have any in the Phantom Menace. Final Fantasy suffers from the same problem. The next movie should be all about the characters. These characters should be fantastic creatures doing impossible tasks while trying to thwart one another. Maybe while they are all fighting and backstabbing some opportunist spirits from another world try and steal the show. We have the technology. Now we need the Fantasy!

More: The IMDB entry, The Uber Final Fantasy source, Rotten Tomatoes meta-review, JapanToday review and some history, I knew Roger Ebert would get it. He gives it 3 ½ stars, Alexandra DuPont didn't get it. I didn't expect her to.

This review was last updated on Friday, 08-Oct-2004 17:57:53 EDT.

AIM: FesterWo