Anime / Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a computer animated science fiction film directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the kitten-stranglingly popular Final 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. The Spirits Within holds a place in film history as the first feature film to attempt photorealistic CGI characters.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Jane, who's clearly The Big Guy in the Deep Eyes.
  • 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.
  • Almost Kiss: Aki and Gray in the elevator.
  • 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.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Implied with Gray with the white hawk.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Phantoms are destroyed, implying that their spirits return to Gaia along with everyone else's. But only two of the main cast are still alive, with massive amounts of the population slaughtered in General Hein's ill-thought out plan. It is however implied - by the shot of the bird - that life will find a way to continue.
  • Big "NO!": Jane when Neil is killed.
  • Black Best Friend: Ryan is this for Gray.
  • Body Horror: The Phantom sealed within Aki, providing her empathic dreams about its world's ultimate fate.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Aki Ross.
  • Captain Obvious:
    Aki: We're surrounded!
    Jane: No shit!
  • Collision Damage: Touching a Phantom is almost always fatal. Hell, most of the bigger Phantoms don't actively attack, but rack up a body count just by wandering around.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: When visible, the spirit energy is this. Phantoms (and anything else native to their planet) show up as red energy. Humans (and other creatures native to Earth) show up as blue energy. When the Phantom particle sealed with Aki's chestplate makes its Heel–Face Turn, its energy color changes from red to blue to signify its new loyalty.
  • Combat Tentacles: Most Phantoms possess these; in particular, the Hand Cannons of the Phantom Soldiers had a variety of pipes and tubes which became their deadly tentacles upon their passing.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like:
    Aki: Nobody asked you to save me.
    Gray: You have not changed a bit!
    Aki: Gray?
    Gray: (removes his helmet) Yeah. Nice to see you too.
  • Cool Car: Aki's ATV, armed with gel missiles for soft landings and an anti-Phantom barrier generator.
  • Cool Ship: Aki's Black Boa.
  • Dead All Along: The Phantoms. Earth's authorities and population assumed that they were strange and violent alien invaders who happen to be incorporeal by nature. They're actually ghosts, whose presence on Earth is completely accidental. The assumption that they are alive ends up backfiring horribly against General Hein when, in an attempt to gain authorisation to use the Zeus cannon, he lets what he plans to be a small group of Phantoms into New York Barrier City, and then have his men eliminate them before they do too much damage. Then the Phantoms start spreading rapidly throughout the city, using methods that living things would not be able to survive. This mistake ends up dooming the city, costing the lives of all its inhabitants.
  • Death Is Dramatic: The Phantoms killing people involves ripping their souls out and crunching them.
  • 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.
  • Domed Hometown: The City. Eventually ends up becoming a Doomed Hometown.
  • Downer Ending: See Bittersweet Ending.
  • 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, It's unknown if she could have made it to safety if she wanted to - but Phantoms were closing in around her.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Gray's Last Words to Aki just before his Heroic Sacrifice are that he loves her.
  • 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: When Gray is infected with a Phantom, there is a time limit on how long the treatment shield will prevent him from being lost.
  • Explosive Overclocking: Safety controls exist for a reason...
    "I know!"
  • Faceless Goons: The men that join the Deep Eyes under General Hein's orders never take off their helmets.
  • 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.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Invoked explicitly by Aki and Dr. Sid.
  • General Ripper: General Hein, Played by James Woods.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: After Gray's team is wiped out, he and Aki engage in this.
  • Go Into the Light: More or less how the Phantoms are finally dealt with.
  • 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 B.S.O.D.: 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:
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Of the spoof variety, of course. Featured on the DVD. Even better is an Easter Egg of the characters doing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (considering the monsters are ghosts, fitting).
  • 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?"
  • Large Ham: James Woods plays the General Ripper. Expected hamminess ensues.
  • 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.
  • Kill Sat: The Zeus space cannon.
  • Kill Them All: Only Dr. Aki and Dr. Sid manage to survive in the end.
  • The Lifestream: The planetary gaia force is pretty much directly modeled after the Final Fantasy VII concept.
  • Merger of Souls: The two Gaias are giant aggregates of ghosts. They merge in the end.
  • Metaphysical Fuel: "Bio-etheric energy" which is produced by living things. The OVO-Packs used as batteries supposedly harvest this energy from bacteria, though the Eight Spirits (extracted from more complex lifeforms) have to be sacrificed for the Spirit Wave to work.
  • Mickey Mousing: The first appearance of the Zeus Cannon takes this to such (ear-shattering) extremes it borders on Narm.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Major Elliott.
  • Mr. Exposition: Dr. Sid.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: General Hein, realizing that he accidentally let the Phantoms into a major population center.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Several references to the game series, including a Chocobo embroidered on one of Aki's shirts, and some of the Phantoms are based on creatures and bosses from the series.
    • Hein is named after a major boss in Final Fantasy III.
  • No Flow in CGI: Averted a little too well with Aki's hair. One of the biggest publicity points about the film was the strands of her 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."
  • Non-Action Guy: Aki isn't a Distressed Damsel, but she's clearly a non-combatant scientist who hangs around with four very competent soldiers.
  • 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.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Apparently the little girl Aki met at a hospital.
    Aki: She, uh, told me that she was ready to die. She said I didn't have to make up stories to make her feel better. [pause] Only seven years old and ready to die!
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Phantoms. Even the giant creatures are just large wild animals unaware of their ghostly state.
  • 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.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The fifth spirit is collected from a dying child.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: They started haunting Aki at first, but then she shared them with Gray...
  • Putting on the Reich: The Soldiers under the leadership of General Hein.
  • Random Encounters: One of the few things seemingly taken from the source material, the movie comes up with an explanation of why monsters can just pop up out of the ground at any time.
  • Real Is Brown: A sad foretelling of what many video games would be.
  • Reconstruction: The film finds a way to justify many of the tropes associated with the Final Fantasy games. Monsters appear out of nowhere? They're invisible and can only be illuminated by bioetheric energy. Monsters can't enter cities? They have barriers to block them out. Don't get an airship until late in the game? It's confiscated by the authorities for the first two acts. The movie even puts in a way for the 'final boss' to go One-Winged Angel.
  • Recurring Dreams: Dr. Aki Ross has these, which prove to be integral to the story.
  • 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.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Parodied. Even before Jane removes her helmet, it's quite clear that there is a female in the Deep Eyes. But Aki collectively refers to them as Gray's "men", which Jane takes issue with.
  • Scenery Porn: And plenty of Scenery Gorn.
    Roger Ebert: The reason to see this movie is simply, gloriously, to look at it.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • The Leonid Meteor is actually a chunk of a Death World being used as a means of transportation for monsters.
    • Gaia from The Spirits Within = The Lifestream from Final Fantasy VII
    • The film's setting is based on the initial plot for FFVII, which took place on an post-apocalyptic Earth and AVALANCHE attacks Shin-Ra's base in New York
  • 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.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: The phantoms.
  • Token Trio: The other three Deep Eyes. There's Neil (white guy), Ryan (black guy) and Jane (white girl).
  • Tsundere:
    • Jane towards Neil. She busts his chops but it's clear she cares for him.
    • Gray towards Aki. He initially acts childish by not letting her know who he is, but acts like a nice guy throughout the rest of the film.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Jane Proudfoot, the tough Space Marine, gets eaten, while Dr. Ross survives.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Suicidal tendencies + access to huge freaking space cannon = BAD THING.
  • Villainous B.S.O.D.: Which leads to the breakdown described above.
  • Virtual Celebrity: Aki was touted as the first CGI actress, and Square Pictures was hoping for a long and illustrious virtual career. Too bad about her debut movie...
  • War Is Hell: For humans and the aliens' Back Story.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Zeus Cannon, once again.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: General Hein, though he takes to his task with such zeal he becomes a Knight Templar. Worse, all he actually does is make things even worse and screw up the plans that do work.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Phantoms, when you learn their Back Story. The large ones aren't even people - they're animals akin to elephants and whales.
  • 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).
  • The Worm Guy: Aki.

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