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Review of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

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One of the most eagerly awaited movies of the year is finally opening. Starred with heroes and heroines with much more refined polygons than those of Lara Croft, the teasers and art have every geek salivating entry to the theatres. Without giving away any spoilers, here is what to expect.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within resembles Aliens more than anything else. The absolutely breathtaking mechanical designs are strongly rooted in the heritage of the Alien trilogy, Blade Runner and other classics of the genre. The sets and vistas the movie offers are equally excellent. It comes as no big surprise that the movie is worth the price of admission for the visuals alone.

A movie needs content as well, and in this department Final Fantasy falls somewhat short. The basic premise of the plot is somewhat original, but the twists of the storyline have all been visited before; occasionally to the extent that one suspects an attempt to pay homage. If this is set aside, the story doesn't pale to many other science fiction movies of the last decade. Despite the premise, there isn't too much depth or message to the story.

Acting varies wildly, oscillating constantly between alien and excellent. The animation of the characters is surprisingly well done, and when it works, the amount of small gestures and nuances is quite impressive. Unfortunately, this isn't the case throughout, and occasionally those same dialects of body language seem oddly out of place and awkward. The same applies to the details of skin, hair and fabrics. Beyond the superficials, though, the models are perfect. Nothing moves in ways it wouldn't in a human, and there are several scenes where full advantage is taken of the freedom the virtual camera among virtual actors offers. And finally, if the readership of Maxim had seen Aki Ross alive as she is in this movie, she would have easily ranked much higher than 87 on their Hot list.

Similarly, the voice acting falters at times. The job done isn't too poor, but without the freedom of cartoon exaggeration in voice or visuals, the task of conveying emotions is sufficiently hard that even some of the professionals in the cast can't pull it off. The sound track is unobtrusive and supportive, but never grabs your soul like some do.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within offers a well-balanced, solid science fiction movie with a lot of action, a new star actress who is bound to appear again. It is definitely worth seeing, and good entertainment for the ticket money. The fact that it is also the first of a virtual genre, yet stands on its own as a movie rather than technology showcase, makes it even more impressive.

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Unfortunately, this movie appears to be destined to be a major flop, perhaps worse than Titan AE. In its first full weekend it grossed only $11.5 M at the box office (after opening at $5 M on wednesday), placing it fourth in the weekend rankings.

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