Where did technology go wrong? Everything was progressing along quite nicely, man invented cars to get from A to B, washing machines came around to save us from having to use rocks down by the river, then somebody got the great idea to make movies with really cool special effects, and there was much rejoicing. The effects got better and better, till it seemed the story almost no longer mattered. Then we went digital, and suddenly the effects were so easy to do we started throwing them in everywhere. Now we have films that are really nothing more than one big special effect. Enter Final Fantasy, the world’s biggest special effect… actors that do not exist!
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within stars the vocal talents of Ming-na as Doctor Aki Ross a scientist in the year 2065. The future is a bleak one, in which the earth has been invaded by life sucking aliens, whose mere touch rips the life force from any and every living thing it encounters. Huddled in shielded cities, man wages a losing battle against these inimical life forms, and Doctor Ross’s research to collect the “8 spirits” of Gaia may be earths’ only hope.
At first this “photo realistic” all CGI film may seem really cool, a giant leap forward for the cinema experience. The problem is that the characters aren’t real. And no matter how many strides we make in CGI, it still doesn’t look real. When you look at the screen you don’t think “ooo wow look Doctor Ross” you think “ooo wow look at that computer generated image, see how it almost looks real?” Well for anyone paying attention, we’ve been saying computer generated images look almost real for about a decade now, and despite the fact that they seem to get more detailed, in point of fact they don’t look any more real now than they did ten years ago. That’s not to say Final Fantasy isn’t a BEAUTIFUL film, it is. In much the same way Toy Story, or this years “Shrek” were beautiful films. In short, whether it be Toy Story or Final Fantasy, CGI is still little more than another form of animation. Any thoughts movie-going audiences might have had to the contrary should be instantly quashed.
Sadly, the makers of FF are not aware of this fact, and so as they struggle to prove that these characters are as real as you or me, we are constantly reminded of just how unreal they truly are. Had the Final Fantasy producers embraced their medium, as Pixar and DreamWorks have done with their films, rather than trying unsuccessfully to move beyond it, perhaps their visual dexterity might have felt a little more textured and a little less two dimensional.
But, though Final Fantasy is a visually interesting film, in its own limited way, perhaps the real detraction is the films lack of heart. Simply put the story is plain, tired, overused, and outright cold. Individuals stumble from frame to frame in the most predictable of fashions, headed for an outcome which we can all predict from the first moments of the film’s inception. Eventually, like a pig to slop, FF reaches that conclusion, one of easy fixes, instant healing, and shallow ending.
Final Fantasy is not a bad film. It is not a good film either. In fact it’s not really anything at all. In truth it’s a curiosity, a three-legged dog in a world of four legged bow-wows. A retarded penguin swimming upside down, that weird uncle who always seems to talk with a lisp…. you get the picture. One year from now, few will remember Final Fantasy as little more than a CGI oddity, passed over and quickly forgotten.