This movie isn't a paramount to the 7th art but it certainly broke some new ground. I expected a lot in the animation department and I was pleased with what I saw. Being based on a video game prepped me for a rather unconventional and perhaps lame plot.
Firstly, the animation: the use of realistic CG characters by this movie is good, most of the movement of the animated people was very good except for a bit of problems with speaking and expressions, you can also tell that the animators learned how to make the characters walk as they made the movie, the walk during the first 20 minutes (especially at the beginning) is noticeably stiff. It gets better as the movie wears on though. The detail level of vehicles and scenery is superb, you can even see dust falling as the light streams in a window, this gives you an idea of how detailed it can be.
Second: story line, not too original, while not the best sci fi out there by a long shot, it still has a decent if somewhat complex story line which is hard to follow at times. It borrows heavily from typical anime plots (with the biblical and mythological references, the mystic stuff and so on) however what else can you expect. The ending is typical of anime so it seems that the animators and writers themselves still regarded this as animation and weren't trying to make it a true movie. It also borrows from well tried elements like the military commander bent of the use of force over logic, but as an animation it sure eats up disney's childish plots.
Summing up, this movie is worth watching for the animation, a second watching will also probably clear up some things in the plot, it gives a good idea as to what to expect from future animation and sets a new standard. I came out of the theater with a sensation of money well spent and I'll probably watch it again, not my favorite of all time but certainly decent. In a post-apocalyptic future, our planet has been invaded by phantom aliens. Few humans remain, but a handful of them actually believe that they can survive the invasion and reclaim the planet as their own.
Despite some pretty stunning human-looking computer generated characters, imagery and action sequences, this film's bleak and murky vision, and somewhat incomprehensible spiritual mumbo-jumbo storyline, just didn't do it for me. And before any of you "gamers" knock my ass upside down, please note that I have never played or seen the "game" version of FINAL FANTASY, so I'm basing my review entirely upon what I saw on the big screen and nothing else. Anyway, back to what I was saying...basically, the biggest problem that I had with this movie wasn't the fact that it was produced entirely by computers (human characters et al), but that I just didn't care all that much about any of the people in the film, and even more importantly, that I didn't really care about any of the gibberish that they kept babbling about ("we must find the 7th spirit in order to..."). Although that might just be a personal thing with me. I know that a lot of people enjoy these types of themes in movies, but to me, they get a little annoying, especially when they're made even more complicated than they need to be. For example, I'm not entirely sure that I understood what went down at the end of this film, and that's never cool. But enough about my non-appreciation for the story line, let's talk about what everyone should be talking about with this film and those are its visuals!
I have to admit that most of this movie's computer-generated images looked great on the big screen and were perfect for the world created within the script. Unfortunately, the characters couldn't help but look computer-animated from time to time, and that usually took me "out of it" for a while. I also had some problems with the recognizable voices on some of the characters, like Alec Baldwin's voice on a young man (who looked like Ben Affleck!), Steve Buscemi's on a good-looking funnyman and James Woods. I really think that I would have gotten more into these characters, had they used non-movie star voices (as the lead character Aki, who was also the most developed character). On the whole, the dialogue wasn't bad and the speech-to-mouth synching either (I'd heard horror stories on both), but I have to admit that despite my general appreciation for "darker" movies, I was really quite depressed by the end of this flick. I mean, why doesn't anybody smile in this movie? There were a few jokes here and there (thank God!), but on the whole, the entire vision, storyline and demeanor of the characters was just very, very gloomy.
So I guess that I'm about half-and-half on this movie. I dug most of its amazing visuals, appreciated the action scenes and some of the real-life qualities of the characters (the old man with the beard looked life-life in almost every scene...very impressive), but didn't get into the story about the spirits invading earth, felt pulled out of the picture from time to time, whenever I noticed the "computerness" of it all, and definitely didn't buy into any of its "emotional" scenes (real-life actors needn't worry about computers replacing them just yet, these actors didn't deliver the goods in any of their "money" scenes). But on the whole, I do still admire the ambitiousness of this project, respect its vision and certainly look forward to more ground-breaking stuff like this in the future. But as a movie...well, it just didn't entertain me all that much. Wait for the DVD.