The year is 2065, and the planet of Earth is far removed from the place that it was in the past. Deadly alien creatures known as Phantoms have appeared all over the planet, and mere contact with these entities is lethal, whether it be an instant death or a prolonged decline. In order to try and salvage what little of the human race is left, large force-field barriers have been constructed around certain cities to repel the Phantoms.
Seeking a more permanent solution to this invasion are scientists Aki Ross and her mentor, Dr. Sid, whose investigations have revealed that there exists a form of spiritual, Gaia energy that can eradicate the Phantom's presence from this world. Aki and Sid aren't alone in their quest through Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within; the human council and the military squad "Deep Eyes" are ready to help. Not everyone is convinced of this plan though.
Aki, Sid, Grey, and their allies have to band together against forces both alien and human if they are to have any chance at restoring peace to Earth. An enemy whose mere touch is fatal, the Phantoms appear the more dangerous enemy, but as they will come to find out, their human nemeses are also not to be trifled with.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the only full length film produced by Square Pictures. The movie's final budget was $137 million dollar budget, due to the high costs of the technology being used for the film's computer animation. With marketing costs included, The Spirits Within lost in excess of $94 million. Adjusted for 2016 inflation, this amounts to over $126 million. Not only did this directly lead to the closing of Square Pictures, but it also delayed the parent company Square from completing its planned merger with the video game publishing company Enix.
A Japanese/American collaboration, The Spirits Within was filmed in English and premiered in the United States two months before releasing in Japan.
Despite what people say, this film was not awful. Okay, it didn't quite match up to the magical, epical, astounding, spellbinding, memorable, groundbreaking quality of the game series, but think of it as a normal SciFi movie and you'll be fine. That's right, SciFi. It's not really what I would classify as fantasy.
The story was quite simple, but decent enough. It had some good qualities, but nothing new. There were a couple of unexpected moments, some romance, action, and some interesting ideas. However, it wasn't nearly as good as what people hoped it to be. I preferred it to Advent Children since it was a
story in its own right, but it doesn't compare to the game series.
The animation was astounding; the characters looked almost as real as they possibly could have done. For its time, it's groundbreaking. Better than the animation in FFVIII, which was being made at the same time.
The character voices were well cast and the music was serene. It added to the atmosphere, and all those sound effects we take for granted well sleak and done to perfection.
Characters were nice, and better than the plot. Each was unique and, while I didn't learn a lot about them during the film, I felt they were created well.
Considering its length, the time, and the fact it's a part of a series which is loved by millions, I would certainly say this movie is under-rated. It's not got much of a re-watch value, but I'd certainly say go and watch it once. Watch it with an open mind, and forget it's called "Final Fantasy". Think of it as nothing more than "The Spirits Within", and enjoy it for what it is, not what many people hoped it would be.
The Spirits Within is not like Anime at all. It sits at the midpoint between a Square style RPG and a Hollywood blockbuster. Reviewing this on an Anime website as a frequent movie goer and a fan of the Final Fantasy series, my perspective is, as you might expect, a little bit scattered. As an FF fan, this movie is a bit of a disappointment because it lacks a strong fantasy element and limit breaks (lets face it, we all want to see limit breaks). As a Hollywood Sci-fi movie sitting next to something like The Matrix, it is racked with cliches, but an engrossing
watch nonetheless. Looking at it as an Anime, it puts the visual/audio of most films to shame, and its western blockbuster style is actually novel. My opinion of this film drastically changes depending on what I evaluate it against. After trying my best to put all my biases aside to look at this as entertainment pure and simple, I`ve come to realize that despite its flaws here and there, it`s not half bad.
7 or so years after the fact, The Spirits Within still boasts visuals competitive with a newer Final Fantasy: Advent Children, . The character animations don`t seem quite as smooth and effortless, but the gritty, post-apocalyptic setting and the striking realism in the skin tones and hair of The Spirits Within remains matchless. The characters don`t look like digitized images of real people; they retain a little bit of a cartoony feel, only with eons more detail than nearly every piece of animation in existence. The clunky character animations and the lack of long, and truly gratifying action scenes leave me with a slight, very very slight, feeling of disappointment in the visuals; I feel like it was but 2 steps from blowing my socks off. As it is though, it is still brilliant, and a beauty to behold each and every second.
The sound track is always perfectly matched, never committing the cardinal sin of overpowering the inherent mood of a scene. It also just sounds good. The full on orchestral score compliments the epic grandeur that the story goes for. The soundtrack is not better than that of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but it is certainly comparable.
Even though a couple of characters feel like they belong right at home in any Final Fantasy game, the story bears no similarities to that of the games aside from a couple of nominal references and Sakaguchi`s strange obsession with anthropomorphing planets, . It is however, effective and interesting as a supernatural sci-fi story, at least up until the end. At the start of the movie, the planet has already been plagued by ethereal alien invaders for quite some time. These creatures, dubbed phantoms, can pass through matter and kill anything alive with a simple touch. The ravishing doctor Aki and her superiors are working on a special weapon that will destroy all of the aliens without harming anything else. Her opposition is a general who is insistent on using a large space cannon to wipe out the invaders by brute force. The government grants Aki some time to collect the "spirits" necessary to complete their project, and she enlists the help of a lower ranking military officer, Gray, who happens to be her old flame.
The post-apocalyptic America setting is beautifully fleshed out, and genuinely disconcerting; the alien invaders are at once sci-fi alien monsters and creepy, supernatural beings; plenty ominous, the obligatory romance is not half bad, and the general creates some political elements that complicate things nicely. In other words, the build up in the story is effective for a sci-fi film. The problem is the climax. The world turns on itself, and becomes inconsistent with its own logic. Conventional weapons can kill the phantoms (we see it happen), as can the space cannon, but it paradoxically also makes them stronger? That`s a head scratcher. There is also a gigantic contrivance in how Aki obtains the last spirit needed to utilize her special weapon, forcing an unspectacular ending that`s basically ripped right out of FF7. Yet another contrivance is an unnecessary death that occurs towards the end, but at least this one brings about a somewhat touching and emotional scene. The lackluster ending really brings down an otherwise well crafted story, but if asked the simple question of "like or dislike?" my fondness of the first 3/4 trumps my disdain of the last 1/4.
Putting aside the solid characters in the villain and Aki, and a mediocre one in her lover, the rest of the cast feels like they`re still warm off a Matrix photocopier. Gray`s little platoon is a gallery of token characters. A fast talking little snark provides the much unneeded comic relief, which clunks up otherwise functional scenes with been there, heard that jokes. Somewhere in there is a noble and stoic black man, and an equally stoic, quiet woman. Dr. Cid is less of a cliche, but also lacks any personality beyond anything that is absolutely necessary for a generic scientist.
The villain, one of the two effective characters, would fit right into the cast of a Final Fantasy. He seems modeled after the FF7 villain, Sephiroth, only a little less crazy. The general looks terribly menacing from the get go, but his intentions, initially, are good. Eventually, ambition gets the best of him, and his actions become more and more unsavory. The movie highlights his just motives, humanizes him with conscience and regret, and yet manages to give him, throughout the whole film, an intimidating and menacing presence perfect for a good, love-to-hate villain.
Luckily, the other strong character is the main character, Aki. Might I first mention that she is beautiful, not only because of her fetching appearance, but also because of a certain quiet dignity she possesses. Despite her usual bland tone (voiced by Ming Na), she`s not stoic. A better description would be "mellow". She manages to express herself in her own muted and understated way, which is especially effective in her relationship with Gray. The few outright dramatic scenes she has are all the more explosive for their contrast to her usual, calm demeanor.
Aki`s romance with Gray seems to have much more baggage than a typical boy meets girl setup. They are past lovers after all. None of that baggage is explicitly revealed, nor does it need to be since the nuances that resulted from it are present in their interactions. The intimacy between these two characters is quietly warm, familiar but awkward. The romantic element generates the intended fuzziness overall, but the placement of the most affectionate scene is questionable. It`s right next to a tragic turn in the plot, and as lovely as that scene might have been anywhere else, it completely goes against the mood at that point in the story.
I first saw this film when it opened in theaters years ago. I kept waiting for the melee combat, the summoning of deities and of course, the limit breaks. I expected all of that, and received none, so despite the awe it left me in from its visuals, I left the theater disappointed. Upon watching it again, now 7 years after my first viewing, I saw it not as a movie version of the FF games, but simply as a computer animated sci-fi movie, and from this perspective, The Spirits Within is a decent watch. A couple of hiccups at the end murk up an otherwise memorable film. It`s a shame that this movie lost money for Square. A second effort that smooths out the story and keeps everything that was charming about the first would be truly spectacular.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is an intriguing film. Released back in 2001, it was a bit of an unmitigated disaster for Square, costing them a lot of money. To this day, many people consider the later animated film by Square, Advent Children, to be vastly superior (although they are very different). However, whereas Advent Children was a lamefest of no plot and character development, The Spirits Within maintains some level of story and characterization.
Easily the first thing you will notice about The Spirits Within is that, even today, it looks amazing. You can see the pores and freckles on skin, hair moves independently, the
facial expressions and nuances of each character all look fluid and real. After ten years, it still remains as a testament to the capability of CGI as it continues to improve.
The story, however, is not as strong. It tends to occupy the realm of "be good to Earth" that many sci-fi films do. It's passable, but it doesn't really do anything to make this message new or original. This is compounded by the use of a villain right out of sci-fi stock. He is predictable and very typical, and it means the conflict isn't as compelling as it should be. You'll see his role and decisions from a mile away.
The rest of the cast is decent. Aki, the female scientist and protagonist, is a strong-willed, independent woman, who is, rather refreshingly, not sexualised at all. There are other typical character types here; the wizened old biologist, who is easily one of the standouts as a perfect mix of intelligence and compassion, the concerned love interest, and the comic relief. They're all mostly genre standbys.
I can forgive some of this, however, because, perhaps most surprisingly, the "acting" in this film is rather great, whether you watch it subbed or dubbed. Buoyed by the realistic animation, the voice acting feels incredibly natural and comfortable. I daresay, the "acting" in this film is substantially better than the acting of many modern day sci-fi movies.
While the story itself may not be a home run, director Sakaguchi and company keep up a relentless pace, never letting the film get too terribly wordy and preachy. The action scenes are generally well choreographed and intense, and the story moves along at a brisk pace. While you have to deal with some wishy-washy new age mysticism regarding "spirits," and a living Earth, it doesn't really detract from the film as a whole. Yes, the environmental message is pretty heavy-handed here, but it's incorporated well enough into the story and justified enough that it doesn't detract too much. Same with the spirits and mysticism aspect.
A quick word on the ending; I actually rather enjoyed it. It does a good job answering enough questions but leaving the future of humanity and the planet somewhat up in the air. We don't really know if anyone outside of Aki knows exactly how the Earth was "saved," which is a nice bypass of the standard, leave-some-people-alive-to-tell-the-story device.
Ultimately, I consider Spirits Away one of the most surprising animated films I have seen in awhile. While the story doesn't set the world on fire, and the nature of the conflict is a bit cliché, the strong acting, solid lead characters, and exciting pace keep the film very watchable and enjoyable. If you're looking for a true Final Fantasy film, go elsewhere, as this has pretty much nothing to do with the games. If you're looking for a generally exciting sci-fi movie, this should definitely pass the time.
Fine, first I want to specify that I watched the anime quite a long ago, a year or two ago I guess. I haven't played the games, so I can say with no mental self-accusations that this was the better part of Final Fantasy movies. For me.
Story - it wasn't something veeery special, still, at least you understood what is going on and that stuff, which in Advent Children was possible only for who has already played the game. There is no game Final Fantasy on this particular story I think and that is one of the good sides, I guess, because you watch it
like a separate film, with a different story, different characters and etc. So I must say to the non-fans of Advent Children/people who hasn't played the games - better watch this, I don't say it is a really good movie, but the story is comprehensible and you won't get tha-a-at bored as if you watch Advent Children ;)
Art - oh, it wasn't really good, it was Amazing... You watch the characters as if they are real human beings.. :) (better than Advent Children, I have the feeling xD)
Sound - I don't remember it very precisely, but the soundtrack wasn't bad and the other sounds were a fine piece of workmanship.
Character - trite. You see, there wasn't anything interesting about them. I can't even remember them, just that woman, the main character, and her beloved.
Enjoyment - fair, I guess, because of the art, it really smashed me up(it was one of the first movies that I had watched with so realistic graphics then) and some of the action scenes weren't bad...
Overall, I recommend it as a killer of time and as a really good 3D art movie, which has nothing to do with Advent Children as story, but for people, who haven't played the game and won't be angry if they don't like the film, would be a gulp of fresh air. :)