Father Geek here with a review of a preview screening of FINAL FANTASY, a film the Knowles' household has been looking forward to for quite some time, and I must admit this look keeps those hopes afloat...
Beware of possible spoilers below...
I'm usually not a big fan of excessive use of CGI.
I'm of the school of thought that computer generated images are just one of the many tools that can be used to create a great movie. When used right CGI not only adds to the movie by illustrating a part of the story, but is also an integral part of that story. Take, for instance, "Bullet Time" in the Matrix, or the morphing effect from T2, the CGI used not only added to the film, but was necessary for its execution. I also think that there's nothing wrong with enhancing your movies with computer effects, whether expanding a crowd, or creating a Cityscape that doesn't exist, that is what CGI is for, a tool to realize a vision. I draw the line, though, at films that use CGI just because they can, making the effects the point of the movie, like Twister, or either Mummy movies, or the horrendous Gungan battle sequence from EP1. It all ends up looking fake, and that draws you away from the story. Final Fantasy is not like that.
Now, it may not be the first all CGI movie, others like Toy Story 1 and 2, Shrek, the upcoming Monsters Inc., or The Mirror has Two Faces, have all pioneered the genre, but these were all wacky cartoony, outlandishly fictional characters, not to be taken seriously. A kids movie. With Final Fantasy we get an important first. The first all CGI project, that attempts to make a normal movie without human actors.
So what's it about? Well, thats where you run into the main problem. If you've ever played a game in the Final Fantasy series, then you already know how kind of pointless and in the way the story lines seem to be, but I think that is usually due to translation problems from the original Japanese. This movie, though, is not connected at all to the Video Game Series, missing the common threads you usually run into(read: No Chocobos). So even though its made in America, the only similarities beside some design influences similar to #8, is the meandering and kind of pointless storyline. The Female and Male character hook up, but not because of any passion, really, more due to the fact that they're in each others general area. Another similarity is the Eco-consciousness of the good guys, and the lack of environmental concern of the Bad ones. Thats how you tell them apart. And, like the Games, the storyline doesn't really make too much sense, but you don't really care, except that it gets in the way of the ass kicking.
The Story goes like this: the year is 2064 and 30 years prior a Meteorite crashes into the planet, unleashing a horde of Aliens. These beings, invisible to the naked eye, have slowly pushed humans back behind the energy barriers protecting a few scattered cities. Dr. Aki Ross is the extremely pointy elbowed scientist looking for the 8 spirits that when combined form an energy wave that cancels out the Aliens energy because they're the same, I guess. Or maybe it contains the energy or changes it. I'm not sure, but you get the feeling that its generally bad for the Aliens. Anyway she teams up with a squad of DeepEyes, a Colonial Space Marine type of soldier, led by former lover man and strangely Ben Affleck looking Capt. Grey, (voiced by... GASP!... Billy Baldwin! I mean, Alec Baldwin), in a race against time to use their much more Eco-conscious weapon of mass destruction on the Aliens before the Evil, Vinyl clad General (James Wood) can use his brand spanking new Orbital Laser (called a "Death Star") which may just destroy the Planet as well as the Invaders.
While there are tons of stars, like the aforementioned Billy Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, James Woods, and Donald Sutherland also lend their voices, but the dialogue is just too straight forward, unfunny, and sometimes painful, for them to pull off. Its not as bad as the voice acting in the first Resident Evil game, or say, an episode of Real World/Road Rules challenge, but its not that much better either. The Aliens show up a lot, right away, and in huge numbers. They move really fast against any characters marked for death, but merely meander about the main characters. After awhile, its just not that scary. And as any true blooded geek would, you find yourself asking questions like: "Why wear the armor at all, since its pretty much completely useless against the Aliens?" or "Wait, its over? What happened? Are they gone or changed or what? Did I fall asleep?" and even "Was that tentacle between her legs a La Blue Girl reference?" All this is too bad, because I don't think People will appreciate how truly incredible the animation is.
And believe me, the Animation is simply incredible. Visually amazing, this is a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen with a teeth rattling sound system. Its so good, that even the occasional bit of awkward animation, makes everything else out there look like the work of a Baboon with a crayon stuck in its ass. The Visuals will blow you away and the designs are incredible. The opening sequence in a shattered and deserted New York City is worth the price of admission alone. The Aliens look great, flowing and strangely luminescent orange creatures that suck out souls upon contact. Little things like Dr. Ross's arm computer and the gelatinous cushions the soldiers deploy to cushion their falls are too cool. So much work went into the close ups, the skin tone of the characters, their facial expressions, explosions, and general background bustle that you can't help but be impressed.
Now the first thing certain people will point out is that the characters didn't look real. Well thank you, Sir Isaac fucking Newton. Perhaps that is because the people aren't real, but the motion capture is so good, it's easy to see how close it is to becoming perfect. So yeah, her elbows could put someone's eyes out and sometimes sudden quick movements seem a bit jerky and awkward, but when viewed against the larger accomplishment of the movie as a whole, these things seem insignificant. Especially when imagining a time a few years from now, where a director will truly only be limited by their imagination. A time when a Summer movie involving huge, complex action sequences won't require us to sit through months of pre-hype everywhere we turn, just so they can compensate for their out of control budget. A time when an action flick won't mean having to watch Ben Affleck and Will Smith in a Cropduster, taking on Godzilla, so they can steal the cure to an Alien Disease from the Mother ship, in order to save a dying Julia Roberts in a wonderbra. (I'll apologize now, just in case that movie ever actually gets made.)
I'm not against human actors, of course, and the technology is nowhere near the point of replacing them, but its still fun to imagine a day where a film's vision will rule and not a Celebrities Salary.
Visually spectacular, if a little light on the story, this is one for the big screen. Go see it.
Its cool, trust me.