[[Image:Final fantasy|200px]]
Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi
Distributed by
Written by Al Reinert
Jeff Vintar
Country USA / Japan
IMDb profile

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a fully CGI animated film that was released by Square Pictures on July 11, 2001 in the United States. It was also the first animated feature film to seriously attempt CGI photorealistic humans.

The story follows scientists Aki Ross and Doctor Sid in their efforts to free Earth from a mysterious but deadly alien race known as the Phantoms, which has driven surviving humanity into "barrier cities." They must compete against General Hein, who wishes to attack the aliens with the Zeus space cannon to end the conflict[1].


While the novelty of the technology used received some praise, critics overall found the film to be "emotionless" and poorly scripted.

Roger Ebert was a large supporter of the film, and while he described it as “convincing,” he also called it eerie and unreal[2]. Also, many viewers found the depicted humans to be flat, cold, and emotionless [3]. Reviews even described the actors with descriptions like “three-day-old-cadavers.”[4]

Its poor reception led to a generally low rating with a 55/100 from the ratings aggregate Metacritic[5].

The film cost about $137 million to produce and market ($30 million).Despite a large advertising campaign by Sony, it was a huge box office bomb, with losses of over $124 million in the USA, effectively bankrupting Square Pictures [6].

Reasons for Poor Reception

One theory for the public’s cold reception of the film’s humans is that they had facial features and motion that were not completely human. This idea is similar to a hypothesis developed by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970 called the Uncanny Valley. He postulated that as a robot becomes more human in appearance and motion, human beings will have an increasingly positive, empathic response. However, when some point of humanlike quality is reached, the response will switch to repulsion and uneasiness. Eventually though, the response will become positive once again when the robot is almost entirely human [7]. Some believe the film's humans fell into the Uncanny Valley, which created an eerie, unsettling feeling about them.

Anna Claydon, in “Wanting to believe: CGI animation and the dilemmas of verisimilitude,” argues another reason why Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within failed to capture audiences. She posits that cinema requires a “suspension of disbelief” in order to immerse the viewer, but when attention is put on the realism of technology, the technology itself becomes more visible and the cinematic apparatus becomes more evident[8]. Although other CGI films, such as Toy Story, don’t hide their method of production from marketing materials or reviews, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has many slow-motion, detailed shots that draw attention to its technology for the sake of presentation. This increase in reflexivity and the cinematic apparatus makes it almost impossible to believe in the realism or “truth” of a film. Since the world is so detailed, it is ironically also too realistic; the audience cannot imagine itself in the animated world because its artificial construction is made explicit.


  1. Template:Cite web
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. Park, Jane. “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: A Case Study.” Diss. Mass. Institute of Technology, 2003.
  4. Lepetit, P. “Review of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” Sunday Telegraph. July 29: 98.
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Template:Cite web
  7. Template:Cite journal
  8. Claydon, Anna. “Wanting to believe: CGI animation and the dilemmas of verisimilitude.” Lancaster: Cinema and Technology Conference, University of Lancaster, 2005.

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