Although Square definitely put a lot of effort into this project, Final Fantasy: Spirits Within is a woefully uneven experience.
One of the most compelling aspects about the Final Fantasy series is that each game is auto-conclusive (with some exceptions, such as Final Fantasy X-2 or Lightning Returns,) so it was only natural that the first Final Fantasy film follows that premise. In fact, you don’t need to be familiar with the series of role-playing games to enjoy the movie and that’s terrific. For those of you who have never heard of it, The Spirits Within is one of the most ambitious video game movies ever created: the visual aspect is absolutely stunning, the voice acting is top-notch, the story is completely new and Square even created a new studio to work on this massive project. Although Square definitely put a lot of effort into this project (not to mention million and millions of dollars,) Final Fantasy: Spirits Within is a woefully uneven experience.
The Spirits Within is set in the year 2065 in a post apocalyptic world. Planet Earth has been invaded by an alien race known as Phantoms which has annihilated most species and forced humans to move to more confined colonies called “barrier cities.” But there’s still hope for our planet, since scientists Aki Ross and Doctor Sid are hoping to bring life back to Earth using the spirits hidden inside different life forms. A reconnaissance squadron led by commander Grey, a former lover of Aki, is helping them locate the spirits they need to hopefully revive the planet. But after wave and wave of devastating attacks, humans decide they’ve had enough and want to destroy all Phantoms using a powerful weapon known as the Zeus Cannon.
See, humans have created a cannon that can destroy Gaia, the spirit of the Earth. But since the Gaia theory hasn’t been proven by scientists, Dr. Aki Ross has to prove it exists by finding a series of spirits which would automatically negate the Phantoms and destroy them forever. But locating and capturing the Spirit Wave (read: the soul) of eight specific spirits that are hidden inside plants, animals and maybe people proves to be an extremely difficult process. The story seems intriguing at first, but quickly starts relying on cliches which is unfortunate because while the visual aspect is unique, the narrative is run-of-the-mill.
As I already mentioned, the film’s most impressive part is the breath-taking CGI which shows some lifelike and convincing performances. Along with Disney, Square has some of the best animation studios in the world and the Japanese company definitely proves that with this movie. This aspect has aged remarkably well and it’s a shame that no one’s willing to take a risk and work on a similar project, though this is understandable taking into account that The Spirits Within was a box office bomb. Apart from the outstanding visual effects, some recognizable actors and actresses were chosen to bring the characters to life, including Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, James Woods, Donald Sutherland, Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi.
Although Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a technical marvel that will remain in people’s retinas for years and years, the film has some inconsistencies. For a film that’s so well done, I felt like there was too much gray, brown and black. I understand that this limited color pallet was used to create the desolate post-apocalyptic world, but it’s a shame that we’re always looking at things that have those colors. Apart from that, the story is dull and it’s difficult to connect emotionally with the different characters.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is all eye candy and no substance. Despite its technical achievements, this is a shallow, boring and overly long production that’s ultimately disappointing. It’s a shame that anyone willing to create something of this scale will think twice after seeing The Spirits Within.