It”s true: “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” is astonishing to look at. The computer animation is some of the best the public has seen in any film. The story, on the other hand, is not so astonishing.
The film begins with the main character”s dream in which Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) is on a foreign planet surrounded by warring aliens. The scene changes to reality, where Aki is returning to the Earth to save it because alien “phantoms” have arrived via meteor, attacking and destroying much of the planet.
Aki wants to find a plant, one of the few real life forms left outside of the barrier cities, and in the process she is intercepted, then assisted, by the Deep Eyes military squadron. This plant is a “spirit wave,” of which there are eight they will help to cure Aki, who has been terminally infected with an alien particle, and save humanity from the invaders. The Deep Eyes squad consists of Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin), Aki”s romantic interest, Neil (Steve Buscemi), Ryan (Ving Rhames), and Jane (Peri Gilpin). Working with all of them is Dr. Sid (Donald Southerland), Aki”s long-time scientific mentor.
The group must work against General Heim (James Woods), who simply wants to destroy everything alien, which includes the infected Aki. With his powerful Zeus Cannon, he plans to shoot the Earth and create an atomic bomb-like affect, destroying Gaia, the Spirit of the Earth, with the aliens.
On paper, the plot sounds ambitious and impressive. In the movie, it is not nearly as clear. Though it still may be ambitious, one cannot always tell what is going on and why. Certain elements of the plot are taken for granted by the screenwriters (Al Reinert and Jeff Vintar), as aspects of the phantom beings and mechanisms they created are left unexplained. We know that a Zeus Cannon exists for destruction, but what does it do really?
The actual dialogue is often uninteresting. Not much insight is given to the individual characters through their speech. Comedy is attempted through the character Neil, but it often falls flat. Romance is interjected through the story between Aki and Gray, though most of their relationship took place before the actual plot and little information about their past is allowed into the film.
With the amazing animation, the faults of the film are difficult to see. Admittedly, the animation of the characters” mouths is done poorly. The things they say rarely match how their mouths move. This seems minor in comparison to nearly any other aspect of their bodies. The animation team paid considerable attention to extremely minute details, especially of the characters” faces. The phantoms are also finely done they range from giant dragons to dinosaurs to insects.
The action resulting from character and phantom interaction is engaging, despite the fact that one can”t always tell why it is happening. Being a fan of the popular video game series of the same name won”t help much either, as “Final Fantasy” the movie has little to do with “Final Fantasy” the game.