What made me see Final Fantasy, aside from the fact that it was on the biggest screen in town and that I had read a good review, was the amazing look I remembered from the preview trailers. Final Fantasy looked like an animated film striving for human realism. Other cartoons have gone for a “realistic” look, but there is always some stylistic take on reality. While that’s true of Final Fantasy as well, the characters are rendered in striking realism. Each face is unique, complete with wrinkles, moles and individually rendered strands of hair.
The look of Final Fantasy then provides food for thought: what is “realism” and what does it have to do with the movies? If animated realism goes much further, it will almost become useless. Why spend money on expensive computer time when you can just photograph actors in realistic surroundings, just like the good old days?
Final Fantasy also provides an interesting, distinctly Oriental quality of storytelling that is reminiscent of 1998’s Princess Mononoke, in which a human adventure ends in a beyond-human-comprehension mystical event, confusing, yet not unsatisfying. Final Fantasy’s story follows the same formula, if indeed it is a formula — a human adventure leading to a supernatural event.
Mononoke ventured into mainstream theaters, but wasn’t embraced by Americans. Final Fantasy seems even less popular, although it’s probably just as good. Judging from my own experience, I suspect there is some stigma attached to going to a movie based on a video game. Perhaps Mononoke was more popular because people willing to be entertained by Japanese animation are more numerous than those willing to see a “video game” movie.
If only they knew, they might enjoy a visually groundbreaking film, with an exotic but approachable story. Instead, it looks like Final Fantasy will be forgotten, to be unearthed by future cinephiles as a hidden gem.