by Brian McKay
While this movie was not the glorious spectacle of computer animation I was hoping for, it is by no means a colossal letdown either. And for once, someone managed to make a video-game based film that doesn't completely suck a donkey's kong. When graphics start looking this good in video games (and I mean actual in-game play, not cinematic cutscenes), it'll be worth buying a new console for. Of course, If I ever want to get that Playstation 5, I'll probably have to start a trust fund for it now.The main problem with Final Fantasy is that excellent graphics and competent action scenes get dragged down by some bullshit Earth-mother spirit plot and some atrociously lame dialouge - but then, I never did like the games anyway. In fact, I never really played them and didn't know shit about the games' back-story that this movie came from. I just wanted to see some cool CGI. The film, at least, delivered that much.
"My final fantasy would be to nail Aki Ross AND the girl who does her voice"
After a meteorite crashes into the Earth, several kazillion monstrous, semi-invisible entities swarm out of it and trash the planet. The surviving humans are confined to "barrier cities", which are big cities with, you guessed it, barriers of energy around them to keep out the pests. Kind of like a great big bug zapper lamp.
Anyway, pixelated hottie Aki Ross (voiced by flesh and blood hottie Ming-Na who, despite her amazing good looks, is best known for her voice work. WTF???) is a scientist trying to save the earth from the "Phantoms" by tracking down eight "spirits". What they are, exactly, or why she only needs eight of them, are beyond me, but there you have it. She is protected by a team of tough-ass "Aliens"-esque Marines (voiced by Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, and Peri Gilpen aka Roz from "Frasier"). And, naturally, she has a touch-and-go love interest with the Marine squad captain (Baldwin). Also joining the all star vocal cast are Donald Sutherland in the role of Ross's mentor/father-figure scientist, Dr. Sid, and James Woods as the not-so-much-evil-as-misguided General Hein.
I must say that the visuals are simply stunning. There's a reason they spent 138 million on a cartoon. A lot of painstaking work went into this, and the result is nearly flawless. I can't say that it's perfect, because every once in a while the way a character moves or speaks will remind you that it's not human. But for the most part, it is easy to forget that you are watching a simulation. The skin and hair textures are absolutely amazing. You can see freckles, pores, facial hair, wrinkles - simply amazing. And it's almost eerie how lifelike some of the facial expressions are. The voice work, while not perfect, is certainly not empty and soulless either. It's usually competent, and doesn't really detract from the film too much.
Where the film suffers is in the plot, such as it is. In a video game, you can get away with a silly story about The Earth having a spirit and alien invaders being ghosts from some kind of phantom Noah's ark. You can get by because people mostly care about the gaming, not the story. But in a full-length motion picture, you need something a little more substantial to back up the eye candy. Unfortunately, the main story becomes nearly incomprehensible after about half an hour, and the last ten minutes or so just feel like drudgery. Talk about an anti-climax. But hey, isn't that how most computer games seem to end these days? Every time I play a Resident Evil game, the ending cutscene gets suckier.If you are a rabid fan of the games, or just love CGI-candy, then this will be sure to please. For the rest of us, it's not going to be extremely memorable, but it is worth checking out once for the awesome visuals, and to get a taste of what the future in film may hold. While I doubt that CGI characters will ever replace humans completely, they will certainly become more prominent on the screen as the technology continues to evolve, becoming more powerful and less expensive. And besides, CGI "actors" don't have agents or egos, and will work for a hell of a lot cheaper.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2141&reviewer=258
originally posted: 07/14/01 19:29:08