Final Fantasy


Directed by: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara
Written by:Al Reinert, Hironobu Sakaguchi
Starring: Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Donald Sutherland, James Woods
Released: July 26, 2001
Grade: B+

Computer animation is nothing new but a rendition of the human form this precise is something we haven’t seen before.  We’ve done toys in Toy Story, chickens in Chicken Run, and ants in Antz, but there’s been a hesitance towards “human” characters given their near impossibility to reproduce.

Final Fantasy is the second film in a month to be based on a computer game (after Tomb Raider).  The year is 2065 and the Earth has become almost uninhabited.  A meteor crashed landed on the planet 32 years ago and brought with it a series of invisible alien life forms that instantly killed everything they touch.  A series of large shelters surrounded by electronic shields are home to those that remain alive but the future is looking bleak.

General Hein (Woods) proposes that his powerful “Zeus gun”, which orbits the Earth, should be used to obliterate the meteor base.  Previous bombing attempts were unsuccessful but Hein believes his weapon has enough force to kill them permanently.  On the other hand, Doctor Sid (Sutherland) believes force is not the answer.  His spiritual research shows that there are eight spirits which when harnessed, will reveal the key to removing the alien “ghosts”.

As these two argue over their theories before the council, Sid’s assistant, Dr. Aki Ross (Ming-Na) has been tracking and collecting these spirits.  She has already found six and just two remain before Sid’s theory can be tried.  Helping her is old friend Grey Edwards (Baldwin) and his crew but they’re not only battling the external elements, General Hein and his army are also making sure they don’t succeed.

It’s obligatory that I talk of the brilliant animation.  Aki seemed the least realistic of the lot but there are some characters who could be mistaken for humans.  At times while watching the film, you forget these people aren’t real.  It must be a delight for directors who don’t have to worry about flubbed lines and reels ending up on the cutting room floor.  Every scene can be changed and crafted to perfection.  It was only six years ago that we first made a computer generated feature and now look how far we come.  In ten years, will we even need actors?

The answer to that question is yes because despite having every characteristic of a human, emotion is lacking.  During the big thrilling finale of Final Fantasy, you won’t be too excited about the fate of these people.  This is something I can only say in hindsight but seeing Arnie hanging from a helicopter (as in True Lies) or seeing Tom Cruise hanging from the ceiling (as in Mission: Impossible) has that hard-to-define quality that is lacking from Final Fantasy.

When you look at box-office figures (which is all some studio executives do), the tale is told.  The film was a huge flop in the States as was another similar Dreamworks picture earlier this year called Titan A.E.  Perhaps the public are saying something?  Computer animation is fine just as long as it doesn’t involve rendered humans.

Valid arguments stem from this.  With so many actors struggling to find work, the Screen Actors Guild won’t be actively promoting a wave of computer generated flicks.  I don’t think they have anything to worry about.  Animation will get better and better but when it comes to action, people don’t go because of the script, they go because of the stunts and they go because of who’s in it.  It’s a lesson that has cost Columbia Tristar $100m.