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Final Fantasy: the phantom menace within

By anansi in Culture
Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 04:26:32 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)
Movies

Final Fantasy is not a very successful film. But it fails in some interesting ways. I'd strongly discourage anyone from paying more than $5US to see this one, unless you are a Japanese anime fan, or obsessed with computer graphic storytelling. Under no circumstances should anyone bring a date to this film.

The time is 30 years after a successful Independence Day style alien invasion. Our lovely and talented heroine is having strange dreams that might somehow lead her to humanity's salvation.

I'll try to discuss the computer graphics and some general themes without spoilers; those will go toward the end.


Graphics

The computer animation works best when depicting the aliens. At times I found myself thinking, "I'm supposed to be scared right now, but the monster is just too gorgeous to turn away from!"

Coming in a close second, was the human virtual reality consoles and displays. Earth Final Conflict has started a trend with this kind of look, and I want to see it evolve even more.

The characters fail miserably, though. While still shots of the characters are photorealistic, the virtual actors have a flat affect that no voice talent can overcome. No one knows what ogres, animate toys, or dragons look like,(Shrek, Toy Stories, Dragonheart) but most moviegoers have seen passable acting. These characters are the computer version of Kenau Reeves.

When the romantic leads kiss in the film, the audience giggled nervously. The stiff plastic look went over just fine though, when our squad of stormtroopers are waxing heroic a la Aliens.

Big Ideas

There were some interesting themes in the film. Much of the plot (such as it is) has to do with "bio-etheric energy", presumably the stuff we might be seeing with Kerlian photography if that were being done anymore. While there is rubber science aplenty, it holds together pretty well for the first half of the film. (If this movie were a comedy, it would have been Evolution)

The technology of dream recording was first shown in Wim Wender's Until the End of the world. I liked this film's version better, and wish they'd done more with it.

The idea of quarantine was given an interesting treatment, though that too went south after the first half. I wanted to know more about how humans suddenly became savvy to the hidden world when the human race's survival depended on it.

You can kind of get the feeling that Japan has some issues with the strategic defense initiative...

It has a strong ecological ethos. I had to wonder what these future humans ate, and if they ever had pets. It's easy to imagine that the whole army of animators went camping when they finally finished this one.

I've heard it said that a good artist borrows from other works, while a great artist steals wholesale. The makers of this film simply graft on parts of Poltergeist, Star Wars, The Andromeda Strain, Independence Day, Aliens and Starship Troopers in a way that lets you see the stitches.

Spoilers

I wanted some flashbacks to show the retreat into walled cities and the evolution of Bio-etheric technology. Even that 'deer head' representation of the alien home world could have been better explored.

My biggest gripe is that the villain did not advance the plot one bit. He was there for us to hate, and to make life difficult for our heroes. But he does nothing to bring the plot along. If they had cut his part, they could have trimmed the running time by half an hour, and that would have felt just fine.

It annoyed me that the rules of this world seemed to change moment to moment. One minute we see the bad guy floating through a hatchway, soon after, a big sphere falls on him, fer chrissakes!

I did, however LOVE the way the aliens ate their human prey. I've often visualized the hidden world as a tropical rain forest, with big things that would eat you given the chance. Seeing a dream depicted on screen can feel great, even if it's one's nightmares.

Anything I haven't mentioned, I believe should have been left on the cutting room floor. 8 distinct spirits? Why 8? Who cares? Did the death star beam do anything to affect the interface between Earth's Gaia and the alien Gaia? Why did our professor feel warm at the end? I suppose I'll just have to play the #@%$&* video game.

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Final Fantasy: the phantom menace within | 61 comments (29 topical, 32 editorial, 0 hidden)
Dream capture (3.33 / 3) (#10)
by nekonoir on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 04:51:16 AM EST

Given the comment on dream capture, I'm inclined to wonder how it compares in feel to StrangeDays, while it bombed abysmally at the BO, most people I know who read much in the way of Cyberpunk (ala Jeff Noon, Michael Marshall Smith or Howard V Hendrix) really like the feel that was achieved.

Just curious -- not being familiar with the game universe and vaguely intrigued by the trailers I've seen -- I may see it on the basis of those alone.

Dream recording (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by sazma on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 06:00:46 PM EST

The first film I saw this in was BrainStorm in 1983. Much better than Wenders film IMO.

Ummm... 1983? (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 04:34:05 AM EST

I think Asimov has the credit here for this idea with his short story "Dreaming is a Private Thing", ca. 1957 (or earlier; 1957 is the date on the anthology I found it in, it very likely dates a bit earlier). In this story, there is a future world where cheap, widely available dream-recording technology has made a new worldwide pastime, and also made a new professional trade - dreaming.

And perhaps not even Asimov originated this concept. It's certainly an old one in SF, though it never ceases to be interesting to ponder. =)


-Kasreyn.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
just so you know... (3.75 / 4) (#33)
by jcterminal on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 03:27:33 PM EST

final fantasy the movie has nothing to do with the games, nor will the movie be turned into a game.
---==*==---
mind: www.crashspace.org
body: i.jcterminal.com
soul: www.jcterminal.com
Tru Dat (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by thryllkill on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 04:33:39 PM EST

I have been a long time fan of the Final Fantasy video game series, though a lot of the subject matter in the games is rather cliche, it still comes out as something new everytime square finally gets around to releaseing the american version (in the case of Final Fantasy V this took something like 8 years, and a generation or two of consoles in between). But just like the video games versus the movie, none of the games have anything to do with each other. With the exeption of being able to call forth Cloud Strife, of FF VII fame, into your party in FF Tactics.

"The makers of this film simply graft on parts of Poltergeist, Star Wars, The Andromeda Strain, Independence Day, Aliens and Starship Troopers in a way that lets you see the stitches."

The makers of FF have been huge Star Wars fans for a long time, and often include references to SW in the games. Characters named Biggs and Wedge, the lines "Fear is the path to the darkside..." etc etc etc. In present day we call this "ripping off" but if you look into the past, story tellers have been using references to other literature as such. In "Paradise Lost" Milton refrenced Homer and Dante tons of times and was totally accepted as one of the greatest literary works in history, why now is this type of respect looked upon as cheating, or lack of imagination.

No I am not saying FF is as important a work as Paradise Lost, Milton was just my example.

[ Parent ]

FF Conventions (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by Weedhopper on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 12:38:59 AM EST

The only thing that makes a Final Fantasy game a Final Fantasy game seems to be that someone is named Cid. There have been a few other commonalities in the past few games - a "Zeus" superweapon, chocobos, mogs, so on - but for the most part, Final Fantasy stories take place in their own worlds and have nothing to do with one another.

An amnesic Cloud showing up in Final Fantasy Tactics really surprised the hell out of most FF gamers and was as close as Squaresoft ever got to having a character in common. Even then, FFT was not a game really in the FF numbered sequence.

[ Parent ]

Hidden Cids (none / 0) (#57)
by pin0cchio on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 03:35:53 AM EST

The only thing that makes a Final Fantasy game a Final Fantasy game seems to be that someone is named Cid.

Which, modulo spelling, would make Di$ney's Toy Story a Final Fantasy film. (See also common misspelling of "Cid" as "Sid" the toy disassembler in comments to this story.)


lj65
[ Parent ]
Actual (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by Wah on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 08:40:38 AM EST

After seeing it today, it seems like a movie of one of the games. They all have fairly similar plotlines and characters, just retreads with a new main char, new magic system, and more CG. I'm not complaining, but that's just what they do. I thought the movie was great, very cool stuff, check it out [note: I've been waiting two years for this movie to come out].
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
someone unclear on the concept (none / 0) (#44)
by coffee17 on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 04:45:17 PM EST

FF the movie has nothing to do with the games? What are you smoking? FFX has nothing to do with FFY where X!=Y . The only consistency of the FF games are often having characters named sid, life on the current planet is in danger, and quite often there's some recycling of life.

Keeping that in mind, FF the movie was right along the lines of the games. If they had mad a movie directly from one of the game's plots, or if they were later to make a game with the movie's plot, what would be the point? Everyone would lampoon whatever came second saying that there was nothing/little knew and that they felt cheated.

-coffee


[ Parent ]

not a fair review (4.71 / 7) (#35)
by 3Suns on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 05:35:55 PM EST

I found this review to be unfair, unforgiving, and uninformed. True, the story was nothing special: a funny cross between Armageddon and Princess Mononoke. Certainly holds it's own story-wise with decent hollywood fare. Not outstanding, not terribly original, but still perfectly acceptable as movie plots go. The characters do /not/ fail; they are well developed and act naturally.

The real outstanding part of the movie is (obviously) the animation. Hands down, it's the best CG work (across the board) I've ever seen, including SigGraph demos and animation house clips. The "actors" are not just photorealistic, they move realistically too, from the articulation of thier joints to the subtle twitches of facial muscles. Honestly, they are almost indistinguishable from human actors.

It's not a five-star movie, but five-star movies only come along once every couple of years. It's at least as worthy as anything else out in theaters now. And please, don't compare it to that tremendous pile of ass that was the phantom menace...

"actors" not photorealistic (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by j1mmy on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 09:04:07 AM EST

The "actors" are not just photorealistic, they move realistically too, from the articulation of thier joints to the subtle twitches of facial muscles.

The facial expressions for the majority of the characters (especially Aki) were quite bland. That scene when she's up in orbit with Grey and she starts pouting is probably the most glaring example. She looked more like she was intensely bored while making weird crying noises. The only subtle twitches of facial muscles that I could see were the occaisional blink of the eyes. Did we see the same movie?

The only two characters that showed any real expression were General Hein (lots of evil grins) and Dr. Sid (though only at the end of the film).

The movement of the actors was certainly better than anything i'd seen before, but sometimes it still didn't look quite right.

I'll grant that they've made virtual humans better than any movie in history (so far), but they still didn't look real to me.

[ Parent ]

Phantom menace better/worse? (none / 0) (#46)
by anansi on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 06:57:20 PM EST

Phantom menace sucked in comparison to the first two movies, it's true. But if the first three (I just don't want to talk about Jedi, OK?) films had never been made, Phantom menace would now be considered an expensive mid-level movie, nothing remarkable, and certainly comparable to Final Fantasy.

Mostly, though, I was comparing the villian in FF to Senator Palpatine, cynically manipulating the system for his own ends.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Ok Movie - I would see it again with friends. (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by Scott Robinson on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 10:42:43 PM EST

... and just that. It was a good movie. I would have rather spent my cash on it than A.I.. (which should have ended at the ice)

It was like watching a two hour long RPG - without the battle engine and the load times of FMVs. You could definately feel where it was RPG-ish, not only in the storyline but within the way the scenes were seperated.

The spoilers about the bad guy are definately accurate though. He's completely tangencial to the plot line - however, the plot line would not have worked without him, so I guess they had to leave him in. It would have been much better, though, if they had cut his whole FF7-like (and keep in mind, I never played the game but saw the TV commercials) whacking the mega-cannon (Zeus) scene and instead replaced it with more historical or *action* footage.

I can dream, right?

The photorealism and CG graphics were, and I don't think anyone will disagree, beyond anything I've ever seen. I definately liked how they showed almost all the preview scenes in the first 10 minutes leaving you to only guess about the rest of the movie. For the graphic fan, it won't disappoint.

The characters were definately better than many real Hollywood characters. The voice acting was flat at times; however, the problem wasn't so much the dub but the lines themselves. The movie was very cliche. Don't confuse cliche, though, with unwatchable or a bad storyline.

The storyline was good. Just that. It was an RPG, treat it as such. The back plot won't be discussed except to advance the story. There is no down-time in the movie.

When you see it, don't expect anything after the credits light up. It'll fade to black in a second.


--- Scott.
Will go n' watch tonight anyway - (2.00 / 2) (#37)
by adewhite on Wed Jul 11, 2001 at 11:09:00 PM EST

Not so much hoping to see great plots, I'm more interested to see how good the CG is. I heard that they paid special attention to the hair in building the character, esp. the heroine, is that true? From what I've seen in the trailer copule of nights ago at the cinema while watching another movie, the heroine's hair does look really gorgeous. Almost too real.

Anyway, the other movie was Shaolin Soccer - I wonder if it's available in the western hemisphere of the globe... cause as my friend put it, "That was the first time I laugh that hard and that long for this year..." Slapstick and exaggerated, but damn funny!

I have to disagree (4.80 / 5) (#39)
by earthling on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 01:36:26 AM EST

I spent $12.50 to see this movie, and I believe it was worth every penny I paid for it. Heck, I'll probably go see it again in theaters, something I've only done about twice in my life.

It's getting late so I don't have time for a detailed rebutal each of the original story points, but I'll try to skim over each briefly so that fellow K5ers don't get the insane idea of not wanting to go see this movie after having read the above story.

CGI
I have to disagree with the poster when he said that the characters have a "stiff plastic look" and that "the virtual actors have a flat affect". This is definitively not the case. At many points during the film, I had to remind myself that this was all computer animation, not real people filmed on a set. It's that convincing. Sure, from time to time, you'd get an ackward movement or another to remind you of it, but overall, I spent half the movie picking my jaw from the floor.

Villain - Minor spoilers
I tought he was great. Certainly not your standard cookie-cuter villain ala Evil Overlord. Unlike the poster, I certainly didn't find myself hating him, and, what do you know, he could very well have been the one who was right. (He wasnt't, but his theory made sense.)
Was he absolutly necessary to the plot? No. But then again, was Tybalt really essential in Romeo & Juliet? No, but it both case, that would have created stories pretty different than the originals, so...

Patchwork of ideas (inspiration)
It works! What more can you say? Althougt I guess this will vary from one individual to the other, I certainly did not felt it was done "in a way that lets you see the stitches".

Story
While the original poster mention that pretty much all of the story "should have been left on the cutting room floor", for the kind of movie proposed (action, basically), it did it job. Yes, it had it shares of holes and convenient explanations, but overall, it was fine. My beef, however, is not with the story itself, but more with the pacing of the movie. Too fast at times while too slow at others, and with sometimes doubtfull transitions between the two, that's definitively my biggest criticism for Final Fantasy. But still, it isn't enough to bring this movie down.

Overall
A comparison that's been poping in my mind since I've started writting this post is with Alien 2. Was it a masterpiece, like Alien(1)? No. Was the interpretation Oscar-winning? No. Will the story be remembered by generations to come? Neither. But was it enjoyable, was it fun to watch? Hell yes. All in all, Final Fantasy is a great movie. Go see it, you won't regret it.

-Earthling
"I'm sorry, I had to; the irony was just too thick."

Goodness (spoilers) (4.50 / 4) (#40)
by flieghund on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 05:00:55 AM EST

Just got back from seeing the movie. Fantastic. Definite goodness. Some holes, sure, but what movie doesn't have weak points? The following two paragraphs contain potential spoilers.

From the article above: "a successful Independence Day style alien invasion"? Did we see the same movie? A single, admittedly large meteor slamming into the earth and releasing an alien horde is not the same as multiple, city-sized ships hovering over the earth and destroying major population centers. Comparing it to Evolution would be more accurate. In Independence Day, the aliens were coming to strip the earth of its natural resources; in Final Fantasy, the aliens are unfortunate hitch-hikers on a chunk of rock that happened to intersect our planet.

Also: "...how humans suddenly became savvy to the hidden world when the human race's survival depended on it." The dialogue goes by quickly, but the good Doctor Sid seems to explain that he had initially developed his Gaia theory when he was the age of Dr. Ross -- in other words, many years earlier (this is in the scene where Dr. Ross reads from Dr. Sid's diary). So this really isn't a "sudden" development any more than real scientists "suddenly" developing nuclear weaponry. It is the result of observation, hypothesis, and experiment over the course of many years. Also note that the governing body and military both thought the whole "spirit/Gaia" theory was bunk -- and Dr. Ross is aghast when Dr. Sid mentions "the S-word" (spirits). Even Dr. Ross' dramatic demonstration of the theory in action is not enough to sway all of the important parties.

But enough of that. What really impressed me was the level of detail of both characters (human and alien) and the settings. Because she is the main character, I was a little disappointed in how "flat" Dr. Ross' face seems -- but her hair! Omigod is it beautiful. And the way the characters move (walk, run, but especially climb, sit, stand, etc.) is amazing: some of the scenes were eerily lifelike, and as others have mentione, I had to remind myself that this was CG.

The plot is strong enough for the kind of movie Final Fantasy is trying to be. Most sci-fi flicks made today have paper-thin plots that are barely able to contain themselves; FF seems to have a higher-than-average internal consistency. (Though I must reluctantly agree about the sphere thingy...) Add to this stunning graphics and you have an above-average movie.

Is it work $5/$8/$12/$whatever? That's a personal judgment call. I didn't leave the theater disappointed in the $8.50 movie I saw, but then I'm not likely to be all that critical of a movie in the first place. (Even the worst movies still managed to pass through some kind of quality control; imagine how bad the ones that don't get made must be...) If you like just-left-of-mainstream sci-fi and/or anime, or you want to see just how far CG has come, you'll probably get a kick out of this film.

I'd write more, but I am really tired now. Perhaps I'll post more in my Diary tomorrow...



Using a Macintosh is like picking your nose: everyone likes to do it, but no one will admit to it.
Setup, Ghosts (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by anansi on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 06:42:46 PM EST

(trying hard not to sound too defensive...)

From the article above: "a successful Independence Day style alien invasion"? Did we see the same movie?

If this were a book, I'd have said, "A successful Footfall style invasion. From the point of view of the main characters in the beginning of the movie, the earth has been completely conquered. I suppose I could have used Mars Attacks as a setup, but that would have been silly. There just haven't been enough alien invasion films made in recent history!

If there is a sequel, (better yet, a PREquel!) I hope they develop the back story more. The bio-etheric energy ideas are enough of a departure from current science as we understand it, that the story of its discovery would be worth telling. It seemed strange (from a 20th century POV) that they're doing all this stuff with what amounts to ectoplasm, but the idea of the Gaia hypothesis still gets laughed at. That's just my prejudice talking: I'm used to getting laughed at for my ideas about psychic phenomena, and it's nice to see science fiction that chews on these topics.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Apologies (none / 0) (#47)
by flieghund on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 12:41:53 AM EST

It was way late last night when I wrote that. Not thinking coherently. Being belligerent. My bad.

Though I still don't think it's a good comparison, upon some reflection I admit that the effects of the alien arrivals (massive devastation) are pretty much the same in both FF and ID. The humans in FF don't fully realize the "motives" of the Phantoms until Dr. Ross completes her dream of their homeworld. Until that point, the Phantoms are alien conquerors.



Using a Macintosh is like picking your nose: everyone likes to do it, but no one will admit to it.
[ Parent ]
I liked it. (beware: spoilers) (4.00 / 3) (#43)
by coffee17 on Thu Jul 12, 2001 at 11:18:36 AM EST

However, I think that this movie was a *lot* like the games. Yeah, it's not really mainstream USA material, and some of the people sitting by me started bitterly complaining the second the credits started. My thoughts...

Plot: typical FF plot, something is hurting humans, with the eventual twist that the fate of the entire world is also at stake. Also, some of the scenes (like the four wheeler escape scene at the last moment) seemed a lot like how things happened in the game, which is a bit more sudden than most movies tend to do. Also, most movies in America if they involve spiritual issues are one of three things; xtian god/devil related, mysterious daemon related, or witchcraft-esque powers. I don't think the general population wanted to hear this Gia shit, and frankly the Gia bits got heavy handed IMO, but I was expecting this from the FF genre, and it didn't ruin anything for me.

visual effects. Stunning. Beautiful. I'm definately going to see this at least once more in the movies, and likely will buy the DVD when it comes out. Yes, there were occaisional issues, the hair in freefall usually had a lot of gravity (or hairspray) holding it in place, but speaking of the hair, this is the best that I've ever seen human hair rendered (altho the fur on the characters in the Monster's Inc was pretty good too). However, I didn't like the character they choose for the male lead. Perhaps this is because I've only played FF{1,7,9} but in those, the male while being a soldier didn't look like a fricken soldier. This movie was pretty much made for geeks, most of whom are male, so WTF are they doing having the main male geek look like some lame army guy. Well, he is a lame army guy, but other FF's didn't do that. Oh well, at least he died.

And I'm not being flippant when I say at least he died. I'm a big hater of Hollywood double-plus happy endings. Sure, the world was saved, but not only did much of the supporting cast die, but even the 2nd main character bites it.

The last of the visual thingies I'll mention is more about the people. I thought 99% of the time they looked real. Heck, the women's breasts even looked like breasts instead of giant perfect hemispheres jutting out from their chest. As for the kiss seen which the author mentions, yes it looked pretty fake. but not when the lips came together, but rather when they came apart. there was no moisture on their lips, and apparently they were completely frictionless (that or else the kiss was supposed to be entirely lacking of passion).

Misc. notes, it was interesting to see a bad guy in a FF series who actually thought that he was being a good guy. This way, there's no one to really hate. The ghosts aren't meaning to be ghosts, the bad guy is actually trying to help the earth instead of just take it over.

I thought a cute comment I heard while waiting in line for seats was when the people who'd seen the last show were leaving "Don't bother going, it's like anime." ... um, and what's the bad part? Sure, most American's don't like anime, but I like a fair amount of what I get to see (Slayers being my fav to far), and it may not be better than a lot of the American movie plots, but at least having two genres two choose from add variety to life. If I still talked with my family I wouldn't recommend it to them, but I'd imagine a lot of the k5 community would like it, and I recommend it to you (well, unless you hate all anime and all the FF games).

-coffee


Not *that* bad a standard to aspire to... (3.00 / 2) (#48)
by srichman on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 12:49:51 AM EST

These characters are the computer version of Kenau [sic] Reeves.
Keanu Reeves is reportedly receiving $30 million plus 15% of gross for the next two Matrix movies. "Passable acting" is obviously not the most important thing to moviegoers :)

say what..? (with spoilers, yum) (5.00 / 7) (#49)
by lucid on Fri Jul 13, 2001 at 09:08:08 AM EST

The time is 30 years after a successful Independence Day style alien invasion.

Independence Day didn't feature alien ghosts whose planetary fragment crash-landed on earth. It wasn't an actual invasion, as pointed out in the movie, the ghosts were confused, frightened, and had no idea where they were. I know this because I watched the movie.

The characters fail miserably, though. While still shots of the characters are photorealistic, the virtual actors have a flat affect that no voice talent can overcome. No one knows what ogres, animate toys, or dragons look like,(Shrek, Toy Stories, Dragonheart) but most moviegoers have seen passable acting. These characters are the computer version of Kenau Reeves.

There was a little of this, but I certainly wouldn't call it a miserable failure. I wonder if you actually saw the movie? At several times in the movie, I was surprised at how realistic it all was. I could see some stiffness in some of the characters, but this usually occurred when they were in space. It wasn't particularly jarring, and wasn't a failure. Actually, I think some of it was done on purpose, as if the creators of the movie were trying to get your jaw to drop a little further. It works, because even at its ugliest, this movie is just beautiful.

When the romantic leads kiss in the film, the audience giggled nervously. The stiff plastic look went over just fine though, when our squad of stormtroopers are waxing heroic a la Aliens.

I didn't hear anything unusual in the theater when the leads kissed, but that was a point where it didn't quite look real. But again, it wasn't particularly striking, it was more subtle.

There were some interesting themes in the film. Much of the plot (such as it is) has to do with "bio-etheric energy", presumably the stuff we might be seeing with Kerlian photography if that were being done anymore. While there is rubber science aplenty, it holds together pretty well for the first half of the film. (If this movie were a comedy, it would have been Evolution)

I got a chuckle out of your rubber science comment, and I'd just like to point out that the title of the movie is Final Fantasy. Fantasy. Thanks.

The technology of dream recording was first shown in Wim Wender's Until the End of the world. I liked this film's version better, and wish they'd done more with it.

It was nice, but why do more with it? It wouldn't advance the storyline by any considerable degree. The dreams were important; the fact that she could record them wasn't.

The idea of quarantine was given an interesting treatment, though that too went south after the first half. I wanted to know more about how humans suddenly became savvy to the hidden world when the human race's survival depended on it.

One of the alien ghosts is quarantined inside of the main character by the spirits of the earth. I'm not sure how it 'went south,' maybe you could describe what you mean better. The movie only touches on this once or twice, but humans, or one human, had already discovered much of the things important to the movie (I forget his name, Donald Sutherland does the voice), such as the 'bio-etheric energy' and 'Gaia' and the wave patterns of living creatures and such when the haunted fragment landed. It isn't a hidden world, I'm not sure what you mean by that.

I've heard it said that a good artist borrows from other works, while a great artist steals wholesale. The makers of this film simply graft on parts of Poltergeist, Star Wars, The Andromeda Strain, Independence Day, Aliens and Starship Troopers in a way that lets you see the stitches.

I have no idea what you're talking about here. Poltergeist? Why? Because it has ghosts in it? ID4? Pay closer attention next time, it's nothing like it. Starship Troopers? Why? Because it also features troopers shooting at aliens(I guess)? Star Wars? Huh? Because Episode 1 also featured a CGI character? I've never seen Aliens, but from your track record above, I'm betting you haven't seen it either.

My biggest gripe is that the villain did not advance the plot one bit. He was there for us to hate, and to make life difficult for our heroes. But he does nothing to bring the plot along. If they had cut his part, they could have trimmed the running time by half an hour, and that would have felt just fine.

He was a little bit overdone. He was cast as an evil villain in what was apparently an ambiguous villain role. He wasn't evil, just wrong. He was necessary, though, because the alien ghosts couldn't possibly have handled the role as antagonists. Not to joke, but they just weren't solid enough. They were more like forces of nature.

It annoyed me that the rules of this world seemed to change moment to moment. One minute we see the bad guy floating through a hatchway, soon after, a big sphere falls on him, fer chrissakes!

I don't remember that. From the outside shots of the Zeus cannon, you couldn't really tell where he was. The shots of him were from inside of the station, and the outside shots were of it blowing up.

I did, however LOVE the way the aliens ate their human prey. I've often visualized the hidden world as a tropical rain forest, with big things that would eat you given the chance. Seeing a dream depicted on screen can feel great, even if it's one's nightmares.

Ok, I think this is what you misunderstood. Her dreams weren't of a 'hidden world.' They were of the alien's home planet before they destroyed it by what appeared to be a really big bomb. A fragment of the planet landed on earth, with their ghosts attached to it. This is where it gets fuzzy to me, though. I'm not sure that the ghosts were preying upon the humans, per se, although the scene where they're hunting the seventh spirit outside of Tucson would seem to indicate they do eat human spirits.

Anything I haven't mentioned, I believe should have been left on the cutting room floor. 8 distinct spirits? Why 8? Who cares? Did the death star beam do anything to affect the interface between Earth's Gaia and the alien Gaia? Why did our professor feel warm at the end? I suppose I'll just have to play the #@%$&* video game.

Why not 8? There have to be more than zero to make the movie, and more than one to make it interesting. Also, it may not be related, but there were 8 elements in Final Fantasy 7, which this movie reminds me of a lot. I think the list went fire, earth, air, water, holy, death, poison, and cold. I may be wrong. I don't think the warmth that the professor felt at the end was significant since he said it as some of the 'upward rain' of Gaia goo, or whatever passed through him.

Sorry that was so long, but I wanted to try to clear some things up. This review wasn't very good. Personally, I really liked the movie, and plan on seeing it again, soon. See it, you won't be disappointed.

Cid. (none / 0) (#50)
by Matrix on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 07:46:22 AM EST

one human, had already discovered much of the things important to the movie (I forget his name, Donald Sutherland does the voice), such as the 'bio-etheric energy' and 'Gaia' and the wave patterns of living creatures and such

Maybe you need to play more Final Fantasy. ;-) This character was the 'old-professor/inventor-who-understands-magic' type, who is (almost always) named Cid.


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

doh! (none / 0) (#51)
by lucid on Sat Jul 14, 2001 at 09:09:17 AM EST

I've only played 7 and 8, and loved both of them dearly. I didn't even realize his name was Cid while I was watching the movie. Thanks for pointing that out.

I don't understand why people didn't understand (none / 0) (#53)
by Sunir on Sun Jul 15, 2001 at 01:16:00 AM EST

Before I spoil everything, for anyone who wants to watch this movie and has heard people complain about it do two things: a) watch the movie; b) punch those guys in the head.

WARNING: Spoilers for next four paragraphs.

I saw the film with four other friends. Only one of them got the film. When I walking out of the theatre, I heard many complaints ala "What the fuck?" I just don't understand why people didn't just understand the movie. It had an amazingly high level of internal consistency.

The number one complaint was how it ended. But that was entirely consistent. It was entirely clear that every living thing had a spirit of some kind known as bio-etheric energy. It was also known that Dr. Ross had a phantom inside her. It was known that the phantom was contained by combining waveforms of various other spirits. Thus, we also know spirits are waveforms. At the council meeting, Dr. Cid makes a big show that the phantom spirits can be cancelled out by combining the eight special spirits they need to make a waveform that interferes with the phantom spirit signature. We know that Dr. Ross had managed to create said negative waveform. So, when the phantom gaia--which can extract human bio-etheric energy to make them somehow "in the world" (as opposed to not visible at all)--pulled out whatshisnames (Alec Baldwin's) spirit, it became manipulatable, interacted with Dr. Ross's breastplate, resynchronized, and which then resynchronized the phantom gaia's waveform, which then turned into an earth-friendly "blue" spirt. Phew! But it's all there more or less. I suppose you just have to let yourself go for some of it.

Some things weren't clear at all. Why eight spirits exactly? But they brushed it off briefly by saying "We're still missing two," so supposedly they had already figured out that they need a certain eight. How could anything live outside the barriers? And why couldn't they find more than one spirit at a time?

Really, there doesn't have to be a good reason for there to be eight. There could have been twenty-three. The point was that they had three to go by the time we began the movie. Perhaps they should have only said that. And perhaps spirit waveforms were only right when the earth gaian spirit touched them in the right way, so they only occured at sparse times. And maybe the phantoms weren't all consuming. I suppose this would make sense since the atmosphere was still breathable, but that's stretching things. In fact, I'm stretching my own patience explain this stuff. It's just not important.

Spoilers over.

Anyway, the "magic" system in this movie was workable, albeit different for most people I suppose. There were other problems with the movie that were more annoying, like the flat writing/acting ("Japanese"/anime style actually--bleh). I seriously think they did the voices after they did the animation for several characters, which may account for much of it. And I really was annoyed that Dr. Ross looked like Sandra Bullock, but that's just me. ;)

Nonetheless, none of that was enough to call this story bad. In fact, I'd say it was a rather good story. Well worth the second mortgage on my house that it took to hear it (let alone see it!)--but that's another rant.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

Warmth (SPOILERS) (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by snowlion on Sun Jul 15, 2001 at 06:47:58 AM EST

I saw it, I expected it to be lame; I was in for a surprise- I really liked it.

Granted, I've been playing Final Fantasy's for a long time, played the missing games before officially released in the US, have played Chocobo's Dungeon, and other FF-ish games: SoM, ChronoTrigger, ChronoCross, etc.,. So, I'm a little biased. But, I also can tell you that I see things there that my coworkers don't.

I don't have much to add to the conversation; a lot of other people who liked it have said things very well. I only have a few more things to add:

  1. The Japanese are not facially expressive people. Realize this when people complain about how the people look stiff in emotion- that's just the way the Japanese culture is. This is well known and documented.
  2. Native Japanese are animists. That is, they believe in spirits inhabiting various objects, have a long history in believing in this kind of thing, and they believe that we continue to exist after we die. They believe in key locations and items where protecting Kami (sort of like spirits) live. These are not unusual beliefs in Japan; the beliefs continue to this day. Most Japanese believe in ghosts. This is not something strange to them. Realize that this movie is from Japan, and carries their traditions with them.
  3. Cid notes that the Kami essence is warm. I don't understand that this is a mystery. Would it be hot? Cold? No, this is the essence of Life passing through him; I imagine it'd be warm and gentle.<shrug>

Okay; done.


--
Map Your Thoughts
Anime (none / 0) (#58)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 02:34:12 PM EST

The Japanese are not facially expressive people. Realize this when people complain about how the people look stiff in emotion- that's just the way the Japanese culture is. This is well known and documented.
In Japanese art, people are expressive. Just compare the facial expressions in Princess Mononoko. Nothing stiff and inexpressive about that movie! Anyway, I think it is pretty clear that the stiff facial expressions are entirely due to the computer graphics as not advanced to the point where we can create realistic facial expressions.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Soou desu ka? (none / 0) (#59)
by snowlion on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 03:02:18 PM EST

You've surely seen Japanese woodblock prints (Japanese art), right? Note the inexpressiveness? How about Japanese live movies? American reviewers frequently call them "stiff", "unexpressive", and complain "Why doesn't she just tell him that she loves him?", not very aware of Japanese norms.

I dunno; It's possible that the faces are stiff because their tech's not there, but I work in the game industry, worked at a motion capture studio, and if I'm remembering correctly, we were quite capable of capturing facial motion, and animating it as well. That was 4 years ago.

Memory on such subjects is notoriously bad: Which way does Lincoln's face point on a penny? Left of right? We get that question wrong about 50% of the time, as human beings. (Ask a few people and compare.)

Anyways, I'm going to hold Japanese culture responsible for this one. This is not the first time the complaint has come from Americans observing the products of the Japanese.

Incidentally, I do watch anime; Macross 7, Urusei Yatsura, and Aa Megamisama are some of my favorites; I've seen all of Miyazaki's works save Poruko Rosso. I could list a hundred very expressive anime's if you like. So, yes- I have seen anime.


--
Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
Facial Expression (none / 0) (#60)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 04:22:48 PM EST

There's a difference between simulating gross facial expressions, like anger, and simulating the subtle expressions that real actors use. That's where the movie fails.
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This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Not perfect, but good. (none / 0) (#61)
by browncarpet on Tue Jul 17, 2001 at 08:00:25 PM EST

We all knew that the movie's animation wasn't going to be perfect. But we did expect it to be ground-breaking, and it was. All previous movies completely animate digitally use imaginative characters with relatively few textural details. The Final Fantasy movie atempted to do what all digital animators have tried to avoid. Now the standards have been set.

As for the Voice acting...We have to realize that animated pictures create the audio and video at the same time. They see the actors mannerisms and incorporate them into the characters. Since both the audio and video are created at the same time, its many times difficult to match the mouth movements with the actor's voice without the voice being altered or sounding restrained. I'm obviously no expert in this field but if you stop and think about it it must be very difficult to do. The detail of the characters makes redoing the animation to match the actors voice more expensive and time consuming.

In reality the movie didn't boast about a great script or acting, but ground-breaking (not perfect) animation. So why are people expecting to see an amazing story?

The movie was entertaining and amazing at the same time. Go see it and keep Square in business.


Browncarpet (it's nice)

Final Fantasy: the phantom menace within | 61 comments (29 topical, 32 editorial, 0 hidden)
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