Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

final fantasy the spirits within poster 2001 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Revolutionary when it was released

Poor story and visuals have already dated some

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Final Fantasy:  The Spirits Within

Studio:  Square Pictures

Genre(s):  Animated/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  July 2, 2001

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


Hey, I can walk on water!!!

In 2065, The Earth has been overtaken by creatures known as Phantoms that arrived on an asteroid which crashed to Earth. As scientists try to find a way to stop the Phantoms, the best hope appears to be the Zeus Cannon which could neutralize the threat. Aki Ross and Dr. Sid believe that the Zeus Cannon could destroy the Earth’s spirit Gaea itself, and are on a desperate attempt to find a number of spirits to stop the Phantoms. While General Hein pushes to use the Zeus Cannon, Aki, Dr. Sid, and a team of soldiers led by Gray Edwards try to collect the spirits to save the world…and Aki Ross who is infected herself.


Gray…I just want to say I really like you in 30 Rock!

Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Moto Sakakibara, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the first photorealistic computer animated films and was inspired by the Final Fantasy video games of Sakaguchi. The film was met with mixed reviews and bombed at the box office. It features the voices of Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, James Woods, Donald Sutherland, Ving Rhames, and Steve Buscemi.

I really wanted to like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I am a big fan of Sakaguchi’s games and looked forward to the weird combination of cyberpunk and fantasy that I hoped it would bring. Instead, I found an average story and above average (for the time) animation that really didn’t have anything to do with the games.


Not the best time to hug…

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is really a Final Fantasy movie in namesake. I know it really isn’t fair to say that since Final Fantasy games (with a few exceptions) have no continuing characters. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within does have a few similar themes to the games. There is military combined with magic and spirits of the creatures and things like the Earth, but I really hoped to see a characters fighting a huge creatures while riding a Chocobo wielding oversized swords.

The animation of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was exceptional…for the time. Like many computer animated photorealistic images, there are some issue with mouth problems and the general lifelessness of the characters. Fortunately the movie attempted to give the characters life by getting really actors, but I found it kind of distracting having people like Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, and James Woods voicing characters because they didn’t look like their characters and their voices are distinctive.


The movie might sometimes be a snooze, but this is a “Thriller”

Aki Ross however does work as a main character. By choosing to voice her, the viewer had no preconceived notion of what the character should look like and in that sense Aki Ross became her own character. Like Lara Croft, the media surrounding Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within treated her like a real person, but it is funny now since games like Mass Effect and L.A. Noir and films like Beowulf have visual effects almost as good as this film or in Beowulf’s case…better.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a tricky movie. On one hand I admire what it tried and find it revolutionary. On the other hand, it isn’t a very good movie. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within I think over time might find a cult following or due to advances in computer animation could fall into obscurity. It is kind of sad but one of the best features of this film is a short video on the bonus material which has the characters recreating Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. A second Final Fantasy themed movie (based on one of the actual games) Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was released in 2005.

Related Links:

Final Fantasy VII:  Advent Children (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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