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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
Director: Hironobu Sakaguchi
review by Mike Philbin
A western movie (which Final Fantasy was so trying to be) generally has a Greek three-act structure, a conclusion arrives in each act and a finalé rounds off the mounting tension. The form of the generally-ascending graphs for these three acts are spiked with narrative relevance. In Final Fantasy, one gets the feeling that all the sharp edges have been smoothed off with a rasp. And don't talk about the script that shamelessly botched together cliché after cliché from a long lineage of A and B class action movies.
As a 3D artist in the video games industry, this reviewer is a great fan of the work of Hironobu Sakaguchi throughout the Final Fantasy series of games. In the games, you are carried along by the intricately rendered CGI and you grow in stature and experience until you face those final bosses. Albeit over a period in excess of 40 hours of gameplay, you are drawn along by the sheer drama and emotion of your quest. Disturbingly, this film had none of these qualities, the action scenes were dull and the emotional scenes were just tawdry; one wondered if (the heroine of the film) Aki Ross's face was going to rip from its nurbs structure in one particularly embarrassing, 'touching' scene such was the cackhandedness of the attempted physiognomical depiction of sorrow.
The fully rendered CGI humans were the most redundant prop in the whole exercise. Never, since Al Pacino's Revolution, has so much money been wasted for such little gain. Don't get me wrong, the special effects, the rendering of cloth and hair, the alien Spirits themselves are exemplary. You would find it very hard to fault them. But these CGI puppets made one think immediately of Thunderbirds and Joe 90. With the power of today's computer technology, it would have been so easy to integrate a set of corking real live actors into the mix and make Final Fantasy the crazy emotional bad-ass ride it so wanted to be.
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