Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Steven Spielberg's robot boy isn't the only form of artificial life wreaking havoc on the big screen this summer: It's an all-mecha show in Final Fantasy. Director Hironobu Sakaguchi (who also created the Japanese video game on which the film is based) works with a cast of computer-generated thespians who look eerily like the genuine article. (They almost seem more human than Haley Joel Osment.) Fantasy goes beyond mere state-of-the-art animation; it's a visual tour de force, a truly stunning one at times, exemplifying just how much can be done with a mouse and a keypad (and probably some other gadgets). That said, the novelty of the film's virtual cast and setting does eventually dissipate, taking with it the excitement of the experience. There's no question that the gaming industry will continue to cross over into Hollywood and vice versa, but Fantasy proves that a successful cinematic union of the two remains elusive: Watching the film, one can't help wishing he or she were playing the game instead. Once the cool introduction fades and the graphic achievement sinks in, you're left with a rather bland outer-space shoot-'em-up, and no joystick with which to enjoy the ride.