The result was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Undoubtedly the most realistic animated movie ever up to that point, it nonetheless failed with critics and audiences alike.
Though it’s not related to any Final Fantasy game, it may have still been too much like one, with its story focused on uniting spirits of the Earth to ward off ghostly enemies.
Critics had no patience for its plot, but many conceded that the movie looks gorgeous.
It’s certainly not what we’d call realistic today, but it sits more comfortably in the uncanny valley than other attempts at lifelike CGI, with an unearthly quality that’s intriguing rather than repulsive.
Another joy of watching The Spirits Within today is its ridiculously stacked cast, with Ming-Na Wen, Ving Rhames, Peri Gilpin, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, and Donald Sutherland giving admirable performances of a somewhat bonkers script.
In Square’s eyes, the real stars of The Spirits Withinwere its digital “actors,” whom it envisioned appearing in other future movies.
That, of course, never happened, though protagonist Aki Ross did appear in Maxim’s Hot 100, digital bikini and all.
If you go into Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within expecting a work of unsung genius, you’ll likely be disappointed.
But go in looking for a bold, beautiful, bizarre experiment, and you’ll find a movie that deserves to be remembered as more than a flop.