A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN is the first computer-animated movie to "star" actors (real actors acted out all the movements for the animators). This movie gives us human characters with pores in their skin and beard stubble; they're so real that at moments you can forget that they're made up of pixels and not DNA. The story takes place in 2065, and Earth is controlled by monstrous alien spirits. When one of the aliens infects Dr. Aki (voice of Ming-Na), she sets out with a team to uncover the monster spirits' makeup and mission on Earth in hopes of finding a way to eliminate them. Aki's research is hampered by militaristic General Hein (James Woods), who wants to eradicate them even if it means destroying the entire planet.
Is it any good?
The movie's effects work best when the "actors" are moving, because their movements are based on that oldest of animation techniques, rotoscoping. They do less well when it comes to talking and, well, acting. In more standard animation, the conventions allow for a level of exaggeration and omission that allows us to project human-like reactions onto a character. But when we see something with so little difference from humans, it just makes clearer how important that difference is. Movie fans might also find it distracting to hear such instantly recognizable voices (James Woods, Ving Rhames, Peri Gilpin, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Donald Sutherland) coming from faces so incongruously different from our associations.
Still, the technology is stunning. The monsters are extraordinary creations, somewhere between dinosaurs, dragons, jellyfish, and squid. A scene with a soaring eagle is breathtaking, genuinely touching. The post apocalyptic-settings are complex and believable. The dialogue is passable, delivered with panache by first-rate talent (Buscemi, as always, is a highlight). The problem is the script, which reads like a Pokemon reject, confusing gibberish about the earth's spirit that does not do justice to the beliefs of environmentalists or pantheists.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the vision of the future it portrays could possibly become reality, and about how the discoveries of important scientists have been considered heretical. They may want to talk about the motivation of the General. Was he just acting out of rage at the loss of his family?
- In theaters: July 11, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2001
- Cast: Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Ming-Na Wen, Steve Buscemi
- Director: Hironobu Sakaguchi
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action violence
- Last updated: November 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love sci-fi and animation
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch