Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within [2001]

Earth is a desolate wasteland in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Humanity has been decimated by an invasion of Phantoms, insubstantial aliens that extract and devour the spirits of living things. The few remaining humans have retreated to a handful of cities that are protected by massive bio-energy shields. The beautiful Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) and her mentor Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) have discovered that the energy signatures of eight key Earth spirits can cancel out and destroy the Phantoms. With the help of Captain Edwards (Alec Baldwin) and his band of marines, they must scour the globe for the last two remaining spirits before General Hein (James Woods) manipulates the refugee government into attacking the aliens with an orbital laser that may also destroy the Earth. Hironobu Sakaguchi's film is taken from the popular Final Fantasy video game franchise, which is particularly well suited to film adaptation with its series of original stories, but the movie features entirely new characters and settings. And like Toy Story and Shrek, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is completely computer generated. Unlike those cartoon comedies, though, The Spirits Within is a serious science fiction drama with astonishingly human digital actors. Aki, the female lead, appeared in a full-page spread in Maxim magazine's Hot 100 list--and was indistinguishable from the real-life models. The setting and conflict make for incredible action, but it's the larger issues, character interaction, and human elements that really make the movie shine. The Spirits Within is not simply a science fiction movie, in the same way that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not simply a kung fu flick. The result is a fantastic summer movie with better action and more emotion than Pearl Harbor, and actors more lifelike than those in that other video game movie, Tomb Raider. --Mike Fehlauer

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