Viking Night - Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
By Bruce Hall
January 21, 2014
Starting with its unnecessarily awkward title, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a glorious failure, but not for the reasons everybody says. Video game adaptations already had a checkered past when this movie made its way to screens back in 2001. It was an entirely computer animated film based on a popular but somewhat esoteric anime-inspired RPG. The demographic was primarily young boys, specifically in that critical period between the day they discover video games and the day they finally understand why girls make them feel funny. If this is the kind of pitch that makes you want to spend $130 million, you may have a short future as a studio executive.
Someone actually said yes to this, and even assembled some rather notable voice talent. It was a huge project, spearheaded by the franchise creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi. No expense was spared, and no technical stone was left unturned during the production of Final Fantasy, except for one. Despite the controversial limitations of CGI at the time, this movie is an absolutely mind blowing sensory experience - in every way except the one that’s most important. Forget what you’ve heard about the dead-eyed doll faces, because it’s really not (entirely) true. In my opinion there’s one simple reason Final Fantasy was received - over all - about as well as a dirty diaper full of sauerkraut.
The story sucks. I mean it’s bad. Really bad. But before I get to the suck, let me tell you what I DID like.
It’s 2065, and the earth has been conquered by alien life forms called Phantoms, who can…eat our souls…or something…when they touch us. The point is, they can kill us a lot easier and faster than we can kill them, so soon after they show up, it’s pretty much game over. Humans retreat to giant, domed habitats while the phantoms float around the rest of the planet, doing whatever it is phantoms do when they’re not killing humans. Luckily there is a plan B. Two of them, actually. The conventional route is covered by the openly diabolical General Hein (James Woods), who is trying to convince what’s left of the world government to let him use a Big Ass Space Cannon to destroy what he believes to be the source of the Phantoms’ power.
The not-so-conventional route is represented by a scientist named Aki Ross (Ming-Na) and her mentor-slash-father-figure Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland). Aki and Sid believe that they have a way to defeat the Phantoms, and it involves collecting eight “spirits” from around the world, and combining them into one much bigger spirit, and then…well, I’m still a little fuzzy on that. So is the Council apparently, because they’re split on what to do. Personally, I think there’s no reason to HAVE a Big Ass Space Cannon if you’re not going to use it at a time like this. But Aki and Sid suggest that the planet itself has a spirit, called “Gaia”, and the B.A.S.C. would do Mother Earth more harm than good.