Final Fantasy is a highly well known and successful video game series throughout the game industry. For many reasons this series has been able to shock and awe and more importantly entertain gamers for over 20 years. Final Fantasy games provide deep stories that engage players and immerse them in unique worlds. Along with amazing visuals and great gameplay they provide the ultimate gaming experience. How well would this translate into a feature film though? Well frankly very well in fact.
Final Fantasy The Spirits Within began development in 1997 and was the first ever Final Fantasy film as well as the first ever film to be done entirely in cgi. Square Pictures, a part of Squaresoft, the developers of the Final Fantasy series, along with Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series, took on this task to create a visually stunning film that had never been attempted before. The film is set in the distant future of 2065, Earth is infested by an alien enemy known as the Phantoms. The world as we know it, is no longer, there are barriers cities built throughout earth in an effort to save and protect what humans are left. These alien Phantoms are not like any other enemy, they seem to rob peoples’ souls or Gaia as stated in the film.
Dr. Aki Ross, voiced by the actress Ming-Na of the TV series ER, is a scientist on a mission to find eight unique spirits to help defeat the Phantoms. Along with her mentor Dr. Sid voiced by the great actor Donald Sutherland, Aki and Dr. Sid are researching a way to use the Gaia or soul of eight spirits to defeat the Phantoms. Alec Baldwin voices Captain Gray Edwards a soldier who is determined to help out Aki and keep her safe as well as defeat the enemy. Gray’s squad is voiced by a perfect cast, including actors Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames and Peri Gilpin. Even James Woods does an incredible job playing General Hein who is determined to destroy the Phantoms at all costs including sacrificing lives. This all star cast delivers the best voice over work I have ever witnessed. I don’t think a better cast actors could of been chosen to voice over this film.
This film is definitely in the science fiction genre but, is presented in a way that anyone can watch and enjoy. There is a love interest between Aki and Gray, peppered in humor from Neil, Steve Buscemi’s character and a portrayal of such determination and carelessness by General Hein that makes this film so enjoyable. Along with the great cast, the story is solid and the visuals are out of this world. Even in today’s standards I would put this up against Avatar in terms of visual effects. Spirits Within didn’t borrow much from the Final Fantasy Universe other than the title and a few small references from the games. What it did to remain faithful to the games was provide a very unique atmosphere, with great sound effects and a visually stunning setting. I strongly recommend this movie to generally anyone who appreciates film. It shows what computer technology can do and how well it can do it. It’s sad that this film was not very well received and didn’t cover it’s very high $137 million development cost. It’s truly a gem and Hironubu Sakaguchi should be proud of his work. As Time Magazine said “If the ambitious mix of East-West, movie-game and anime-action doesn’t pay off, we may still remember this as the moment true CG actors were born.”