Plot: What’s it about?
In the bleak future of 2065, mankind has reached a point of near extinction, thanks to various forces present on the planet. It seems some alien spirits have infested Earth and unless they’re controlled, it could spell disaster for the human race. This is a massive task of course, but it could rest upon the shoulders of one woman, Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming Na). She has enlisted the help of her mentor Dr. Sid (voiced by Donald Sutherland), as well as the Deep Eyes Squadron, so she won’t be alone, but the task is still quite daunting, to be sure. In addition to locating the eight needed spirits, this band of warriors must also battle off invading phantoms, some of the meanest and most resilient aliens they’ve ever seen. As Aki and her team work toward a peaceful solution, a military agent named General Hein (James Woods) plans to demolish the aliens at any cost, even if that cost is the human race & his own planet. As these three forces collide in an attempt to achieve their ultimate goals, who will emerge as victors and at what cost?
I’ve seen countless arguments about how dazzling visuals can’t save a movie, but in this case, that argument holds no water, not even a drop. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has an average level storyline, but packs such a visual punch, you won’t even notice the holes. I do admit the environmentalist tones sometimes become too thick, but even so, this is a fun movie and if nothing else, it is gorgeous just to soak in. Thanks to some of the finest computer animation ever, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has immense worlds of various textures, populated by realistic, though sometimes stiff inhabitants. The animation has some flaws, but still looks excellent and if you ask me, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a visual masterpiece. The story is recycled and offers little depth, but is enough to hang the visuals on, which I think is all that was intended. The voice talent is so-so, with such names as Ming Na, James Woods, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, and Alec Baldwin involved. This movie is by no means a modern classic, but it is recommended, even if just on the merits of the visuals. I think most fans will want the double disc collector’s set however, as opposed to this single disc edition.
Video: How does it look?
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As this is a direct from the digital source transfer, the image is remarkable and shows no real flaws, this is about as good as it gets. As no actual film was involved, the source print isn’t even an issue, as this all digital master looks excellent, totally flawless. The colors have a rich, very potent texture, while contrast provides slick, well refined black levels at all times. In short, this is one of the best transfers I’ve seen to date, but as this is an all digital production, it would be hard for normal feature films to compete, of course.
Audio: How does it sound?
As impressive as the video is here, I think the audio surpasses even that, with one of the finest Dolby Digital 5.1 options I’ve ever heard. This mix pumps in all sorts of surround presence and directional effects, but it never seem false in any fashion. Instead, the result is an immersive experience that really draws in the viewer, very potent stuff. The channels all kick in to create the environment and it all works to perfection, from the intense action scenes to more laid back, dialogue based moments. In other words, all the pieces fall into place and then some, easily a reference level track in all respects. This disc also contains 2.0 surround tracks and subtitle options in English & French, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is the first disc from the Special Edition release, with no changes whatsoever, so if you’ve seen that disc, you’ve seen this one. The disc kicks off with two audio commentary tracks, both well worth a listen. Each track consists of some crew members, from co-director to animation director to sets & props lead artist and beyond, so the scope of technical workers is covered here, at least to an extent. As expected, most of the talk covers the technical side of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which is appropriate, but it could bore some listeners. A feature called “boards & blasts” is also found here, which is the entire film in rough form, with content from storyboards, sketches, and unfinished animation stages. As you view this feature, you can enable a production commentary session or a text based note system, even both if you wish. This disc also includes an isolated musical score with comments from composer Elliot Goldenthal, as well as the film’s theatrical and teaser trailers.. But with this single disc version, you miss out on the other supplements, though this is still a solid overall package.