• DVD Review

    I'd seen the movie a while ago and was generally disappointed. I'll be blunt about that. Since then, I've always kept it in the back of my head that you shouldn't set high expectations when watching movies, especially when it deals with something that has never been done before in cinematic history. Having said that, I won't be reviewing the movie itself in this review. Instead, I'll be reviewing the DVD which I ordered recently from Amazon. While recoding the pages on this section I decided that it would be good if I actually knew more about this film than what little I remembered alongside whatever I was reading on the web. I'd heard good things about this DVD already in the papers, the same papers that had stated that the movie was sub-par (to which I agreed with when I saw first saw it). Now it was time to see if the critics were right.

    Now, let's start off with what you're getting for your money: A lot, for a DVD. Most DVDs these days come with a bunch of trailers and documentaries, a few commentaries and interviews and finally a bunch of either funny bloopers or boring cut scenes that generally don't add anything to your opinion of a movie. There are always exceptions, with some movies getting some really awesome features shoved onto their DVD releases, and The Spirits Within is by far the best value for money I've received for a DVD to date (over 60% off retail price on Amazon.co.uk, gotta love online purchasing).

    With that said, I decided not to watch the movie but instead to go through these many features. I put in the 'bonus DVD', aka 'Special Features Disc 2', and the fun began. The first thing I did was watch the documentary. The main documentary is an interactive one: Every now and then you'll see a small clip run at the bottom left of your screen and if you press the 'Enter' button on your remote then the main documentary will put itself on hold while you can learn a bit more about whatever it is they were talking about in what the DVD describes as 'information pods'. These include a variety of things, including character morphs, more documentary, 'face wraps' and long sequences of clips and drawings. The first time I watched the documentary I didn't bother with these pods, choosing to watch the documentary itself without interruption. It was interesting enough, and worth the watch. It explained how the movie was made and flowed nicely, not dragging on and keeping me interested enough to not move away for a drink until it was over.

    Then I decided to check out the pods. The first thing I noticed is that if you want to watch these pods, you have to go into the documentary to do so. There's no menu that you can quickly scroll down in order to check them out, so I had to skip around the chapters of the documentary looking for the pods so I could watch each one. I would say I enjoyed only around half of the 17 pods, maybe more, but definitely not all. Too often the pods would resort to drawing after drawing. I mean, it's great that they did so many and I'm sure each drawing deserved its spot on the DVD as much as the next one, but it got tedious. I would say that sitting through the images wondering while some boring stuff played in the background, reminiscent of the music you get when you turn on your PS2 without a DVD. Whenever the people stopped talking, I got bored after about 20 drawings/stills. I assure you, they went on a lot longer.

    I really enjoyed the workshops. The problem with a lot of workshops and so forth on various DVDs I'd looked into before is that they would never really tell you anything you couldn't figure out from the movie itself. FF:TSW's workshops give you background information on each character as well as vehicles used in the movie. An alternative opening sequence was shown, and if you watch the full 'Gray Project' then you can see Meg, a character who was cut from the story despite voice overs being completed for her and (as you will see in the Gray Project) scenes being semi-completed. From what I've read around the web, Meg was apparently the girl that Aki talks to Gray about when they are stuck in a lift.

    After being bored by the Final Fantasy Shuffler, I moved on to the out-takes.The 'bloopers' made me laugh. Watching Gray shoot through the hangar window and then attempt to jump through it to no avail was wonderful, as were the other scenes shown. Then I decided to check out the 'Easter Egg' of the DVD. For those who aren't aware, if you go into the workshops menu, head to the second page and then go down to the buttons at the bottom of the menu. Hit the 'right' button and you should head to a small square on the bottom right of the screen. Press Enter to be treated to Aki leading the main characters in a remake of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' dance sequence. I have to say that I didn't laugh so much during the video as I did during the credits for it. The various forms of spooky laughter they had going for them had me grinning for some time after it was over.

    I won't bore you with my thoughts on the rest of the stuff as I would say this covers enough of the more prominent features. I will say that every feature was worth looking into. Having gone through the majority of them, I decided that I may as well re-watch the movie. It had been a long time since I last saw it in 2001, although having gone through hours of special features made me feel like I'd already watched most of the scenes about twenty times.

    I enjoyed the movie this time around. Not spending my time looking for some kind of perfect realism, I instead concentrated on the movie itself. The fact didn't change that I found the ending disappointing, something I find typical of most Final Fantasy video games. But I enjoyed it altogether, and most of all, I had a huge amount more respect for every scene. Knowing how much time and effort had gone into every scene really made me appreciate what I was viewing. Knowing that something was hand-painted or how many different people were required to work on a scene, watching the finger knowing that each movement was manually tended to... all sorts of things, really. With the new-found understanding of what went into the film, I could watch it not looking for faults but rather being impressed with the achievements. This DVD is not just entertaining, not just interesting, but also a compliment to itself in that it educates people without making any excuses. It's still embarrassing to watch someone say that 'they think this is going to be really big' knowing that the film failed to break even.

    While I give the movie a mere 6-7/10, I would give this DVD a 10/10.

    -Loony BoB