Film review – Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Final Fantasy is an entirely computer-generated animated film, developed from director Hironobu Sakaguchi’s popular computer game series. Those who are worried that computer-generated humans are going to replace live human actors need not worry. Unlike previous computer-generated films, or Japanese Anime, the audience is constantly aware of how artificial everything looks in Final Fantasy because so much effort has gone into creating the realism. To put it simply, the human characters look like computer animation. They move too smoothly, their computerised facial expressions do not come close to generating actual emotion, and even their lip synchronisation it poor.

The background art, special effects and hardware look more impressive but are not anything we have not seen before in countless science-fiction films. There are some spectacular moments, such as the alien armies charging towards each other, but these moments are few and far between. The only justification for the elaborate computer animation is in the creation of the Phantoms, the mysteriously beautiful and deadly invaders of Earth that the surviving humans are searching for a weapon against. 

Given that the film took 4 years to make it is amazing that such an appalling script resulted. The dialogue is over explanatory and trite, the characters are typical stock standards, and the plot is a mess of worn out cliches and ridiculous New Age sentiment. Judging from the reactions of the mainly young males in the audience, Final Fantasy will not even impress its target audience.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 131, 2001

© Thomas Caldwell, 2001