Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
*** GM
Starring: Ming-na Wen, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, James Woods, Peri Gilpin, Donald Sutherland

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GRAIN OF SALT ALERT: I was drunk off my ass when I saw this film, and when I wasn't struggling to focus on the characters and repeating the plot advancement to myself in order to make sure I remembered it, I was jittering in my seat like a howler monkey on goofballs trying to keep the urine in my bladder. Be forewarned.

That said, I'm still a sucker for animated movies, and they done drawed this flick purty goodly. What? They ain't drawed it? They used 'pyooters? Hot damn! Them pyooters done drawed this flick purty damn goodly then, ain't they? Yee-haw daddy!

Maybe I'm still drunk.

Anyway, the animation being so close to "reality" was amazingly done, lip-synching and occasional awkward movement problems notwithstanding. The story is thus: Bridget Fonda (voiced by Ming-na Wen) and Ben Affleck (voiced by Alec Baldwin) and the usual gang of sci-fi cannon-fodder chumps are trying to save the Earth from nasty phantom-things, but they want to do it in peaceful harmony with the spirit of the planet (or gaia) while Michael Ironside (voiced by James Woods) wants to fire at them with the Death Star until they all explode and cry and say they're sorry, even if the Earth explodes with it. While it doesn't really do much to separate itself from the standard pseudo-science and plot devices of the genre, but one gets the feeling that's not the point. Animation that looks real is the point.

Although the film has the name of a video game, my limited research reveals that they share almost nothing beyond that. The odd spiritual aspect of the story manages to make it both bleak and optimistic at the same time, which is kinda cool, and there are a few dark moments that most folks wouldn't expect to see in an animated film - like the madman General Hein (Woods) shakily holding a gun to his head for a few moments, and some fun cuss words here and there - which attempt to elevate the notion of animation into a more mature mindset, which I'm all for.

Yet for all its technical brilliance, the plot has a handful of unexplained hoo-ha as well as all the dull "Alien" cliches that you apparently can't avoid in science fiction anymore. Can we get some back story on these "eight spirits" please? Where the hell did they come from, how does Dr. Sid (Sutherland) know how many there are and what they're supposed to do, how and why was Aki infected, yadda yadda ramalama dingdong. I know exposition is hard to work into a script without making it boring, but give it the ol' college try, c'mon now, won't ya, hey?

Great visuals, interesting yet slipshod story and another criminal underuse of Ving Rhames. Some motherfuckers are always tryin' to ice skate uphill.

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