Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a computer animated science fiction film directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the kitten-stranglingly popularFinal Fantasy series of role-playing games.In the year 2065, an alien infestation has overrun Earth; the remaining humans live in "barrier cities" all over the world while trying to free their planet from the spectral alien beings ("Phantoms") that devastate everything in their path. Dr. Aki Ross, alongside her old mentor Dr. Sid, hopes to unlock the secret behind these Phantoms and find a way to destroy them without harming Earth — but General Hein has plans to annihilate the Phantoms using a huge space cannon, regardless of the damage it can do to the planet.Although it bears the Final Fantasy title, this movie has close-to-zero connection to the video game franchise of the same name. While The Spirits Within holds a place in film history as the first feature film to attempt photorealistic CGI characters (with less-than-desired results), it also holds a place in history as a huge Box Office Bomb (it earned $30 million in the U.S. with a production budget of around $140 million). The Spirits Within almost single-handedly ended Square Pictures' existence as an independent entity, nearly killed Squaresoft's merger negotiations with Enix, and — in an ironic twist — eventually became the most critically-acclaimed movie based on a video game on Rotten Tomatoes — which isn't saying much, but still.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within contains examples of the following tropes:
After the End: At some point, the Leonid meteor crashed into Earth and dispensed its payload of Phantoms. Mankind has been reduced to a handful of cities around the world, and virtually no life exists outside these safe havens.
Alien Invasion: Subverted, as what the human authorities assume was a deliberate invasion is really just an accidental collision between a huge haunted chunk of the Phantoms' home planet and the Earth.
Animated Actors: Hironobu had intended for Aki to appear as a digital actress in a number of feature pictures. However, the failure of her debut film cut her career tragically short, though she did have a photo spread in Maxim magazine.
Apocalypse How: Earth has already suffered a Class 4 before the movie even starts, and the Leonid meteor is revealed to be the result of a Class X.
Armor Is Useless: The soldiers wear heavy armor when the Phantoms can pass through solid matter at will.
Author Existence Failure: Some people might at least consider the film's use of incredibly realistic CGI to be the cornerstone for an Award Snub for Best Visual Effects. However, it couldn't have won any awards; Square Pictures was disbanded before the Oscars that year.
Big Applesauce: Most of the action takes place in and around New York City.
Big Damn Heroes: The first scene of the film: Aki has gotten herself surrounded by Phantoms, who look like they're about to move in for the kill, when we hear a transport flying overhead. Four objects are launched, firing some kind of gelatinous mass at the ground, softening the impact as they land. When the gel dissolves, we see it's the Deep Eyes, who take aim and fire immediately.
Decontamination Chamber: The domed cities have decon protocols to keep out the phantoms that haunt the outside world. Though, for some reason people with enough clout get to skip them if they feel like it.
Doing in the Wizard : While the film does not, as some fans have complained, completely strip its setting of the magic that is one of the franchise's signature elements, it does recast it into a form of science that only just dabbles a bit into the area of Magitek.
Driven to Suicide: Hein, realizing that he was responsible for the Phantoms massacre of the New York Barrier City, drifts into space within his ship and unloads all but one of the bullets from his gun, with the intention of shooting himself. He changes his mind when his ship beeps at him for a destination, deciding to go out in a blaze of glory using the Zeus cannon.
Jane, after Neil is killed getting the Black Boa prepped, lowers her weapon and simply waits to be killed.
Dynamic Entry: Gotta give it to the Deep Eyes - they know how to make an entrance.
Endless Conflict: The Phantoms were from an alien race that fought each other constantly. Eventually, they used a Doomsday Device that destroyed them all, locking them in a violent post-mortal energy state.
Exact Time to Failure - It can apparently be determined down to the second how long an infected person has before it is too late to save them from the Phantom.
The countdown was until the Magitek barrier containing the infection failed.
Fanservice: Several images have been released in this manner. One has Aki wearing a tight black leather outfit, which exposes her navel, has a very seductive look on her face with her hair in the middle of a "wave" motion (and oddly, her nipples evident from beneath the leather). Another has Aki posing in a bikini. And one has Gray posing completely shirtless.
Go Through Me: When Aki's Phantom infection becomes more unstable, and Gray elects that they need to get her to a hospital rather than being put into military custody, as per his orders, Hein's men attempt to relieve him of his command and force Aki's arrest. Gray, held at gunpoint, tells them that they'll have to shoot him first.
Gotta Catch 'Em All: The Eight Spirits needed to create the anti-Phantom wave. (Although, to the writers' credit, several of these spirits have already been collected as the film opens - specifically five have already been collected and the sixth one is collected in the opening scene. This is a double Shout-Out to Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy IV, which open in a similar way.)
Gut Punch: The death of Neil. The destruction of the New York Barrier City also counts, but Neil's death is where you realize, suddenly, abruptly, without warning that Anyone Can Die...and die they very much do.
Heroic BSOD: Gray has one during the ride to the Phantom crater after being forced to watch helplessly as the other three members of his squad were slaughtered in front of his eyes in the previous scene.
Heroic Sacrifice: Gray Edwards sacrificed himself as a medium needed to physically transmit the completed spirit into the alien Gaia.
Ryan performed one in order to draw the Meta Phantom away from the Black Boa.
In Name Only: The difference in medium may partly be the cause of this one. The games often run for dozens of hours and feature fairly intricate settings, but films are generally around two hours, a length that simply does not justify crafting an original setting of the franchise's usual complexity. This may explain why Final Fantasy films that use settings which have already been established in the games, such as Advent Children, tend to be far truer to the source.
Ink-Suit Actor: Hein looks a lot like James Woods. However, a lot was made of making Gray (voice by Alec Baldwin) look a lot like Ben Affleck.
Just in Time: Averted Aki manages to defeat the Phantom infecting Edwards with a whole 1.02 seconds to spare.
Lampshaded Double Entendre: Sid to Aki: "And stay away from your friend, the captain. He saves your life, you save his life... I was young once too you know?"
Just Friends: Jane and Neil. Just pay attention to their interactions throughout the film, and it won't take a huge leap of thought to guess that they care about each other, a LOT. However, Neil's goofball and generally not-serious nature and personality, along with Jane's tough-woman, no-nonsense and professional personality, keeps them from ever really acknowledging it openly, let alone acting on it...until Neil gets killed by a phantom out of nowhere and unexpectedly, probably in an attempt to Gut Punch the audience, which causes Jane to go nigh BERSERK. After taking out the offending phantom, she soon realizes she has no hope of escape once the Meta Phantom's tentacles are popping up all around her, and simply stand there to die and let her body fall next to Neil's, uniting them in death.
Mundane Made Awesome: One of the biggest publicity points about the film was Aki's strands of hair being individually animated — which resulted in Aki jerking her head around wildly whenever she talked (so the animators would have plenty of chances to show her hair moving). This led to several reviewers joking about Square creating "the world's first virtual George Clooney."
Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The Phantoms are an interesting case of this. They blew up their own home planet and now exist as lost and confused ghosts stranded on what to them is an alien planet since a chunk of their planet crashed on Earth. The fact that physical contact between them and humans is typically fatal to the humans is not something that they can control and they're usually only openly hostile towards humans when the humans do something first to provoke them. In fact, the film's biggest plot twist is when Aki comes to the realization that her recurring dream is actually the Phantom particle trapped in her chest plate trying to communicate this point to her the only way it can.
Please Don't Leave Me: After the final blast from the Zeus cannon, Gray is wounded and decides that the only way to transmit the completed waveform is by him sacrificing himself to the Phantom Gaia. Aki pleads for him not to go through with it and that they can find another way, but after putting her on a safe ledge, he reassures her that he now believes that death isn't the end, and tells her he loves her before the Phantom Gaia descends upon him and takes his spirit.
Power Crystal: The common series tie-in element is worked into the movie as being part of the life-support device Aki has embedded in her chest.
Rescue Romance: Used, reciprocated, and helpfully lampshaded by Dr. Sid between Aki Ross and Gray Edwards. Though it should be noted, that unlike the typical examples, the rescue did not initiate the romance, but rather rekindled it, since Aki and Gray were already in a relationship prior to the events of the film, until Aki became infected and left, cutting off communication with Gray, in order to work on finding the remaining 8 spirits. Her and Gray are reunited whilst she's tracking the 6th.
Revive Kills Zombie: The ultimate example, probably: the Phantom Gaia and all of its children are expelled at the end of the movie by a healing wave from the Eight Spirits.
Roger Rabbit Effect: The menu screen introduction on the original North American DVD release begins with Aki acting a out a scene from the movie. An off-screen voice then calls "cut!" and Aki leaves the set and walks past live-action stage hands and camera crew and heads over to the director and the two sit down to watch the scene on a monitor. A couple of other characters from the film, meanwhile, can be seen having conversations with other live-action people.
Rule of Symbolism: The eagle. The suggestive placement of the Phantom tentacle that is cleansed by Aki's child. The fact that the Eighth Spirit is a brand new life brought into the epicenter of death.
Run or Die: The Phantoms, being limitless in number and instantly lethal to the touch, are this. Best displayed in the opening scene where the Deep Eyes rescue Aki from the ruined city.
Running Gag: Neil tends to receive an electric shock every time he attempts to hotwire something.
Sexy Discretion Shot: Occurs when both Aki and Gray are alone in Aki's ship, going through a Despair Event Horizon over the deaths of Neil, Jane and Ryan, as well as the loss of the New York Barrier City. It leads to them embracing (tearfully on Aki's part) and then kissing. They start softly at first, but the camera pans away when they start to become more intimate. And if there was any doubt as to whether anything further between them happened then, it's implied in the climax of the film that Aki is pregnant, which is what creates the 8th spirit.
Two tiny, easily-missed references to Chocobos hidden in the background in the entire movie.
Also, General Hein and his flying dungeon/Kill Sat are a very obvious reference to Final Fantasy III, although most Americans wouldn't be able to recognize it as such until about 8 years after the movie came out.
Every FF has a Cid. The Spirits Within addresses it with a Sid.
The Deep Eyes are a subtle shout-out, as well. The squad contains four members; four is the traditional number of party members in an FF game, with Aki functioning as a Guest Star Party Member.
Someone to Remember Him By: Implied. Gray sacrifices his life so that the completed waveform can be transferred to the Phantom Gaia, which is completed when the 8th spirit is created by "the hope of new life" from within Aki causing Earth's Gaia to change her infection into the 8th spirit. Pay attention to where the Phantom's tendrils in her vision hit her (which is also the point where it begins to change) and note that Aki and Gray. This was actually made more explicit in the original version of the film (during the Please Don't Leave Me moment), but test audiences didn't respond well to it, and so it was mostly cut.
Working with the Ex: Gray and his squad are assigned to escort Aki as she searches for the remaining spirits by General Hein, as a way of keeping an eye on her and with instructions to arrest her if her Phantom infection becomes more serious (instructions that Gray disobeys due to his relationship with Aki).