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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within PDF Print E-mail
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Blu-ray Reviews
Thursday, 08 May 2008 16:00
Final Fantasy: The Spirits WithinAnother dip into the Blu-ray pile for what is probably one of the more spectacular cinematic flops of recent years, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Producers Square spent millions on creating graphics that were almost lifelike, and yet cinema audiences stayed away in droves, ensuring the experiment was never repeated. Doesn't mean it's not worth watching, though...

Earth, 2065, and alien creatures known as Spirits, brought as "stowaways" on a meteor, have infested the planet. Physical attacks have no significant effect on the creatures - hence the name - and the remains of humanity have been forced to retreat within Barrier cities, technological refuges protected from the Spirits by an energy barrier. As humanity grows ever more desperate for something that will help them win the war against the Spirits, the military are becoming ever more belligerent. Now, they've created the Zeus Cannon, a weapon they hope will destroy the meteorite that still acts as the Spirits' nest. But Dr Sid and his assistant Aki Ross are convinced that this course of action will only make the Spirit threat greater, and may even cause lasting damage to the Earth. They have their own plan to solve the problem: to gather the 8 spirits of Earth and release the power of Gaia, allowing it to cleanse the Earth of its invaders. But will they be able to complete their plan before the military can unleash the Zeus Cannon..?

DreamworldSigns of life

First, a warning: this may carry the Final Fantasy name, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the games - it stands completely on its own. Don't be expecting any tie-ins or cameo appearances by favourite characters, but likewise non-fans don't need to worry about being left behind by in-jokes or game references that they won't understand.

Aki's been having repeated dreams of the Spirits' homeworld - they're escaping from a devastating war themselves. A war that destroyed their planet. It takes a while for the significance of those dreams to become clear - one of the movie's failings is that it's not exactly quick to explain itself, making the journey through the movie a little less enjoyable than it could have been, but it does get there in the end.

Spirits incomingBodyscan

As you'd expect, the visuals look great on a 1080p display - the quality of the CG on show here was state-of-the-art when the film was made, and has barely aged at all (the advantage of being just about photo-realistic). If you watch closely some of the smaller movements such as hair aren't quite realistic, but it's close enough that it's initially a jaw-dropping experience. Add in the Colonial Marine-style military hardware and the translucent Spirits, and it's a visual treat from beginning to end. Most of the characters even seem to be modelled on their English-language VAs - Dr Sid is instantly recognisable and Donald Sutherland, for example - although I suppose that does beg the question of why it couldn't have been done as a CG-heavy live action movie. A question for another time.

In the warzoneThisaway

As is common with CG spectaculars, story is a distant second priority after the visuals. While the story here does make sense (although brushing up on your Gaia Theory wouldn't hurt), it's lacking in depth - find the 7 Spirits, avoid the machinations of the evil military man, and save the world. The story is progressed mainly through set-piece confrontations between Aki and the military unit assigned to protect her (led by Captain Gray, with whom she has a unspecified but probably romantic past connection, natch), with explanations and general plot exposition left to Dr Sid. If you're looking for something thoughtful, this probably isn't it - while the use of Gaia Theory does carry with it the feel that there's a message the movie is trying to get across, it doesn't really try too hard, and simply falls back on letting the action carry things along.

None of that stops it from being enjoyable, though. I'm as impressed as the next male action fan by great CG, and CG of this style actually benefits from being brough to the smaller screen as it makes the image sharper than it would be on a cinema screen, and therefore more impressive to watch. Add in the higher resolution that Blu-ray offers, and you're onto a winner. The story may not be anything special, but it's serviceable and doesn't stray into any areas that will leave you confused or disappointed. End result: a movie that really isn't as bad as its box-office-flop status would have you believe. It's even one of the cheaper Blu-ray discs out there, and all told is definitely worth a look.

Rating - ****

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