Final Fantasy, the Spirits Within -
Special Edition DVD
Final Fantasy is a completely computer-generated movie that offers
photographic realism that's so good we can imagine the Screen Actors Guild
getting nervous about the future of its members.
After all, while right now they still need flesh and blood actors to
provide the voices (at a reduced rate, undoubtedly), once the technical gurus
come up with viable voice synthesis they'll be able to get rid of live actors,
their salaries - and their egos - once and for all.
Perhaps Hollywood stars will resort to licensing their personas to the
Anyway, Final Fantasy is based on a popular series of games, though the
movie apparently features new characters and settings. It's set in the late
21st century, about thirty five years after Earth has been invaded by a
mysterious race of phantom-like aliens. The aliens kill humans merely by
touching them, pulling their life force from them and leaving the dead hulk of
It's a pretty interesting and frightening way to go.
Aki, our heroine (voiced by Ming-Na), is a scientist trying to find a
way to combat the aliens. Infected herself, though not yet dead, she (aided by
her mentor Dr. Sid, voiced by Donald Sutherland) searches the desolate areas
infested by the aliens, looking for the eight spirits that can heal her and
bring an end to the alien domination of the planet.
With military help, they leave the relatively safe human confines and
head into dangerous territory to find the two spirits they haven't yet bagged -
their sense of urgency heightened by a misguided general (James Woods) who
manipulates the government into attacking the aliens with a giant orbital laser
weapon that may do more damage to the Earth than the aliens.
The ending is more than a tad weird, and in fact we didn't get it at
all. Part of the reason may be that we were so wrapped up in the audio/visual
experience that we kept forgetting to pay attention to the story.
And an aural and visual feast this is, indeed. The computer-generated
humans are so good that we kept forgetting they were CG - except that the
characters didn't look like the actors who did their voices. The sets and
backgrounds are equally spectacular, and we really enjoyed their portrayal of
future technology - whether it was the vehicles, the holographic computer
controls, or just the look and feel of the old and new cities.
The Special Edition DVD does the technology justice. Digitally mastered
in High Definition TV using the original digital files (no film involved, thank
you), the anamorphic widescreen video (16x9 TV compatible) is nothing short of
superb. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also outstanding; there's also so much
bass that pictures on our home theater wall rattled in a manner that had never
happened before with other outstanding DVD soundtracks.
And that's just the beginning. The first disc also includes two feature
length commentaries (the first of which is in Japanese, with subtitles), a
track isolating the excellent musical score, storyboard/Playblast selects with
optional commentary, production notes, and the theatrical trailer.
Then there's disc two. This has a really interesting interactive
documentary on the making of the film, linked to the scenes about which they're
talking. You also get profiles of the seven lead characters, including
background info, as well as data on the actor who did the voice and animator
info. There are also a series of sketches, DVD-ROM content, and a tool that
lets you rearrange parts of the council-conference scene and then play them
It's a spectacular package, and we have to compliment Columbia Tristar
Home Video for this DVD tour de force. And if you like anime, you'll probably
love this film.
Final Fantasy, the Spirits Within, Special Edition, from Columbia Tristar
106 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring digital people and the voices of Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Ving
Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Peri Gilpin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods
Produced by Jun Aida
Written by Al Reinert
& Jeff Vintar, Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi.
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