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Simple Values - Spectacular Production
on August 10, 2002
'Final Fantasy' is a computer game that has gone through countless versions and editions. Taken as a whole, this mythos is probably one of the best know games in its genre. It is clear from the beginning of this film that Sony and Hironbu Sakaguchi (producer, director, and writer) were intent on topping an already brilliant history of graphic accomplishments. In a sense, 'The Spirits Within' represents a piece of history in the making. It is the first film that presents a startling approximation of life using only automation.
The plot is simple. An asteroid falling to earth carries within it a host of phantom creatures that seem hell bent on destroying earthly life. Civilization has been reduced to living in shielded enclaves, and it is only a matter of time before the planet becomes a haunted wasteland. Aki Ross and her mentor, Dr. Sid, are working on the creation of a neutralizing 'wave' based on the eight basic phantom life forms. General Hein does not trust Dr. Sid's theories about a Gaia, or planetary spirit, and wants to use a huge orbital laser cannon to destroy the original meteor, possible destroying the earth in the process. The conflict between these points of view and their shattering effects on the planet are the meat of the film.
Captain Gray Edwards, once Aki's lover, crystallizes this struggle between the material world of violent reaction and the spiritual world of growth and synthesis. The film plays a bit like an evolved 'Starship Troopers.' In many ways, it presents the same visual image, and deals with the same issues. The problem for the director and the viewer is to get past the magnificent graphic work to experience the abiding spiritual faith that is its meaning. Ironically, the film itself is a metaphor for the issues it expresses.
It is almost futile to discuss the film's animation and design. They are so far above what we are used to that the required superlatives sound trite. In essence, the animation staff set out to create something that is even more real than life, and to a great extent, they have succeeded. This hyperrealism, combined with an almost ballet like feeling of choreography create a sense of moment that makes this seem far more than an action film. The overall animation is carefully balanced so as to keep the focus on the characters. Even so, this film has such a sensory effect that the viewer is tempted to forget the plot and simply observe the screen.
The primary DVD provides the film and a whole set of commentaries (directing crew, animation and staging, composer, and production staff), plus the usual trailers, etc. In the special edition, a second disk adds an extensive 'Making of...' segment, the entire screenplay and some analysis of character, vehicle, and prop design. Technically, this is an important film, despite its simplistic plot and characters. For the first time, the definition of what is acting and what is animation is being challenged in a thought provoking fashion.