Digital imaging, sets and characters in cinema are of course old hat by now, with the first fully digitally animated film (Toy Story) now perhaps almost a decade old. Since then, we've seen technology hype up the realism a lot in fantasy with films like "Ants" and "Shrek" and lots and lots of cartoons on television. Meanwhile, digital enhancements, touch-up, titling and lots else is now standard with almost any commercial film made on the planet.
However, it's taken us all the way into a new millennium to see a film that's entirely digitally created/animated,.. attempting a form of super-realism with 'human' characters. And that's the big deal with "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within".
The images alongside and below are drawn from the publicity-stills of the film and here are a few extracts from some of the film's reviews:
"If you want to see how close computers can come to replicating humans on screen -- and how far they still have to go -- take a look at "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," which blurs the lines between live-action and animation, movies and computer games, and lyricism and tedium.
"One of the film's first shots, aside from a futuristic planet landscape that suggests a discarded Yes album cover, is a closeup of a woman's green eye, and the image is more striking than you might imagine. Director Hironobu Sakaguchi, who also created the popular Final Fantasy computer game, and his crew of designers have given this eye the spark of life, with its convincingly liquid surface and the intricate detail of the lashes, lids and surrounding skin.
"When the "camera" pulls back to reveal this young woman, Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Chinese-American actress Ming-Na), who resembles a young Linda Fiorentino, you continue to be thrown by how lifelike she appears. Her movements are fluid, "realistic" you might say, and Sakaguchi's striking compositions add to the impression that you're watching an arty, live-action science-fiction film"
[Mark Caro ~ movie reporter for The Chicago Tribune]
"Final Fantasy asks the big questions: Is everyone connected via a mysterious energy force? Can Earth overcome soul-squelching oppression by alien phantoms (besides that of George W. Bush)? And are brains more important than boobs when it comes to movie adaptations of video games? You'll have to watch the movie for most of the answers. Still, whether you're familiar with the time-consuming FF role-playing videogame series or not, expect to be rendered speechless by the completely computer-generated, photo-realistic visuals which makes those dinos of Jurassic Park look straight outta Land of the Lost. The planet will be divided, however, over the quality of the convoluted story (oh, yeah, that?) about Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) and Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) gathering spirits to defeat Earth's invaders. Though the characters are a bit, well, Spirit-less at times, the tricky tale relishes in its Japanese-style storytelling and will leave patient and focused hardcore anime and sci-fi fans drooling on their Akira T-shirts. The rest of us? We'll just be lost in space."
"With relatively few exceptions, movies inspired by video games have been about as exciting as watching someone else play the game for two hours.
"And while that might be fine if you're an attention-deficit youngster wandering around in an arcade or someone who's patiently waiting for a turn on a home videogame system, it isn't for most movie audiences. They expect a little more for their entertainment dollars.
"From a technical standpoint, "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" would appear to have a leg up on the others. It's surely one of the most dazzling examples of digitally rendered, three-dimensional artwork to hit the big screen so far.
"Unfortunately, plotwise it's same old story - one-dimensional characterizations and a nearly incomprehensible plot, which is a particular pity given the quality of the animation"
[Jeff Vice ~ Deseret News movie critic]