Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi-Creator of the Final Fantasy franchise
Several years prior an asteroid impacted the earth and along with it came beings referred to as Phantoms. Ever since humanity has been waging a losing battle with these beings but a young woman named Aki Ross (Ming-Na) and her elderly mentor, Doctor Sid (Donald Sutherland), may have finally found a way to save the earth through the eight spirits that when combined can overcome the Phantom…menace. Sorry about that. I just had to write it.
I will be honest: I did not think too much of this movie when it first came out. I watched it and thought it was okay, but it never really did anything for me. It wasn’t until a year or two ago when I saw it for sale that I figured I’d spice up my movie collection. I had a few animated films but not a great deal. I saw it and the price was right.
It has aged very well. It is a much better movie than I remember it being. It is much more mature than I recall. This is the kind of story you would find in a live action film these days and not in an animated presentation. It contains complicated character relationships. While the Phantoms are presented as the villains, Aki and Doctor Sid must also contend with a villain in their own ranks in the form of General Hein (James Woods).
Hein is not evil for the sake of being evil. It is more complicated than that. Prior to the events of the film his wife and child died in a Phantom attack and now Hein is focused on destroying the Phantoms to the point of being almost insane.
The story itself is a solid one. It is well written and very well directed. The film never lags.
While I enjoy the story, I am not too thrilled with the animation. For its time it was amazing stuff and it is still not too bad but computer-generated animation does not withstand the test of time. As computers and techniques improve what was once great moves to mediocre and finally to bad. What we have here is not quite mediocre yet but eventually it will get there. If this were hand drawn with computer assistance for some things it would be a different story. Drawings can still retain their high-quality 50 or 100 years or longer since artistic style is different than technical capabilities.
I remember at the time they were saying they wanted to capture the essence or the spirit of the Final Fantasy games. I am not too familiar with the games themselves, but I am left with the feeling this is barely connected to them. That does not detract from the film. This is definitely a science fiction fantasy film but it doesn’t look like a Final Fantasy movie. It contains none of the imagery I had seen before or since.
One of the flaws in this film I feel is the spirituality. I am not too big of a fan of mixing superficial spirituality with science fiction. It just does not work often in my opinion. It comes off as trite and is usual done by someone who has had little to no exposure to religion. And here it comes closer to working than at other times. I’m not saying it’s a success but it’s not as bad as it could’ve been. Dr. Sid comes off more as some type of religious figure than he does as a scientist with spiritual beliefs.
The love story between Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin) and Aki Ross (Ming-Na) works better than most animated film romances. Perhaps it is because they treat the story as an adult story rather than something that’s kid friendly. They were in a relationship but an incident with a Phantom forced Aki to stay away but also provided the key to ending the conflict.
The film has an all-star list of voice actors doing the voice work. Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Peri Gilpin and Keith David as a Council Member round out the celebrities lending their voices. I often wonder why they cast big name actors to do voiceover work. You may be a fan of Steve Buscemi but what do you really get out of going to see an animated film starring the voice of Steve Buscemi? I have never quite understood why they just don’t cast regular voiceover artists and hype up the content of the movie. Just a personal observation.
This is an enjoyable movie that deserves a look if you have not already seen it and deserves a rewatch if you already have. It was aged spectacularly and deserves some love.