• Movie Review

    Your Honour, fellow gamers, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, allow me to reopen a case of a grave injustice. Allow me to present an argument for a title that received a entirely unfair trial in its time, and was sentenced to be a curse among our community. My client is often misunderstood, misrepresented, and misjudged. It is my hope that today, I may represent my most noble client, with the eloquence and fairness it deserves, in hopes of raising its status among our esteemed community. My client is the movie that you all know as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

    I think we are all familiar with the case; my client came out in the summer of 2001, backed by a heft budget from former square game/movie producer, Hironobu Sakaguchi. The movie in question, in being created nearly bankrupted its sponsors, and came with many hopes attached to it. All of which were let down when my client hit theatres. It was soon after labelled a box office failure, on par with such stinkers as waterworld, and Batman and Robin. And is to this day labeled a blight upon the Final Fantasy series. So much so that soon after, Hironobu Sakaguchi was quietly dismissed from the company he helped to build and create. The movie in question, was accused of having nothing to do with the popular franchise, of not possessing any characters from former titles, and for being a black hole in terms of story telling and character depth. This is how history remembers my client. And today, I hope to rewrite history, with the facts. With the truth.

    First of all, I shall start with the more materialistic, shallow aspects of the charges filed against my client: comments that Sakaguchi should have focused on characters from past games, such as FFVI - FFVIII. While it is not my place here and now to comment on the quality of past titles, or the characters that were portrayed in them, I feel it is my place as a representative of the people, to mention that a film should be judged upon its own merits, or lack of them, and not what could have been should it followed through on the continuity set up in past titles.

    Among the various charges filed against my client, what is likely the most serious charge, was that the characters were all immensely shallow, in this I couldn't disagree more. Due to the scope of the story, and the time constraints involved in making a movie, I believe it is more realistic to say that Hironobu Sakaguchi may have been better off writing a more simple, and streamlined script, to allow for more onscreen development of the characters. But there was a great deal of depth in the story. Aki Ross especially, as we learn she was the one time lover of Captain Gray Edwards, until she became infected with phantom particles. She received treatment at a space station in zero gravity at the hands of Dr Sid, and soon after, to save her own life, she began to search for the 8 spirits needed to construct the spirit wave. It was likely in doing so that she felt a sense of empathy towards the earth, especially in her encounter with a dying young girl who had already given up, where she was bravely fighting. Much of the character development is done in subtle, less obvious ways, and involves a larger then usual amount of thought and attention to the subject matter to absorb and understand, yet not a unfair amount. Also, in my argument against the charge of dirth of character development, allow me to point out that every one of the main characters eventually does come full circle. The Deep Eyes obviously being an elite unit dedicated to fighting the phantoms, no matter the cost, Aki's dedication to saving her life, and the planet, and Grey's wrestling with his love for Aki, yet his lack of faith in her cause. Along with General Heins Vendetta, paving to road to his personal hell, one good intention at a time. It is unfortunate that due to the scope of the film, more time couldn't be dedicated to the development of character, but it is the opinion of this attorney, that enough was present to make the charge in question baseless, and unfounded. Also, in paying attention the names, we learn that Captain Grey Edwards, and Sergent Ryan Edwards, may well have been brothers. This is typical of Sakaguchi: hiding simple, yet dramatic family relations within the script and to make only a brief or hidden mention.

    Other charges that were filed, were the prosecution stating that my client had a immensely shallow, and unsatisfying story when compared with the past games and their stories. This in essence is true, but bear in mind that many of the preceding games, were in fact video games, not movies. Thus with the story paced, in these video games, to allow time for storytelling and gameplay to display themselves, the past titles could tell their story in a average time frame of 25-60 hours. My client, is simply a single movie, and could in no way possibly match the scope of its forebears. Writing a story for a game, and writing a story for a movie are two entirely different matters. Furthermore, with the time limitations that were naturally put on this film, Hironobu Sakaguchi masterfully used every scene, every image, every line of dialogue to propel, direct, and flesh out events, background info, characters, and the overall meanings of the film. Seemingly throwaway scenes, such as Aki's recounting of a young girl's fatalistic attitude when confronted with her own mortality, and General Heins attempt at suicide near the finale, greatly showed a great deal of insight into the films characters, in just brief moments. Simple one liners, such as Sergeant Edwards comment of his father's corpse likely being somewhere amongst what was a failed attack mission, showed how much he himself had lost, and how long he and those before him were fighting, and losing, the war in question. It is the opinion of the defence, that such streamlined, writing and direction are rare and to be applauded.

    And the final noted charge that I wish to discuss, being the lack of Final Fantasy references, is also unfounded and misfiled. Sakaguchi himself commented on saying that all the story concepts that are found in all Final Fantasy titles, Good Vs Evil, spirituality, family, death, meaning of life, were to be found in the film itself. This in itself is true, and it is the opinion of this attorney, that accusing this fine film with the charge of not having any connection to the franchise as a whole is an extension on the argument of making a film based on past games, which I have already touched upon in my opening argument.

    In closing, I would like to thank all of you for hearing me out, and allowing me to reopen this case. My client to this day is still unjustly the victim of much slander and innuendo. Even though my client is indeed a fine piece of film-making and story telling, for all these factors it is considered today to be a black eye for the franchise, a title not worth seeing or mentioning. It is unfortunate that my client did fail to make a profit for those who backed it, but it did not fail for lack of quality in content. Allow my closing argument to be thus; that in keeping the themes, and only the themes of Final Fantasy in this film, Hironobu Sakaguchi overestimated the intelligence of his fanbase. Note how Final Fantasy attained its popularity with the release of Final Fantasy VII, a game that was built upon the backbone of cinematic elements, rather then storytelling like its predecessors. The majority of FF fans at the time, were indeed drawn to the cinematic flash, rather then the storytelling depth and unfortunately, it was this majority that files most of the above charges. It is a sad thing to say that the majority of the gaming public would not be interested in "storytelling concepts" but rather then direct reference and recycling of familiar material, as is evidenced in the media attention of my clients successor, Advent Children.

    While the defense does not wish to comment on the gaming of cinematic tastes of the masses, accusing my noble client of poor storytelling due to above charges is a gross exaggeration, and it is my hope, that today, I have perhaps allowed for this film, this part of gaming history, to be remembered with the fondness that it is worthy of.

    Ookami's Rating: 9/10

    Thank you, The defence rests.

    -Ishin Ookami