THE SPIRITS WITHIN
A new classic!
Film Review © 2001 by Trip Reynolds
Animated Science Fiction/Fantasy
Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi; Screenplay by Hironobu Sakaguchi, All Reinert, and Jeff Vintar; Produced by Jun Aida and Chris Lee; Cinematography by Motonori Sakakibara; Edited by Christopher S. Capp.
Starring the voice talents of Ming-Na Wen (as scientist Aki Ross), Alec Baldwin (as military officer and former lover to Aki, Captain Gray Edwards), Ving Rhames (as Gray's top gun, soldier Ryan Whittaker), Steve Buscemi (as Neil Fleming), Peri Gilpin (as Jane Proudfoot), Donald Sutherland (as Aki's mentor, scientist Dr. Sid), James Woods (as the narrow-minded, vengeance driven General Hein), Keith David (as Council Member #1), Jean Simmons (as Council Member #2), and Matt McKenzie (as Major Elliot).
This film takes the bold leap from animated movies that truly look like cartoons to animated movies that look almost exactly like live action movies. The computer generated images - the people, the places, and things - all look, well, real. Clearly, as this technology evolves, eventually a time will come when dead actors magically appear in films and, surprisingly, audiences will NOT be able to distinguish the 1952 images of Marilyn Monroe in the film "Niagra" from computer generated images of Monroe in films released in, say, 2025. Oh, yeah, it's going to happen, and the existence of this movie alone makes this film worth the price of admission. Then, comes the story, an epic story at that.
Film is set in 2065 after the complete devastation of the earth by an extraterrestrial species who only appear as phantoms. Humans die whenever they are completely enveloped by these ethereal phantoms, or humans become infected - with impending death a certainty - if only partially enveloped or touched by a phantom. To protect themselves, the remaining humans must live in protected dome-shaped barriers that encompass entire cities, but even these barriers are slowly becoming vulnerable.
Ross, who was infected by a phantom, is desperately working with Dr. Sid to find a solution to defeat the phantoms and, if possible, a cure for the infection. On the other hand, the vengeful and narrow-minded General Hein is sitting atop a space station orbiting the earth with a doomsday weapon. Hein plans to destroy all phantoms inhabiting the earth with his weapon - despite the likelihood of enormous human causalities. Film intelligently blends science and philosophy, and a climactically poignant relationship between Ross and Edwards, which is highly usual for mainstream animated films. Voice acting by all players is first class.
Neither Disney or Dreamworks SKG would ever touch anything as thought provoking as this film. At best, and let the truth be told, Disney's high-end computer animation (Toy Story, A Bugs Life, etc.) comes from Pixar, and Dreamworks-SKG's high-end computer animation (Antz, Shrek, etc.) comes from Pacific Data Images (PDI). Plus, in each case, Disney and Dreamworks-SKG are targeting children and families with their animated products - which is okay. Final Fantasy, with its complicated themes and visual images that are both artistically compelling and frequently disturbing - is not for little kids, it's for adults! This is powerful filmmaking and easily one of the best films of this or any year!
Film is directed with clarity and great vision by Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Film has an evenly paced running length of 106 minutes.
Recommendation: You MUST she this movie! You MUST buy this movie on DVD (or video)!