I was 15 years old when FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN came out. I wasn’t big into the video games it was based on, but my friends were obsessed. I did read all the gamer magazines and followed all the build-up that led up to the movie’s release. There was a lot of emphasis on creating the world’s first photorealistic computer-animated actress and how viewers would not be able to tell that she wasn’t in fact a real person. The technical aspirations were an achievement not to frown upon, especially back in 2001, but the film itself wasn’t enough to reach a broad audience. With a budget of over 100 million dollars, it grossed less than that and the reviews weren’t the most favorable. It’s not that THE SPIRITS WITHIN is a bad movie by any means, but video game adaptations were not common as they are now.
The plot can be a bit much to try to break down, but I can try. FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN is set in 2065 where a plague has infected Earth with alien ghosts that act as parasites. These ghosts steal human souls and destroy the body. Dr. Aki Ross (Ming-Na Wen) believes that these ghosts can be contained by gathering eight individual spirits with different energy patterns. This is science fiction so of course, the military plays a part with alternate means in mind that could result in catastrophic results.
As mentioned before, THE SPIRITS WITHIN is not a universal story, but there’s no denying how gorgeous it looks. Sony brings it back on home video with a new 2160p/HDR UHD presentation and it’s worth the wait. The film was pretty in 2001, but 2021 4K setups get to really engage with the visuals. Hundreds of artists worked on the film, specifically on bringing Aki to life over the span of four years and the hard work was worth it. Details like hair particles are clear as well as many of the vibrant schemes. For lack of better words, the colors feel rich and the CG animation brings on a desire for films produced like this. The Dolby Atmos track is also a new addition and rear speakers are nicely utilized here. The dialogue feels natural, primarily focused on the front channels, but blend in perfectly with the action sequences.
The 4K disc doesn’t carry any of the special features, but is released as a combo pack with the Blu-ray that carries over the features from the older HD release. Slipcover enthusiasts will appreciate that the initial run comes with alternate iconic key art. The press release that accompanied my screener emphasized this artwork was a limited run so collectors should grab a copy sooner than later.
FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN was produced with a lot of passion and ambition and there is an audience that holds the movie dear. Regardless of the financial outcome, it holds a place in film history when it comes to what CG animation can accomplish. Sony’s 4K release emphasizes the film’s visual beauty and collectible slipcover makes this a must purchase for physical media collectors.
You can now acquire the 4K UHD Blu-ray release of FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN here!