Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

10 out of 10


Landmark in Animation

In 1924, Prince Louis De Broglie, himself an ex-history student and Professor of Physics at the University of Paris staggered the world by suggesting that EVERYTHING, not just light, had a wavelength associated with it, albeit extreme and probably inaccessible. In concept, even a boy kicking a football in a park could be channelled and focused, just like those in the transporter on the USS Enterprise. Logically, too, matter could be "switched off" with a precise, countermanding wave. Derided by even his closest colleagues, De Broglie became an instant byword amongst the general populous for a nutty professor wasting public money on crackpot ideas until his ideas were proven by Davisson & Gerner 4 years later, in a breakthrough that formed the basis of Quantum Physics. Even then though, Quantum Physics, which has brought the benefits of the electron microscope amongst so many other, has remained a Cinderella science against it`s ugly sister, Relativity which gave the world the benefit of the nuclear bomb.

"Final Fantasy" is a superb Sci Fi fiction thriller that is in line with De Broglie`s work if not inspired by it. Aki Ross, a scientist is racing to assemble living tissue with the right combined wavelength that can nullify the etherial monsters that roam unchecked in this post-apocalyptical Earth. For here, not only mankind, but all remaining life survives only under indefinite seige in force-shielded domes. With no substance to them, the aliens, who arrived on an asteriod in Russia year before, cannot be easily killed by normal shot and shell, yet can themselves terminate life instantly by passing straight through a human, taking his soul and leaving an utterly undamaged corpse behind. And the film opens with Aki`s dramatic effort to rescue a tiny plant, backed by a team of heavy battleclad marines from the empty, bleak wilderness of an otherwise lifeless ruin that was once a great city - the contrast is overwhelming. Back at the dome that is now New York, however, she and her mentor, Dr Sid must fight a political battle too against General Hein who is campaigning for the last of the dwindling resources to be funnelled into development of the Zeus cannon, a mega-gun being constructed in orbit to blow the aliens to oblivion.

Not only does the plot develop with some truly awesome scenes, including the overrunning of New York and fine character development, but the movie shows it is much more than a one-dimensional story. In particular, Aki suffers bizarre, halicinatory dreams about the aliens. In this cynical, post-Cold War era, I am staggered at the power of the punch that this film delivers to its audience when the cause of the dreams is revealled.

Although an animation, Hironobu Sakaguchi`s film is no Disney crud, but a digital masterpiece that took scores of programmers 4 years to create. Each of the 60,000 hairs on Aki`s head for instance was programmed to move independently. In contrast, live action Stars and Superstar, no matter how good at their job they are, try to convey a story in a way that we cannot, but so by definition they do not behave as we do. In "Final Fantasy", all the quirks, the ticks and the minor blemishes, both in physical appearance and in character have been built in. In short, the animated characters perform better on screen by far than any Oscar winner ever has done so. In short, this really is no exaggeration to suggest that this is about as big a landmark in the history of cinema as the "Jazz Singer" the first talking motion picture which ushered out the reign of the silent movie and into the history books within half a dozen years. If this were to continue, acting would be the next profession to fall victim to the microchip, with a demand only for their voices remaining. Indeed, it is ironic that this was one of the last films of the late Donald Sutherland, icon of the rebellious 1960`s who provided the voice for Dr Sid.

The rest of the cast for the voices is equally impressive with Aki Ross played by Ming-Na (also the title role voice in Disney`s Mulan), James Woods as General Hein, Steve Buscemi as Neil (better known as the zany geologist in "Armageddon"), Alec Baldwin as Gray and Ving Rhames as Ryan.

Despite a brilliant plot and breathtaking quality, "Fianl Fantasy" utterly bombed at the box office. Like De Broglie before him, Sakaguchi`s story seemed ludicrous mumbo jumbo rather than based on sound scientific priciple and the average Jean-Guy on the Number 67 bus to the Promenade Des Outaouais. Worse, the name, "Final Fantasy", rather than pack the cinemas to standing room only, hung like an albatross around its neck. Those who loathed the game ignored it and those who loved the game cursed it for being nothing like their Playstation hit - itself a truly illogical criticism, as every one of the ten or so "Final Fantasy" have had an entirely different plot and genre with only the "Chocabo", a giant killer chicken in common. Maybe if they`d seen a giant turkey run clumsily across the screen, the film might have been less of a turkey itself in ticket sales.

Indeed, it is heart-breaking to learn that the film nearly bankrupted Square who were forced to shutdown their entire film division to prevent total collapse of their company, sending what is arguably the most talented film production team into oblivion. Maybe Hironobu Sakaguchi failed to learn from De Broglie`s experience after all.

Depth, quality and ingenuity - one of the best films ever made

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett