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Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara
Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi
Writing Credits:
Al Reinert, Jeff Vintar

A scientist makes a last stand on Earth with the help of a ragtag team of soldiers against an invasion of alien phantoms.

Box Office:
$137 million.
Opening Weekend
$11,408,853 on 2649 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby Atmos
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Czech Dolby 2.0
German DTS-HD MA 5.1
Hungarian Dolby 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Russian Dolby 5.1
Castillian Dolby 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby 5.1
Thai Dolby 5.1
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 11/16/2021

• Audio Commentary with Co-Director Moto Sakakibara, Sequence Supervisor Hiroyuki Hayashida, Sets and Props Lead Artist Tatsuro Maruyama, and Phantom Supervisor Takoo Noguchi
• Audio Commentary with Editor Chris S. Capp, Animation Director Andy Jones, and Staging Director Tani Kunitake.
• “Aki’s Dream Reconstruction” Mini-Movie
• “On the Set With Aki” Outtake
• “Compositing Builds” Featurette
• Original Opening
• Joke Outtakes
• Matte Art Explorations
• “The Gray Project” Featurette
• “The Making of Final Fantasy” Interactive Documentary
• Character Profiles
• Vehicle Scale Comparisons
• Trailer Explorations Featurette
• Trailers & Previews
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within [4K UHD] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 14, 2021)

The long-running Final Fantasy role-playing game series started on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990 but gained greatest success as a Playstation release later in the progression. Decades later, the franchise continues to churn out new games.

In 2001, the property attempted a leap to the movie screens. This didn’t go well.

With a then-enormous budget of $137 million, the computer-animated extravaganza that is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within failed to make any impact at US theaters. It limped off of screens after a paltry $32 million take, a figure that put it in 74th place for the year.

Spirits fared a little better overseas, so it wound up with a total worldwide gross of $85 million. However, with that aforementioned budget, it clearly lost a ton of money.

Did Spirits deserve such a terrible fate? Yes and no.

The movie is actually a decent piece of work at times, as it occasionally creates a reasonably entertaining experience. However, the overall result seems somewhat bland and unmemorable, and its animation fails to age well.

Spirits follows Dr. Aki Ross (voiced by Ming-Na) as she tries to find a way to eliminate the “phantom” infestation of Earth. These creatures landed there years earlier and have killed millions.

Working from “the Gaia Theory”, Aki tries to find the eight spirits that will unify things and cure the world of the phantoms. This is dangerous work, and the Deep Eyes - a military task force - helps her with this. Included in the four-man team is her ex-boyfriend Gray (Alec Baldwin), and she also works with Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland), an aged colleague who elaborates the Gaia Theory.

As if the phantoms weren’t enough of a challenge, Aki and the others have to function in opposition with General Hein (James Woods). The military man lost his family to the phantoms and wants to annihilate them with the Zeus weapon, a doomsday device that may harm the Earth even more. Because of this, Aki and company race against the clock to find the final spirits before Hein wins his argument.

Though the story doesn’t make it sound that way, Spirits largely exists as a duplicate of 1986’s Aliens. Indeed, the film takes so many cues from that classic that it often feels like a remake.

Granted, it they were going to steal, at least they did it from the best, but the ways Spirits echoed Aliens made it seem much less effective. The former includes lines that strongly rehash those from Aliens, some of the action scenes look like carbon copies, and the female Deep Eye named Jane (Peri Gilpin) totally duplicates Vasquez.

Essentially, Spirits takes the action tone of Aliens and melds it with an Eastern eco-sensibility. The whole Gaia aspect of the flick seems consistent with other Earth-oriented films like Princess Mononoke.

This adds a little depth to the piece, but it feels somewhat forced. We’ve seen this kind of battle between the pro-ecology side and the violent, destructive baddies in the past, and Hein doesn’t do much to broaden the stereotype. Cripes, his outfit even came straight out of Nazi Germany!

Spirits suffers from some muddled storytelling. The plot makes sense but a number of aspects seem vague and undeveloped.

As I checked out the disc’s audio commentaries, it was clear that even some of the film’s creators didn’t understand a lot of the tale. This doesn’t harm the movie tremendously, but it leaves it with a weaker focus.

On the positive side, the action sequences seem quite well executed and exciting. Sure, they’re rehashed Cameronisms, but they still appear fun and compelling.

These parts of the film create the most entertaining moments and are its highlights. I also like the bittersweet tone that appears at times, as it gives the piece a surprisingly somber tone on occasion.

As for the animation, Spirits offered the first feature-length attempt to use photo-realistic humans. It doesn’t succeed, at least not consistently.

In longer shots, the effect can seem convincing. When we get closer the impression collapses.

Faces cause the most problems, as they almost never seem natural and believable. Mouth movements don’t match up tremendously well, and the whole thing has a rather artificial look to it.

It’s this aspect of the production that causes some problems. If you attempt photo-realistic people, the illusion has to be virtually flawless or it becomes a distraction.

With characters who aren’t supposed to appear perfect, we can forgive all sorts of concerns, for we accept them as part of animation. However, when you shoot for perfection, anything less detracts from the experience. In Spirits, this sense of “Uncanny Valley” makes it tougher to dive into the tale.

Actually, the animation seems unnecessarily showy at times, especially in regard to Aki’s hair. The animators try so hard to add life to the visuals that they go too far.

Aki’s tresses fly about with ridiculous abandon and they have a life of their own. Sure, some movement is important, but the animators take this to an artificial height.

As awkward as the animation looked in 2001, it seems even less convincing in 2021. You can find video games with more believable human characters nowadays, so the CG of Spirits feels clunky and dated now.

Again, film has some good moments, and it must be respected as a groundbreaking piece of technical wizardry. While the animation may look iffy in 2021, it did push the envelope in 2001.

However, the story falls flat much of the time, and the characters fail to capture my interest. Spirits brings a moderately entertaining program but nothing more.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Expect a fine presentation here.

Sharpness always looked solid. Virtually no softness materialized during this tight, well-defined image.

The movie lacked jagged edges or moiré effects, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to materialize as well.

Colors tended to lean toward blues and ambers, with occasional instances of brighter tones. These looked well-rendered, and the 4K’s HDR added impact and dimensionality to the hues.

Blacks felt dark and rich, while shadows demonstrated appropriate clarity. I thought the film cpuld seem a bit dim much of the time, but that appeared to represent the source, as the movie opted for a lot of low-light shots.

HDR gave contrast and whites extra impact. Though the movie’s animation hasn’t aged well, the picture itself represented the source nicely.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack held up well, as the soundfield offered an involving and active experience. The forward soundstage provided a great deal of activity from the sides, most of which blended together well.

Elements moved cleanly from channel to channel, and the localization seemed good. Music displayed fine stereo separation in the front, and the rears reinforced the score neatly.

Speaking of which, the surrounds added a strong level of activity to the mix. The movie featured a lot of fine action sequences that creates a lively and vibrant atmosphere much of the time. All the speakers contributed accurate and useful information that made the track work well.

My only complaint stemmed from a certain sense of sterility to the package. At times the soundtrack seemed a little too neat and clean, and it didn’t feel like a truly natural piece on occasion. This was a minor concern, but it kept the mix from achieving greatness.

Audio quality appeared excellent. Dialogue sounded natural and crisp, with no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility.

Music seemed really strong, as the score was bright and dynamic. The music appeared clear and vivid, and it showed nice low-end response as well.

Effects also demonstrated excellent fidelity, with clean, accurate tones that displayed terrific depth. The bass came across as tight and powerful without any boominess. Ultimately, Spirits featured a fine auditory experience that seemed consistently satisfying.

How does the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray from 2007? The Atmos track added a bit more movement and involvement, but the existing 5.1 mix already worked very well.

On the other hand, the 4K offered radically improved visuals. The Blu-ray tended to seem soft and dull, whereas the 4K made every aspect of the image stronger. This turned into a tremendous upgrade.

No extras appear on the 4K disc itself, but we locate a bunch of materials on the included Blu-ray copy. There we find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which features co-director Moto Sakakibara, sequence supervisor Hiroyuki Hayashida, sets and props lead artist Tatsuro Maruyama, and phantom supervisor Takoo Noguchi.

All four men sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They speak Japanese, but subtitles - available in English and French - translate their remarks.

Overall, I thought this was a decent commentary. At times their statements tended toward the obvious, with remarks like “Aki is in danger here” and “the sky is orange”, and they provided a fair amount of self-congratulatory material as well.

However, they also offered a reasonable amount of information about the production as they covered challenges encountered during the production as well as changes made through the many drafts and even a little criticism of some aspects of the flick. As a whole, it was a moderately interesting but unspectacular track.

The second commentary provides English speakers as we hear from editor Chris S. Capp, animation director Andy Jones, and staging director Tani Kunitake. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific track.

This piece seems fairly dry and flat, as the technical elements dominate it. Some discussion of production concerns and alterations made along the way occur, but for the most part, the participants talk about nuts and bolts animation areas.

They also offer a lot of praise for the work, as we often hear how this was “amazing” and that was “fantastic”. This commentary isn’t a bad listen, especially via Capp’s piece, as he includes some of the best information about the storytelling process. However, I think it’ll be most interesting for serious fans of the film.

The Making of Final Fantasy delivers an “interactive documentary” about the film. This program runs 30 minutes, 49 seconds and combines lots of interviews with shots of production materials and a few movie clips.

I didn’t care for the style used, as the show features lots of jittery camera work and quick cuts that seem odd for this kind of program. Also, a lot of the participants don’t get identified, which makes the show less coherent.

Despite those issues, the documentary generally appears reasonably interesting. Not surprisingly, it mainly focuses on technical aspects of the production, as it goes over the techniques used and demonstrated the work.

I think that’s why the program uses the jumpy MTV-style look: the material tends to be so dry that someone must have felt they needed to spice up the footage. Overall, the show offers a good overview of the production and the computer animation requirements. It doesn’t go into great depth, but it still comes across as a fairly effective discussion of the subject.

In addition, some extra material can be observed while you watch the documentary. 17 times during the show, an icon indicates you can press “enter” on your remote and access different video pieces.

The bonus clips cover a lot of different subjects. Essentially these amount to a second documentary, especially since it lasts longer than the main program itself, though the discussions generally elaborate on topics seen in the central show. These add some nice details about the production and merit a look.

Seven of the 17 snippets also provide optional filmmaker commentary. These bits flesh out the material to a moderate degree. I don’t think any of them are terribly fascinating, but they give us some useful bits at times.

Note that the documentary’s chapters send you straight to each added bit. This feature seems especially useful because I didn’t like watching them during the documentary itself.

They became a distraction, as when I left the show for a few minutes, it broke up the flow of that program and made it harder to take in the intent. As such, it works better to watch the extras one after another and not deal with them during the main show itself.

Vehicle Scale Comparisons look at three different items: the Bandit, the Black Boa, and the Quatro. Each gets its own short video program that tells us about them and gives us details as we watch drawings, test footage, and other material.

The clips run between 60 seconds and 78 seconds for a total of three minutes, 27 seconds worth of footage. These add a little depth to the package but not a lot.

Character Profiles provide additional details about the movie’s main participants. We hear about Aki, Gray, Hein, Dr. Sid, Neil, Jane and Ryan.

Each of the video pieces lasts between one minute, 27 seconds and three minutes, three seconds for a total of 16 minutes, three seconds of material. These offer brief biographies of the characters as well as a few notes about the performers and animators involved. The snippets are generally pretty good, and they help flesh out the roles nicely.

In the Trailer Explorations area, a four-minute, 50-second piece basically just rehashes the teaser and the theatrical trailers seen elsewhere on this disc along with a few seconds of remarks from filmmaker Jun Aida.

He adds roughly 35 seconds worth of statements, but otherwise, it’s all film clips. I thought we’d learn some insight into the trailer creation process, but that doesn’t occur.

The Gray Project provides a five-minute, 37-second “proof of concept” piece. Essentially it shows rough character animation intended to demonstrate the possibilities of the computer form.

It’s a fun look at the early stages of project development, but it suffers from a lack of narration. Some comments from filmmakers would make it more useful.

The same problem plagues Compositing Builds. This seven-minute, 46-second program offers a visual demonstration of the layers required for the compositing, and it seems fairly interesting to see the scenes grow. However, narration would make the piece more comprehendible and productive.

Matte Art Explorations takes a six-minute, 13-second look at some CGI art created for the film. We hear from an unnamed matte artist as he discusses his work and we watch examples of it. This becomes an informative little feature, even though the anonymous artist did sound eerily like Peter Lorre.

Aki’s Dream offers a “mini-movie”. The nine-minute, two-second program provides a compilation of all Aki’s dreams from the movie. It’s a decent concept but nothing special.

Joke Outtakes provide a little rough animation that shows falsified goof-ups from the set. We get one minute, 51 seconds of this material, most of which becomes violent in nature. The snippets seem moderately amusing at most.

In the same vein, In the Set with Aki goes for 55 seconds and views the animated character as an actual actor. It doesn’t feel memorable.

The Original Opening shows exactly what it indicates: an unused beginning to the film. The four-minute, 54-second piece would have started the movie in a more low-key manner.

We see almost finished animation but not quite, as it still displays some rough edges. Of particular interest is the alternate Aki, for she looks noticeably different here.

The disc ends with the teaser and theatrical trailers for Spirits as well as Previews for Ultraviolet and Ghost Rider.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within seems moderately entertaining, and it provides a technical milestone for its era. Unfortunately, it features a story that becomes little more than a generic rehash of other plots, and the animation holds up poorly after two decades. The 4K UHD brings excellent picture and audio along with a long roster of supplements. Fans will feel happy with this release, as it brings easily the best representation of the movie.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main