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Aki - fantasy figure

It's one of the most celebrated series of screen-based games ever, and next year it arrives in movie form. No - it's not Tomb Raider. Get ready for a Final Fantasy as it's never been seen before...

Report by Judy Sloane

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Sitting in a multiplex theatre in Honolulu, Hawaii, waiting to view 17 minutes of Square Pictures Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within, I wondered - along with several other entertainment journalists - just how innovative and advanced the CGI (computer generated imagery), which boasted of PhotoReal human characters, could be.

When the lights dimmed, and the 'virtual' actors and actresses were unveiled, I was truly impressed by a surreal form of reality which caught me off guard many times. I would often forget I was watching CGI characters inhabiting a totally CG world.

Aki's eye. How realistic is that?

Based on an extremely successful series of interactive video games - the ninth game has just been released in the US, but the series' most ardent following is arguably on its home soil: Japan - Final Fantasy: the Spirit Within draws on the best of the games without relying on existing stories or characters.

Set on Earth in 2065, the movie's plot surrounds a female scientist named Aki, who is one of the few human survivors following an invasion of phantom-like aliens that has killed most of the world's population. As with the games, the film spotlights the basic questions of life and death, good and evil, encompassing the eternal spirit of mankind. It's not shy of being philosophical, but naturally you can also expect some riveting battle scenes amidst the narrative.

Aki is voiced by Ming-Na, who previously provided the speaking voice for Disney's Mulan and is currently a regular on ER. Vocal talents are also being supplied by such flesh-and-blood actors as Alec Baldwin (the pivotal but as yet enigmatic Grey), Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Donald Sutherland, James Woods and Frasier's Peri Gilpin. Directed by Final Fantasy mastermind Hironobu Sakaguchi, the film promises to be quite a revelation - but don't expect the teaser trailer now doing the rounds in US theatres to reveal much of the plot.

After the disappointing reaction to Fox's Titan A.E. this year, one can only hope that the buzz for Columbia Pictures' Final Fantasy: the Spirit Within will grow so loud that the CGI wizardry displayed in this movie will reach, excite and captivate a substantial audience when it opens in the US on July 13, 2001. By which time Japanese players will already be enjoying Final Fantasy X, and on-line gamers will be gearing up for the eleventh game as well...

Go to Final Fantasy movie site
Images © Square Pictures, Columbia Tristar Interactive.
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction