Thursday, March 15, 2012

Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within - (2001)

                  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  It’s a science fiction dream come true so to speak.  The story is so intricate I’ve actually read a number of articles where people found themselves lost in it.  That’s somewhat funny for me as the movie isn’t that difficult to follow.  The movie is based off of the Final Fantasy video games and from what I know it doesn’t quite relate enough of the fantasy side from them to the movie.  The main continuity of the Final Fantasy series is it’s mostly fantasy and has a hint of science fiction to them not the other way around.  An enormous amount of people that admire the game franchise were appalled at this movie.  I can understand being let down that the movie isn’t a video game in cinema form but should that automatically mean the movie is terrible?  I have only played Final Fantasy XI online and I can see the difference between the two but it doesn’t trouble me.  Perhaps if the movie was just titled, “The Spirits Within” overall reaction would have been better?

                  My inner science fiction demon absorbs this plot like a sponge.  I did say plot that’s not a mistake.  I’ve heard all too well this movie has either no plot or a bad one.  I’m realizing after doing more and more reviews that some people like to throw around that concept if they don’t enjoy a particular film.  If I don’t enjoy a film I always state the reasons why, not just some vague almost meaningless statement such as, “Uh, it has no plot so it’s bad, blah”.  I’ll move away from defending the movie to go over it now.

                The dream recorder is an amazing concept; I’m still highly fascinated by it.  How awesome would it be to watch your dreams?  It fits right into what I’d imagine a Final Fantasy world would have in it too.  The Phantoms are such an enigma throughout the first half of the movie.  I desired to know what the deal with them was as I drooled at their back story.  Their war torn planet or world was destroyed which sent a chunk of their world crashing to earth.  The humans thought it’s an alien attack when in actuality it’s the violent nature of the phantoms in a ghostly spirit form.  Now from what I know spirits aren’t strictly a science fiction idea but can also be categorized in a fantasy one as well but let’s not spoil it for people who thought this movie sucked right?  Their spirit energy being a polar opposite to earth’s Gaia so to speak.

                The main characters had enough development to get attached too until a timely death by some.  Sid (Donald Sutherland), a famous Final Fantasy name, plays the head scientist looking for a less brutal solution to solving the phantom dilemma.  Aki Ross (Ming-Na Wen) is his student figure in a way which is infected by the phantoms and struggling to find spirits on earth to create a wave to defeat the phantoms.  A wave is the means the entire plot is focused around.  The scientists want to ultimately use earth’s spirit to bond with the phantoms and see what happens.  They aren’t sure what would become of it but it can’t be worse them bombarding the planet with the all powerful Zeus cannon. 

                Captain Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin) and his team get very suitable back story and screen time.  Gray and Aki have feelings for one another but it’s more subtle and satisfactory.  Aki realizing time is critical in completing the wave due to her ailment forgoes any drama to attempt to save the earth.  Gray’s team consists of Ryan Whittaker (Ving Rhames), Jane Proudfoot (Peri Gilpin) and Neil Fleming (Steve Buscemi).  I grew attached to them and when the time came for them to die you felt sorrow for them especially as Gray had to watch it happen.  You can see the pain he felt as his team fell while he yet stood.  
                 General Hein (James Woods) is fully aggressive in eradication of the phantoms.  His wife and child died by the phantoms and you can see it drives him eventually over the edge without a rope.  He cunningly manipulates a council that makes the decisions for the best of what remains of the humans to gain permission to fire the Zeus cannon from orbit.  The idea behind the cannon is to attack a living being, the phantoms presumably, and destroy every one of them.  The General refuses to believe their ghosts from some other world.  His narrow mindedness creates the downfall for so many lives as he recognizes his mistake and fires the cannon until he overcharges the space station and dies.  He is depicted as the villain but you can understand his motives.  I myself have sympathy for the character as he is struggling to survive on a planet that is quickly dying.  He wanted to save lives but ended up taking them away in a sense.  It’s almost tragic in a movie with a weak plot right?

                The action sequences are flawless as they don’t overkill it with needless never-ending scenes.  During some of the action moments you get to see the phantoms literally rip out the spirit of the humans.  It’s terrifying to see a human spirit struggle to remain in its body while it’s about to die.  It’s not gross or hideous but it makes you feel sorrow for the fallen humans.  I’d imagine seeing a lifeless body crash down to the ground for no apparent reason would be shocking.

                From start to finish it’s such a complete movie whether you want to admit it or not.  Sacrifices are made by key characters that will make you sad at moments.  The movie lacks nothing as far as I can tell and I’ve watched it numerous times.  If science fiction is your genre, don’t miss this.  The ending theme credits are a marvelous score as well.

                A thought that comes to mind is the splendid animation of this movie.  I believe many would agree this animation was cutting edge at the time of release.  The visuals alone widened my eyes so much I needed surgery to correct them!  The movie is well made and you can attempt to prove otherwise if you like, that’s the fun of reviewing.

                Rating: 10 of 10

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