In the year 2065, the next great assault against an invading race of phantom-like aliens is about to be launched. Dr. Aki Ross, a brilliant young scientist, races to find the invaders' secrets, not only to save the planet, but herself as well after her body is infected by alien particles. She teams up with the prestigious Deep Eyes military squadron, led by her old friend Grey Edwards. But as Aki, her mentor Dr. Sid, and Grey work toward a peaceful end, the scheming General Hein devises a plot to eradicate the aliens in one swift, destructive blow...even if it destroys the Earth right along with them.
Directed by: Hironobu Sakaguchi
, Motonori Sakakibara
. Starring: Ming-Na Wen
, Alec Baldwin
, Ving Rhames
, Steve Buscemi
, Peri Gilpin
, Donald Sutherland
, James Woods
, Keith David
, Jean Simmons
, Matt McKenzie
, John DeMita
, Matt Adler
, Steve Alterman
. Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
If you hate the movie, which most seem to, that's your choice and I respect it. But to make a slight departure from those lines for a moment, if you will...did everyone across America who saw this just have a brain fart? :)
Easy part first. Animation: Whether the movie bombed or not, Square made bigger leaps for animation than Toy Story did, and that's saying quite a bit. Of course there's still limits that need to be pushed, areas that need to be tweaked, but this is pure technology at work, folks. There were times the character's movements seemed a little wooden, sure, and overall they didn't have as full a range of facial movements (emotion and expression) that a live actor would, but c'mon! What they were able to do was impressive, and that's an understatement. I was prepared to be impressed after all I had seen and heard about the movie, but how little I was truly prepared for where this level of animation would take me. There were times I almost forgot I was watching an animated movie.
The first noticeable impression was from Aki's hair. A small and insignificant part when compared to the movie as a whole, but Wow. You could see every individual strand. The way it moved and flowed depending on position and environment was dead-on. The detail to the faces can't be denied. You could see every spot of stubble on a character's face, every mole and freckle, wrinkles, eyelashes, even moisture in the eyes if you look closely enough. Seeing how clothing stretched and contorted as the people moved, twisted and sat down.
Even the most subtle additions: The gun Grey hurriedly sets on its side against a console, and then seeing the weapon twist and "settle" into position on its own since it wasn't put down firmly on its base. Aki's shrug and look that says, "I have no idea what the Doctor's talking about, but we should hear him out" to Grey as the Doctor explains some techno-babble that Aki doesn't get. You could see the sheen of light sweat across certain areas of the soldiers' bodies. My jaw dropped repeatedly, especially during the opening scene. Seeing the USAF ship (Boa?) come down on the barren NYC, with the wind effects and dust covering everything, watching the exaust from the ship shake everything around it and knock over a couple of vehicles.
We are so used to taking for granted the thousands of visual movements (and physics involved) that take place in the real world that we no longer notice. If you pay attention, there's another world of detail to appreciate here, you just have to be watching for it. Of course it helps if you have a big screen and a discerning eye (I just bought a 55" widescreen, so I didn't have to look too hard) :) On a 10-point scale-
The missing half accounting for the occasional stiff movements and lack of expressiveness on the character's faces when appropriate.
Voice acting: I agree that some of the voice acting was too even throughout the movie, without the "punch" that's needed for much of the drama unfolding onscreen. I'm not sure if this was intentional so that the difference between lip movements and the emotion behind the dialogue wouldn't be too jarring, or if it just happened this way. I will say that it didn't bother me too much, if only because I was so taken in by the dialogue and the story itself that it wasn't much of a distraction. I can see, though, how people could be bothered.
Story: This is where I depart from the majority. I hear words describing parts of the plot, like "convoluted", "cliched", "confusing", and "boring". With respect, I must have seen a different movie. Ok, some of the elements have been borrowed from classics. I saw more than a couple of passing similarities to other action movies, Aliens being a particular standout for me. Barring that, I thought it was original, thought-provoking, and definitely different. No, it doesn't spell everything out for you. Yes, there's quite a lot going on and there are a couple of times where the transitions from one plot point to another aren't exactly smooth. And yes, it makes you figure a lot out for yourself.
To help out, here's my interpretation of the story. WARNINGMAJOR SPOILERS This is only my take on it (on certain parts), and shouldn't be looked at as definitive. As I explained, it leaves some of it up to you.
An alien planet is destroyed and a chunk of it, with part of its population, is hurtled to Earth. Everyone has a spirit, and that spirit comes from a higher, collective spirit or being. This spirit enters the mortal plane of existence through the shells of our bodies. We go through life and gain knowledge and experiences, and when our bodies die our spirit returns to "Gaia", or the collective spirit of Mother Earth. Hell, you could call it Heaven if you wanted to give it a religious slant. In turn, that collective is that much richer for the experiences gained. This is a continual process.
Problem: Our spirits are indigenous to our native planet, Mother Earth. So, too, are the aliens to their respective planet. Their planet has been destroyed, as well as their mother spirit, which basically means the spirits trapped on Earth are alone. It's never revealed why they are alone. It could be implied they are simply too far from home for their spirits to return back to the nest, but in the spirit of sci-fi and our own world, I don't follow this particular theory. This would mean races of beings could not travel to the stars, because if they died, their souls would be damned for not being able to return home. Not exactly an optimistic view of the future and its possibilities. Perhaps because their Mother Spirit must have been destroyed along with their planet, which now means they are not only away from home, but they now have no home, in the physical or the spiritual sense. They are doomed to wander an alien civization (our planet) for eternity without rest, which would probably drive any sentient creature insane.
And so havoc ensues as they attack any and every living thing with a spirit...people, animals, plants, etc...or are they attacking? It certainly looks that way, but remember they are looking to connect with anything that might get them out of their purgatory. They are able to home in to Earth's own spirit and its creatures, and nest themselves above it. They feel the belonging, but it is not their own, and as the Doctor points out in the beginning of the movie, the two are totally opposite in nature, and a mergence of any kind at that scale would mean annihilation of both. This is the reason why the aliens feel such a pull since this is home (just not theirs), but they know they can't merge or make contact at that level. This only further enrages them (beyond the point of sanity I think, it would me) which makes them lash out with more vengeance. Think back to the movie Poltergeist, as it's a similar theme.
This creates a race against time and the conflict that arises as a result, though never directly stated. How long before the phantoms are driven beyond the point of self-reason, and attempt their merging with Gaia, resulting in the destruction of their spirits as well as Earth itself and all her children (every living thing)? Enter the military and science branches of government, each with their own idea of what should be done. Military-quick, decisive use of the Zeus will destroy the phantoms. They view the phantoms as simply invaders who must be stopped.
Scientific-Everything explained above in regards to Gaia and the spirits is realized by the Doctor. He realizes the cannon can only hurt Gaia in the process since the cannon is designed to destroy spirits (though uniquely alien..no one said there weren't any plotholes, unless I missed something..I've only seen it once so far), so we would be destroying ourselves along with the aliens. Broad consensus is that Gaia is nonsense, so then we have the main thrust of the picture. Who will win, and at what cost? There are many other details, such as Aki being infected then impregnated, the dreamscommunication with the phantoms, the hawk, etc.. but I would spend an hour typing and this is only my interpretation of certain events. Someone else's may be different, and that certainly doesn't make it wrong.
This is a thinking-man's sci-fi movie. Those who only want to see ray guns and explosions should steer clear. There's definitely action and quite a bit of it, but it's only the surface. When you peel away the layers and look underneath, you'll begin to see how deep it really goes. The DVDFile review that tells you not to look under the hood couldn't be further from the truth. Unless you don't like the complex gears and levers that create the main story and the drama, in which case the review is correct. Close the hood and just admire the shiny paint job (the animation).
I enjoy the brainless Schwarzenneger flick like any other guy, but I also appreciate thoughtful movies that don't spoon-feed everything to you. This is one of those movies, and to me it's a shame it received such a luke-warm response. Though I hear it wasn't well-received in Japan, it was far worse here, and I think a good indication that America still isn't ready for something so....different.
Bottom line: Don't ever let broad consensus sway you before you dive in headfirst and experience it for yourself. The majority of the population, the council and General Hein didn't believe in Gaia, and nearly destroyed themselves as a result. Make your own mind.
"Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong." - Dennis Miller.
Review by gachamann from the Internet Movie Database.