Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
Main cast: Ming-Na (Dr Aki Ross), Alec Baldwin (Cpt Gray Edwards), Ving Rhames (Ryan), Steve Buscemi (Neil), Peri Gilpin (Jane), Donald Sutherland (Doctor Sid), and James Woods (General Hein)
Director: Hironobu Sakaguchi


The Final Fantasy franchise is actually a series of shoot-'em-and-beat-'em-up games based on a post-apocalyptic world that spawns a popular video series. There's a rabid cult following for Final Fantasy, the youngest son of yours truly included. The movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within doesn't stray much from the game/video, but the impressive CGI-animation is just spellbinding.

Set in 2065, the story begins with heroine Dr Aki (voiced by Ming-Na, trying her best to channel FBI Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files) landing in Old New York to seek out a plant. She is rescued by the military led by her ex-boyfriend Gray when she is ambushed by phantom aliens. The phantoms are astral-like aliens that suck out the soul/spirit of all living creatures in their way. They arrived several decades ago on an asteroid and now have forced humans to live in colonies protected by some powerful barrier that keeps the phantoms out.

What is revealed next is that Dr Aki and her mentor Sid are involved in a controversial study to wipe out the phantoms using - uh, I'm still a bit sticky when it comes to this point - "anti-spirit" of the phantoms. What this means is that according to Aki and Sid's beliefs, every creature has a spirit that is part of Gaia, the greater spirit of Earth. The phantoms, therefore have spirits, and if they can find a spirit that resonates in a counter direction to the phantoms, they will negate the phantoms. Uh, let's skip the jargon. Let's just say Aki and Sid need to find eight living creatures whose spirit can be extracted to defeat the phantoms.

But opposing the scheme is the military led by General Hein who prefers that they just blast the phantom meteor with the powerful Zeus cannon from space. And Aki also has a secret: she is infected by the phantoms, and she will die if she doesn't find the final spirit soon.

If the plot sounds confusing, it's not that deep. Any veteran reader of science fiction with humanist twists will be able to second guess the nature-vs-technology philosophy that the plot centers itself around. In the end, weapons of destruction are bad, and good are the ways that preserve. And like all movies of this sort, the most recent I recall is Titan AE, the movie ends with a scene of the Earth blooming with life again, as an eagle soars in the sky...

Touching. FF:TSW isn't original, and the characters aren't even memorable. Aki is just there, Gray is just there, everyone's just there, going through the motions, although the end result is an exciting, adrenaline-rush action movie. The phantoms are everywhere, and how our heroes and heroines struggle for survival make compelling watch.

And the animation is fluid and amazing, as if the CGI graphics. The people don't look real, but perfect, idealized. Aki is gorgeous in a brunette Dana Scully way, and Gray looks like a beefed-up Ben Affleck. Yummy. And despite all the familiar plot contrivances, the finale is rather moving.

FF:TSW isn't as deep or complex as it wants to be, but it's adequate as a gripping adventure in a post-apocalyptic earth. Beautiful eye candy as well as exciting space adventure of big guns and bigger spacecrafts, this movie is worth a watch.

Rating: 81


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