Final Fantasy
The Spirits Within
dir Hironobu Sakaguchi
scr Al Reinert, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Jeff Vintar
voices Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Peri Gilpin, Matt McKenzie, Annie Wu
release US 13.Jul.01; UK 3.Aug.01
Columbia 01/Japan-US
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
unleash a new reality As the first attempt at a photo-realistic animated movie, this is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. The images are astonishing--gorgeous, intriguing and very cleverly created. But as usual: Pity about the script. In the not-too-distant future (2065 to be exact), a meteor carrying deadly alien lifeforms has crashed on earth, leaving the surviving humans cowering in protected barrier cities. While the aggressively militaristic General Hein (voiced by Woods) wants to blast these phantom creatures to oblivion, the brilliant scientist Aki Ross (Ming-Na) is working with Dr Sid (Sutherland) to find a spiritual solution. She's also gained the help of an elite fighting force made up of ex-boyfriend Grey (Baldwin) and three loyal/comic sidekicks (Buscemi, Rhames, Gilpin). But it's a race against time as Aki and crew try to gather eight healing spirits before Hein cries havoc.

The story gets even more preposterous than that, with much mumbo jumbo about the living soul of the planet and so on. This increasingly complicated-yet-stupid plot becomes quickly irritating, even though the animation itself never ceases to amaze us. Virtually every scene is exquisite--it simply looks stunning, with amazing effects, lighting, "camera" work and so on. The human animation isn't quite there yet (the characters look plastic and slo-mo, with no life in their eyes), but occasionally it does catch us off guard and we forget these are merely drawings. Aki looks a bit like Sandra Bullock on valium; Grey is a virtual clone of Ben Affleck (complete with limited acting range); Hein is the typical action-movie villain--far, far too evil to be remotely believable. The one disaster is Dr Sid, who moves like a malfunctioning robot and doesn't remotely match Sutherland's soothing voice. But the real problem is that, even though it mesmerises us with its beauty, it's just not much fun at all.
themes, violence, language cert PG 22.Jun.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall