Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
I know someone who plays the games religiously and has (pretty much) the entire set. Therefore I was hearing about this movie months before ever seeing it. I have never played the game for more than a few minutes at a time, but when I saw the trailer, it jumped up on my "must-see" list.
I work in the computer field and was amazed at the animation. I have seen other Anime before (including Ghost in the Shell, by far one of the BEST I have ever seen)
I was a bit concerned that the movie would "walk the path" (yeah, I know, a cliché) of other video games turned movie and be no more that just shallow characters acting out their predetermined roles, but I was surprised with this movie.
"The Spirits Within" contained several great qualities that held it up...self sacrifice, love, duty....and other more darker aspects...hatred, fame-seeking...that kept the movie well presented.
But I will start with the visual elements and work downwards into the other aspects of the movie.
Of course everyone is talking about the animation in this movie. I will not "fight the wave" on this, I happen to agree, this movie was incredible from the animation perspective. Starting back from "Akira" and up to "Ghost in the Shell" (the last I have seen recently) the changes in technology in this area have been staggering. What I most enjoyed about the movie from this perspective was the attention to detail. The eye movements, the body gestures were excellent. Overall, simply excellent.
The actors who supplied vocal talent to the movie did fine. Others may disagree, but the voices "matched" the bodies quite well. If you are like me and are trying to figure out who is who (voice-wise) you could probably get most of them. The voice of "Grey" is so obvious because he somewhat looks like Baldwin (at least in my opinion). Donald Sutherland had the honor of being "Sid" ... who for what I am told is in every version of the Final Fantasy games.
He seems to be to "F.F" what "Morn" was to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Although "Sid" perhaps talked a bit more.
Ming-Na did the voice of "Aki" well... I recall her from a voice she did in the animated Spawn on HBO a few years back.
The characters acted within their defined roles. However, some of the standard cliches were applied. Like in the case of the military team assigned to Aki, they reminded me of the team from "Aliens". Which was okay.
But I think the team cliché of "the almost silent tough guy", "the techie guy", "the tough female", " the comic relief" (sometimes combined with "the techie guy") and "the respected leader" can get a bit old.
But I think the most overused character in the movie is the "evil leader" one. "General Hein" (James Woods) was the evil leader in this case and his goal is to exterminate the phantom threat by use of the Zeus Cannon. "General Hein" is driven to destroy the phantoms and will stop at nothing.
He does mention a family that dies before his eyes. Which is his reason, his revenge motive in the movie. But little time is spent on it. After it is mentioned, you go back to looking at Hein as just a two-dimensional character bent on doing whatever he wants to do.
Just because he wants to.....
Which is to bad, because the Hein character could have been used to capture the anger people feel at losing a loved one. His desire for revenge could have been used to drive him to the lengths he took.
The character of "Sid" was done well. He was the brilliant older scientist and mentor figure to Dr. Aki Ross. At least he was not portrayed as a "befuddled, absent minded brilliant older scientist" - which would put him over the "evil leader" stereotype as most used!
Not really to much to say about this. The dialog was done well. Emotion (humor, grief, anger) was conveyed well. Except for some odd reason, some people in the theater laughed the line "It feels warm" spoken by Sid near the end of the movie. It was obvious what the character was referencing, the humor just escaped me. Which was fine.
The plot was acceptable, it follows the same mystical vein as the Final Fantasy games. Although the logic of why the phantoms are attacking the humans was a bit odd. The rationale that the phantoms are in torment (as stated by Aki) did not connect well with actions presented. A creature in physical/mental torment would not necessarily attack in all cases. Something more along the lines of the creatures being "locked into their last actions as living beings" would have (in my opinion) made more sense.
Overall, the plot held together. There were overall themes being conveyed in the movie - the Gaia concept, self-sacrifice, spirituality - and they were done well. The movie had these themes woven into the subtext of the movie, as do traditionally other Anime movies. From what I am told, the games have these themes also.
Compared to other video/computer games turned into movies, "Final Fantasy" leaps into the forefront (on a positive end) in all areas. I would see another "Final Fantasy" if produced. This will be added to my DVD collection when it is sold.
Even with the above-mentioned flaws, the movie was very entertaining on multiple levels. Check it out.
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Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older