So, last night i saw Final Fantasy with some friends. Actually, with three couples. Have you ever been to a totally full movie theatre with three couples and you all by your lonesome? It’s fun, you ought to try it some time, especially if you’re emotionally masochistic. But, anyway, i’ve known all about the FF movie since it first went into production, and i suppose the whole time i was assuming it would be glossy and plastic-coated like a Pixar movie from Disney, with a few scattered long shots of spectacular views mixed in. However, i was wrong.
Visually Final Fantasy was as stunning and vivid as any science fiction movie i’ve ever seen, and everything looked real. The characters were slightly glossy at mid-distances, but tight shots revealed stray strands of hair, beads of sweat, and even pores. I lost track somewhere along the way of how long the film was in production, but i am of the opinion that it’s the most important achievement in film computer graphics to this date in it’s cohesive integration of realistic graphics, digital camera work, and amazing shots that could never be achieved with real actors.
The Spirits Within didn’t have a darn thing to do with any of the FF games and it really didn’t bother me all that much; sci-fi sells at theatres right now but magic is still dicey business (although, after the response i saw the the LotR trailer that could be due for a change). While i’m of the opinion that the movie was just banking on Square’s big franchise just for the name (and, did anyone else notice that the “Square Pictures” logo was cast again a rectangle?), i think that the post-apocalyptic setting, the spirits set adrift, and the skepticism of the human government tied it to the theme of games. However, there was a definite lack of toe to toe fighting the yielded any kind of results, and there really wasn’t much of a “party” of characters so much as there was a group of extras like those who usually die at the beginning of games (as in FF6).
The amazing thing about the movie was that it was sci-fi for an attentive audience… slow in development but engaging in every scene – with a little science but not so much that your suspense of disbelief was challenged. On the downside, the plot of the movie tried to explain more than it had to as it neared its end and as a result it could have used some tightening (just like all of the American games to date, ). However, it wasn’t so horrible that i would single out any one aspect of it that wasn’t effective. Small challenges in the plot did undermine later aspects of the story, including: a lack of explanation of Aki & Grey’s relationship prior to the film, a very generalized look at “spirits” that seem contrived only because Aki was the first one, and an ending that couldn’t decide when to stop killing off options for the characters so that it could resolve. However, the movie successfully avoided the worst and most trite sci-fi gimmicks, which left the audience with some unpredictable results.
Despite my mostly glowing review, and the fact that i am definitely seeing the movie a second time, i got the sense that the vast majority of the audience was wholly underwhelmed by the film. Action flick fans will be sorely disappointed by this plot-heavy flick, and too many fans were expecting eye candy in the vein of giant explosions and characters with multiple heads and arms – but this wasn’t a George Lucas film so we were treated to some quality visuals that weren’t all money shots. However, while exiting the theate i heard the following: “Yeah, The Spirits Within. Cause, The Phantom Menace was already taken. Didn’t some of those phantoms sorta look like Jar Jar?” To each his own, i suppose… i’d take this film over Episode 1 any day. Twice.