Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within
from Manchester, England
, 08 May 2010
First, a disclaimer: were it not for my already being a long-term fan of the Final Fantasy RPG franchise, I wouldn't have given this film a second glance. So, for all you FF fans out there who're interested to see Squeenix's first attempt at an international film (with an enormous budget), simply because it's related to the fantastic video game saga of the same name... I have one thing to say to you. Don't. The film bares little if any relation to the games; it doesn't even feel like Final Fantasy. People who've seen it may understand me when I comment that it feels far too American to do so. Take it from a self-proclaimed expert who's played them all but 3, 4, 5, 11, 12 and 13: if you go into this film with the expectation that it will satisfy your need for fantastic, deep storyline; well developed, easy to relate to characters; a creative and solid plot, etc. that you know you'd get from any of the better games, then you'll be sorely disappointed. Okay, so perhaps you could say the lifestream (in this case, the 'spirit of Gaia') fits in there somehow. And the running Final Fantasy theme of Gaia - our planet - and how we need to look after it/how it looks after us is there. However, beyond that, there's nothing to connect this film to the games whatsoever.
Okay, so now I've got that out of the way and thusly reduced the prospective viewing audience by roughly 80%, I'll start my review.
Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within is your standard Sci-Fi/Action movie, pitting humanity against a mysterious, deadly and unstoppable alien race and - ultimately - against itself. It starts as it means to go on, with none other than a dream sequence involving the protagonist lost on an alien world. It immediately then drops us into the action.
Here, I've just realised another link to the game series: you spend the first half-hour of the experience wondering what the hell is going on. Then, things are explained in a very long conversation wherein the protagonist is told everything she must already know by her friend/mentor/superior... it seems to me to be a little plastic - obviously for the audience's benefit - and it does a fantastic job of preventing their immersion.
The film then progresses along the lines of 'the good scientist and the protagonist and a bunch of butch soldiery types (obviously including the love interest) embark on a perilous mission to devise a way to save the world whilst the blindingly ignorant military commander - pure evil due to his own experience of the invading creatures and unable to deal with any problem using any other method than the one that causes the most stuff to blow up - does everything in his power to stop them because he doesn't like their plan, eventually complicating what would have been a very simple process to the point of almost ruining everything'... the same concept that could be used to summarise countless other films (one that springs to mind is Avatar, but that one was good). The characters are incredibly shallow, each one serving a single purpose and having little or no backstory, introduction, etc. As a result, their numerous attempts at comedy almost always fall flat, and very little emotional attachment is made by the viewer. The voice acting is - to be brutally honest - some of the most unconvincing I've ever heard, the actors themselves exhibiting very little emotional range or feeling. The intended urgency of many situations the film puts the characters in is lost simply because they don't seem to be particularly bothered about the potentially mortal danger with which they're presented, and the same can be applied to the other 'emotional' bits - I'm not spoiling anything by saying that there's a few love scenes in the film, all of which just felt awkward. I guess these problems could also be blamed partly on the animation... though I'll come to this in a sec.
The storyline itself is unconvincing and has a few holes, and the devices used to tell it aren't much better, due again in part to the woodenness of the characters; and a lot of it makes very little sense in the context of the film, which detracts from the entire experience quite a bit. However, some of the components are brilliant, showing that unique creativity that Square are famed for: the concept itself and some of the technology in this futuristic earth with which we are presented are examples of this.
The animation is another key point. The graphics themselves are fantastic, even now. They were obviously designed to look breathtakingly like really life, and for the most part they succeeded. However, the actual animation of the characters (ie. their movement and specifically facial expressions and lip movement when talking) isn't particularly good and, through its awkwardness and obvious artificiality, forms an impassible barrier between them and the audience when they attempt to convey emotion. Coupled with the poor voice acting, this becomes a real problem.
But, after all this, was I entertained? And the answer is yes, yes I was. Albeit reluctantly and with the occasional pang of boredom. I think the creativity of the universe in which this story is placed saves it from total failure, along with the fantastic design of it's features and the incredible visual display. However, I don't think I'd go so far as to recommend it to anybody - not even a die hard fan of Final Fantasy such as myself.
- Was this review helpful to you?
(2) Yes |