Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi
Starring: The voices of Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, James Woods, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Peri Gilpin.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
July 20, 2001

There's a great deal to say about this film, but I don't have the time to say it. Instead, this will be brief, but hopefully insightful.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is based on the enormously popular series of video games whose creator, Squaresoft's Hironobu Sakaguchi, has now brought his vision to a feature film. The result is the first computer-animated feature that stars photo-realistic human models. This ain't Shrek, kids -- this is the state of the art.

The incredible animation -- mixing realistic people with fantastic situations and futuristic technology -- is the centerpiece here. The story is, to put it mildly, conventional. If this were the screenplay for a live-action film, I would not forgive it, but the environment created here would be impossible with real actors, or at least impossibly expensive.

The only thing that would have improved this film, ironically, would be to lose the all-star cast. It's more than a little bit disorienting to hear Alec Baldwin's voice coming out of a guy who looks like Ben Affleck. Same goes with the characters voiced by Donald Sutherland and James Woods, neither of which resemble the actors in the slightest, unlike traditionally animated films which use the actors as models. If the voices weren't so well lip-synched, you'd think it was a foreign film with a really big U.S. distribution budget.

But my hat (if I wore one) goes off to Final Fantasy. It's the first really good film to be based on a video game, probably because it was the first time the gamemakers were the filmmakers. A good move, in my opinion, but I hope this doesn't give the Namco people any ideas about a Pac-Man movie.

I better stop writing before I date myself too much.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) -- VHS
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) -- DVD
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a screenplay novelization by Dean Wesley Smith -- Paperback
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a junior novelization by John Vornholt -- Paperback
The Making of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within -- Paperback
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
Review Archive
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings

Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan