Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
2001, Columbia
Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi
Screenplay by Al Reinert and Jeff Vintar
Animation directed by Andy Jones; Visual Effects directed by Remo Balcells

Final Fantasy having been born from a video game, seems to ask the question, "Is playing or watching a video game better?" In the movie, the main character, the young Dr. Aki Ross (voice by Ming Na) is on a mission to save earth after several years of invasion and domination by "Phantoms," alien creatures which kill by releasing your soul on contact or through a painful process of infestation. Remaining earthlings are protecting themselves in cities with "boundaries" around them. Dr. Ross influenced by her protégé, Dr. Sid (voice by Donald Sutherland), needs to find eight unique life energies which when combined will cancel the life energies of the Phantoms. While she gains the powerful assistance of the military, under the leadership of hunk Captain Gray Edwards (voice by Alec Baldwin), within the military also lurks the foe who may end up killing them and all of earth, General Hein (voice by James Woods). This may be the least of Dr. Aki's worries, as she too has been infected by the aliens and only finding these new energies buys her time from her own death. It is a race to see who kills her first... or if she saves the earth first.

The eyes have it in this movie. This story makes a promise at the beginning: There is a reflection in the eye of Dr. Aki of an object she is viewing. Nice work that seems to say, "Look how real I am." The promise is unfulfilled. Much of emotion is expressed through the eyes, but in two scenes Dr. Aki is unable to shed a tear. When her love sacrifices his life to save her, and then she is unable to shed a tear, that removes her from humanity. It's just a video game... "Oh, darn, he died... the game goes on, give me a moment to settle out and I'll try again."

Film-makers have been removing actors from film since Steamboat Willie. The fact that actors are replaced by something else isn't new - what is new in this movie is that every bit of it is computer generated. That's a triumph. It was so well done that many times I was unaware that I was watching computer animation, and not real actors and sets.

Somehow we need to connect with Dr. Aki at the beginning of the movie. I didn't. We are told she "Has a mission to save the earth if she can get there in time." OK, action film, my expectations are lowered for drama and emotion. But we know nothing of Dr. Aki unless we are video game enthusiasts who through many long hours of playing the role playing video game with her character, bring that "connection" baggage with us. Further, we are not set up for her mission with details in advance, so I don't know what her mission is. I don't care if she succeeds or if she lives or dies - the story never emotionally connects me. When you play a video game, you are engaged with the action and it means something to you. But a movie is passive for the audience until the story does something to engage them with the action. Hang on to your day job, Dr. Aki, and go to acting school.

This really is a movie and not a video game, but it didn't make a thorough enough crossover to a movie style story. This movie is a valiant effort and clearly displays the capabilities of CGI technology to meet the task. But for the movie world, the story and animated "actors" fall short, even though the voices are excellent. I give this one three spotlights out of a possible five for the computer animation, voices, and animated settings. It carries a PG-13 rating, and many of the violent Images may not sit well with young children and their parents. Enjoy!

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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