Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Strange Colour of your Body's Tears

  To tell you the basic premise of this movie would be like promising you a story, and all you get is the fringe oddities of a drug induced fever dream. Surreal in every regard, one's basic grasp on the story is frequently lost in spectacular fashion as we're assaulted with wild visuals saturated in vibrant colors that toy with your head. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. I pride myself on being able to recommend really strange and trippy movies to friends of mine who aren't as cinema-savvy as myself, but this movie threw me for a loop. I don't know if I can recommend this, because honestly I can't say I actually enjoyed it.

  I'm sure there's a whole genre of movies just like this out there, but it's really saying something when I can divine a more straightforward plot from Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain than I can from this movie. I'm sure that this is a movie that you can only classify as art, because I'm not sure it's anything else. It's a story told through a dream-like mode of storytelling. It's told through disjointed images, sounds, and pure expression. Everything is strategically placed and shown to evoke specific emotions in the viewer. After an hour and a half (almost) I can't say I was made to experience emotions that I'd want to experience again.

  Not to say it was an experience I regret having, but about halfway through, it had become a chore. Far be it from me to say there are limits to what you can get away with in a movie like this, because a movie like this is art, and you can't put limits on artistic expression, but... there are limits to what you can get away with in a movie like this. In one scene that's too surreal for me to even describe, certain events keep repeating themselves. The first few times, you get it, but it doesn't stop at a few times. I'm almost certain the scene is meant to unsettle and exhaust the viewer. Then the question becomes, what am I subjecting myself to?

  Sometimes a more coherent plot can save a sequence like that because there's context and within that context you, me, the audience, can understand what the hell is going on. At the same time, the movie makes no effort to be grounded at all. Context? Coherence? Pft. Those things have no place in this movie. You'd need a tour guide and a GPS unit just to navigate this maze of a movie and find the exit. If it wasn't for the impressively crafted and stunningly realized visual language, this movie would've have been more of a mess than a maze. As it is, you can somewhat divine a loose narrative because there are certain scenes that seem to take place entirely in a normal reality.

  Unfortunately those scenes are little more than guideposts, or rest stops. A break from the delirium. Funny enough, you get the sense that everything that's happening is happening in reality. Even the insane and off the wall stuff. The movie is shot as if the camera is in another dimension, peaking in on ours. Things are distorted, seen close up. The picture is often split several different ways, and then mirrored. A simple conversation between two men become a dizzying, intense, up-close tour of subtle facial expressions, body language, and the movement of their eyes. So, in a movie that can lend such craziness to such a mundane thing, how can any other thing be taken for granted? You can't tell the drug trip, so to speak, from the regular stuff.

  Not unlike a dream. Or a nightmare in this case. Dreams, captured in their raw form, and put up on a screen would probably play a lot like this. Dreams make sense when you're in them, but as you try to recall them after you wake... you remember how odd some of it was, and in the worst cases (or best) you find yourself simply unable to explain it. The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears is for all intents and purposes a murder mystery and a horror movie. I can only recall a handful of names and a smattering of significant looking scenes. The rest is a blur of colors and motion. Visuals stand out as important, faces we should recognize, things we should understand, but by the time the credits roll... all you can do is remind yourself that you're awake now.

  I can imagine this is what a normal movie would look like to a cro-magnon man. Someone so profoundly illiterate that a regular movie would be a mind blowing hallucinatory experience. Perhaps some artists aren't seeking to tell a story so much as they are looking to share a sight, a sound, a feeling. Ultimately, they are sharing an experience. It's not for us to comprehend or understand. It is at best, a concept. An emotion. Did I like this movie? No. I'm not looking for an experience like that. I can say I safely draw the line at Lynch and/or Jodorowsky. I tend to want a little logic in my movies. My dreams are already crazy. But for those of you looking to see someone else's dream, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. It's horror in it's purest form. It shows us what unsettles us and frets not the details of things like context, dialog, setting, plot, or story. It's a slew of fever dream imagery strung together on a most basic premise.

  Is that a bad thing? Or is it genius? That's up to you. But either way, if you're interested, odds are it's at least worth it. It's balls deep in symbolism and savagely psychedelic imagery. It's begging to be analyzed, psychoanalyzed and then probed in all it's naughty areas. Only then will you have experienced this movie to it's fullest. Have a conversation or two about what such and such part really meant, or try to understand what such and such image was really about. I won't indulge though, because this isn't my kind of art. It's interpretive fodder for intellectuals who aren't satisfied unless they can Sigmund Freud the hell out of a movie. My semi-repeated involvement with movies like this are interesting experiences, always, but invariably end when I'm done writing my review. It won't get any amateur psychoanalysis out of me.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


  After Digging Up the Marrow, I decided to keep the indie horror thing going and give Honeymoon a shot. If third time's the charm, I can't imagine how what I watch next could possibly outdo such a damn fine movie. I had known about Honeymoon for a fair minute. A month or two. However, in doing a bit of looking up on it, word of mouth wasn't great. In fact people complained the movie was vapid, and even a bit threadbare. Others accused it of being slow and tedious. I don't know exactly what they were expecting, or what kinds of movies those reviewers like... but Honeymoon was none of those things.

  It's pacing deliberate, it's story simple, but it's all in taking the time to familiarize you with our protagonists. Trust me, nothing is arbitrary. Newlyweds Bea and Paul retreat to an old cabin that's been in her family for ages for their honeymoon. It doesn't take long for things to go awry as Bea's strange behavior starts to worry Paul. That's about as vague as the Netflix description was. At this point, you have no idea what it could be. The movie's taglines, seen on a few of it's different posters, all point in different directions. I don't even really want to tell you what I thought was going on because the littlest nudge in any direction could give the plot away... and that would be criminal.

  It's not a big "twist" movie, but the fun in it is discovering what the hell is going on with these two as the movie progresses. It could be anything. The movie held my attention like nothing else has recently. I started to notice things, little things, just like Paul. Played by Harry Treadaway, Paul, who reminds me of a young Dennis Quaid, is our anchor. It's his point of view that the audience is seeing things unfold from. It's a familiar role that could easily slip into cliche. A concerned husband or father, noticing strange things about a wife, girlfriend, or daughter. Yet Treadaway's performance has us buying into every single second. It feels genuine and sincere. ...And also a bit familiar. Movies like The New Daughter, Possession, and The Possession spring to mind (all good movies). Not to say Honeymoon has too much else in common with those movies, so don't let those titles fool you. However, if you are a fan of that specific little sub-genre, you'll love Honeymoon.

  Possession is a fantastic movie that is nothing but a emotionally charged drama about infidelity... until it pulls the rug out from under you in slow motion as the main character discovers something is just not right with his wife. As authentic and nerve wracking as the marital spats and ear-shattering shouting matches were in the first half of the Possession, Honeymoon is content to go in the entire other direction, obviously. Bea, played with charm and gusto by Rose Leslie, and Paul are the happiest newlyweds ever. Drunk on their own affection for each other and completely in love. Thankfully it never gets over saturated, and it's easy to get caught up in their happiness. I found myself smiling often and almost forgetting what kind of movie I was watching.

  Both Leslie and Treadaway play their roles with such sincerety that it ends up being downright gut wrenching. No matter what you think this movie is about, keep an open mind. Experience it for what it is. Rather than drop a twist on you like a sack of bricks, it gives you enough hints and clues for you to slowly arrive at your own conclusion. In doing so, it avoids any sort of adverse knee-jerk reaction. A lesser movie might have tried to spin it as some big surprise at the end, but a smart moviegoer would have already figured it out. Putting it out there as a last minute surprise twist would've been borderline insulting, because the same movie has been prodding us to figure it out this whole time. And, you know... we fucking did. It needs to affirm our suspicions, not try to surprise us with what we already know.

  Honeymoon does just that. By the time you figure it out, it's been handled so delicately and with such care that you just want the movie to acknowledge what's happened. It does, and... it's fantastic. The movie is a bit depressing so don't go in expecting something that'll leave you upbeat, but go in with a lot of patience, and an open mind. This visually stunning movie more than satisfied me. It's dripping with atmosphere and tension and it plays to it's own strengths. There was a lot on the shoulders of Leslie and Treadaway, having to carry basically a whole movie on their own, but they did it. They did it really damn well too. I can't recommend it enough. I'm in love with this haunting little movie. It was fantastic. Offhand, I can't even think of a single complaint.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Digging Up the Marrow

  Who says good poster art is irrelevant these days? One glimpse at poster art for Adam Green's Digging Up the Marrow and I knew I had to see it. That, and admittedly someone spoiled a small scene for me on tumblr, showing me a picture. Damn you people. You suck. But... thank you at the same time. It caught my attention and pointed me towards this awesome movie. It brings to mind another fantastic found footage movie I saw last year, The Taking of Deborah Logan, and sadly I neglected to write a review on it. I wasn't about to make that mistake twice. Digging Up the Marrow deserves to be heard about.

  Let me get this out of the way and say, I am not at all fond of found footage films. I'm not denying there's a handful of good ones, but by and large the genre has become nothing if not bloated with entries made on the fast & cheap with no creativity or real effort behind them. The whole concept of found footage has been done to death, and then some. It takes an amazing amount of effort just to come up with a good concept that would work best as a found footage film and stand out amidst the sea of shitty ones. The Marrow is one such film with a good, if not great, concept. You know all the deformed infants and kids you hear about, and see grotesque exploitative pictures of? As they grow up, we don't just see them walking around among us. They kind of just... disappear. Nobody looks for them, nobody cares, and nobody notices. Where do they go...?The movie poses us this question, and then provides us with a theory...

  They've all gone underground and grown up to be what your average person would consider bona-fide real monsters. After all, it asks, what really is a monster? The movie itself is very much caught up with the why's and how's of it. Proof and reality. Nevertheless, most of the characters in the movie are real people playing themselves. Right down to the star, writer, and director- also playing himself, Adam Green. He has an instant honesty in the role, which probably comes from playing yourself and not a character. For those of you don't know, he's an up and comer in the horror genre. I feel somewhat safe saying 'up and comer' because before this, I didn't even know who he was. He did the Hatchet movies apparently. I'm sure he'd be disheartened to know I've barely heard of them.

  Well I have now. Adam Green seems like a very cool guy. We hear about his deep personal affinity for monsters and how it translated over into his work. The first half of this movie feels exactly like a real documentary for all intents and purposes. It started feeling more cinematic once Ray Wise popped up as a potential crackpot, named Dekker, with the theories about these underground monster populated cities. A whole network of them. He calls this sub-civilization... "The Marrow". It's catchy, it's fitting. You say it enough times, it sticks even. It's wholly unpretentious and intriguing. The core concept of the movie revolves around this, so it had to be something that could hook you just from hearing about it.

  If Dekker sat me down and spilled his guts about The Marrow, I'd believe him. I wouldn't show up to start doubting him. Of course, Adam Green and his cameraman needed more than just theories and drawings. They needed video. Which is of course where the faux-documentary makes the shift into true found footage. Or as Adam would call it "Footage footage". There's nothing 'found' about it, see? The movie demands you believe in The Marrow right away even though Adam and his crew don't. You have to. Otherwise, there's no movie here. So much build up about monsters and 'what if they were real?' and wishing and... it'd be a dick move if the core concept of the movie was a hoax. Adam wants to believe in Dekker as much as we, as an audience, have had to this whole time.

  The pacing is rather glacial, but it needs to be.  If it blows it's load too soon, we get a shitty final act or some lame plot patchwork, filling in where we should've been getting the actual reveal. As the movie holds your attention on faith that there will be monsters, a small mystery within the internal workings of the film starts to crop up. Dekker himself is an enigma. He wants his theories about The Marrow to be filmed, by Adam and co. but he's being incredibly secretive at the same time. About the strangest things to boot. Adam ends up having to investigate Dekker while they all stake out an entrance to The Marrow. Which looks like nothing more than a large hole in the ground. At a cemetery of course. Because... where else would monsters go?

  In part, the unseen grandiose side of the concept was explored ages ago in another movie called Nightbreed. That movie was of a different tone altogether and carried a much different message. But underground cities? Populated exclusively by monsters? All around graveyards? Yeah, there's no denying some familial feelings here. It's what was lurking in my head the whole time watching this movie. Yet it talks it up so much, so huge, and shows you so little- but in the best way possible, that your imagination goes wild with it. It shows you just enough to get your brain going, and then manages to scare the shit out of you. That is, if you're engrossed at this point. If not, the scares will land flat, and you won't care.

  See, once you're caught up in the mysteries and the procedures and the theories... the movie is free to unleash what it has lurking in the shadows at you. It's fast, it's sudden, and it only works because you're so into it. These scares would be wasted in a lesser movie. Even though they're not entirely the most groundbreaking scares ever, Adam sells the hell out of it. In the situation, and beyond. He's fantastic. An anchor for the viewer in every way that matters. I wish I could tell you more, I want to show you the drawings, have you listen to Dekker, let your own imagination go wild. But I realize that I'm simply recommending you go seek out the movie. And you should. It has it's issues, plenty of them, but a lot of creativity, heart, and effort went into making this one atmospheric, scary, and worth your time. Don't pass it up.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Guyver: Dark Hero

  Three years after the uneven joke-filled adaptation of the manga of the same name, The Guyver somehow got a sequel. Guyver 2: Dark Hero. In all respects this is a much better movie than the first one. So much so that it feels like a soft-reboot. They took all the complaints about the first one to heart, and really worked on it in this one. For all intents and purposes, this is the dark, serious, intense movie we should've got the first time around. The rather bland Jack Armstrong who played Sean the first time around has been replaced by David "Solid Snake" Hayter. He may only have a few default emotions he switches between, but Guyver: Dark Hero knows exactly what it is, and what it is doesn't call for deep oscar winning acting.

  Hayter pulls off the solemn brooding expressions quite well. It's most of what's required from him in the script. Sean's a tortured guy. The Guyver unit itself is shown as something of a deadly burden this time around. It's not your average Iron Man suit apparently. It has a personality of it's own, and it's bloodthirsty. The opening of the movie has Sean, as the Guyver taking the fight to a bunch of drug dealers picking up a shipment of heroin (I think?). We saw how brutal the Guyver was against Zoanoids, imagine him fighting regular humans. It's every bit as crazy as you might think... and bloody. Very bloody. Broken limbs, sliced throats. If you haven't figured it out by now, Guyver 2 is actually rated R. Woo!

  I should be clear on this though, they got away with a lot in the PG-13 from the first one, so in no way do I think Guyver 2 needed to be rated R. I firmly believe it spends it's R rating entirely in the opening scene against the drug dealers. Several f-bombs and a gory throat slice. That's the worst of it though. The rest of the movie is more or less within PG-13 bounds. More or less... There is some rather bloody Zoanoid-on-human violence much later on, but it's brief. Still safer in an R rating than a PG-13, but still. The problem with the first movie wasn't it's lack of swearing and gore. It was the slapstick humor. Which... thank God, is completely absent from this movie. For that reason alone, Dark Hero is already better. Hang on to your butts though, there are even more reasons.

  The action in Guyver 2 comes faster and hits way harder. Due in no small part to fantastic fight choreography and amazing sound effect work. There are parts of this movie that feel technically subpar or somewhat slipshod, but the fights, the action scenes, all the stuff people actually showed up for? Absolutely great. Downright impressive. Sean really embraces his heroic side and saves the day over and over in full-on high-flying fashion. The whole... murderous Guyver unit thread was sorta dropped and not picked up again after the opening. I mean, the unit keeps trying to activate itself through various points in the movie, and Sean struggles against it, but the movie quickly gets it's R rating, and it's new edgy subplot out of the way in the opening and never really touches either of them again.

  Granted the Guyver makes short work of a big scary Zoanoid at one point with graphically bloody results, but it's still rubber suits all the way around. That's one thing, killing humans is another. Visually speaking, one gets you an R rating, the other does not. Just look at Aliens Vs. Predator. Anyhow, it's the Guyver vs. Zoanoid action that I was really hoping delivered, and boy did it ever! The action scenes here are beyond top notch. Guyver 2 really sheds that whole childlike nostalgic feeling and goes straight for the action. This is an action movie to the core. It just also has alien bio-armor and big intimidating monsters. Who thankfully don't drop a sick beat before they fight this time around. The Zoanoid designs are even better this time around. Scarier, better acted, and awesome animatronics. Leaps and bounds ahead of the last movie.

  Dark Hero is not without it's downsides though. After the atmospheric opening, the movie takes place solely around an archaeological dig, where Zoanoid bones have been found. This is fine for the plot, and is actually interesting, but as far as locations go... it's somewhat boring. The first movie had great sets put to good use in even better set pieces. This movie has some wooded areas as a backdrop, and it feels less like it had to do with a conscious story decision and more to do with budget restraints. It also shows with the Guyver suit itself. Despite being pretty much identical in design to the one from the first movie, alot of the animatronic bells and whistles have been removed. The suit's color scheme has also been vastly simplified.

  In the first movie the Guyver suit was shades of grey, with subtle blues and greens, and pops of a fleshy red. Now it's just several shades of blue, and only blue. Not that it's particularly bad looking, I rather like it. But it looks simple. I miss the complexity of the suit from the first movie. The movie more than makes up for it by allowing Hayter to play Sean as a mysterious badass. Thus making the Guyver scenes all that much more fun. The transformation scenes are exceptionally cool, and in some ways even outdo the ones from the first movie. Maybe they're not as batshit crazy, but they're super fun and creative in their own way. The body-horror aspect isn't as prominent in this one, but we get lots of cool and colorful scenes via dream sequences and flashbacks that break up the visual monotony of the woods and the dig site.

  On top of disappearing plot threads, an overly simplistic story, some momentum issues, and moderately stiff acting, Guyver 2 rids itself of the silliness of the first movie and fills in the gaps with loads of hard-hitting action scenes. I never knew watching men in rubber suits go at it could look so brutal and vicious. (Sorry Godzilla...) I'm not sure what else you could want from a Guyver film. Having never read the manga or watched the anime, i'm sure I'm missing out on something, maybe the fans are still clamoring for their ideal adaptation. But I'm thoroughly satisfied with Dark Hero. It may be a bit simple, but it delivers! It's a hard-hitting, fast paced, beat-em-up, monster-filled, kung-fu flick. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you owe it to yourself to check this one out, even if you haven't seen the first. Super fun movie.

The Guyver

  No thanks to the cover art, some people might think Mark Hamill is The Guyver. He's not. Yeah, that disappointed 13-year-old me too. This 1991 cheese fest is based on a manga of the same name. Little can be said for the acting or the writing, or the editing... or the directing... but! The movie isn't all bad. The first time I saw it, I was 13 or 14. At that age, things like Power Rangers and Beetleborgs were fun, nostalgic, childhood memories, but the appeal of a kung-fu hero fighting alien monsters didn't die off. If only it were a bit more mature, a bit more big-budgeted. Well, the answer practically fell right into my lap when I happened upon an old VHS of The Guyver for sale at a local bookstore.

  It was impressive! ...Mostly. On one hand, it had some seriously neat practical effects. Suits of bio-armor, fantastic creature design, and cool animatronics. To a kid raised on movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and Star Kid, The Guyver was nothing if not etching it's way into my list of guilty pleasures. It was really cool stuff. On the other hand... it was painfully silly. Half of it clearly wanted to be taken seriously, but... the villains have all the seriousness of the bumbling henchmen in your average Saturday morning cartoon. As inept and goofy as they are, the movie asks us to believe they could be a threat. See, the bad guys in this movie aren't exactly your regular bad guys...

  They can morph into these hideous super-strong monsters called Zoanoids. And with a few notable exceptions, the hideousness is ruined by the fact that the goofy inept henchmen... are still goofy and inept as Zoanoids. They cease being scary when they rap insults at the hero before trying to tackle him. If this was ever considered 'cool' you can shoot me now. A monster who literally raps and wears jewelry? Good lord. It's so silly and goofy it takes you out of the movie, which otherwise involves conspiracies, murder, and general all-around violence. Unlike my other childhood faves, The Guyver is a full PG-13, and not without it's fair share of disturbing images and graphic creature-on-creature bloodshed. So why did they ruin this tone with silliness only a little kid could smile at? Anyone over the age of 6 will probably just stare in disbelief or annoyance, and likely both.

  If you stick it out and persevere though, the payoff is rather worth it. There comes a point when the silliness tapers off, and the pace tightens up, leaving no time for anything but action and fighting. The climax of the movie manages to impress and surprise. Even as jaded as I was by 14, I was still honestly surprised. Even though the tropes and plot devices the movie uses are stuff we've all seen a hundred times, The  Guyver knows how to repackage them so they still feel new. Or... just about new at least. Anyways, the movie is about a young man, Sean Barker, who finds an alien device, called a 'Guyver' unit, that ends up infusing his body with a protective suit of bio-armor that looks like a cross between H.R. Giger's Xenomorph and RoboCop. Yeah. It's that cool. Anyways, some evil dudes from an evil mega-corporation have been hunting down this device, and that put Sean and the ones he loves... right in the crosshairs.

   As per usual, Sean has to use the Guyver to fight back and save the day. Yet it's still the weirdest superhero movie you're ever likely to see. All the Zoanoids are grotesque, well designed, and fearsome but despite this, they're still rubber suited monsters. They still have shades of the low budget Power Ranger monsters we all remember. The Guyver suit itself looks fantastic. Like... really fantastic. The kind of practical effects laden super-suit, stuffed with animatronic bells and whistles, that we just don't see anymore. The movie makes good use of all it's practical effects as it pits these two opposing forces against each other, and much blood is shed. I mean it too. The Guyver rips off a monster's arm at one point and snaps his neck so violently, blood sprays out. So clearly this movie isn't for kids, thus the humor is still a major point of contention. But the weirdness persists, and it's not a bad thing.

  Despite being a superhero movie, it's also kind of freaky. Like a body-horror movie. The villain's main plot to to mutate more people into Zoanoids. This process doesn't always go so well. We're treated to some fairly grotesque sights. Within the boundaries of a PG-13 rating of course. Then there's the Guyver unit itself. The way it melds with Sean looks downright disturbing, and rather violent. If it wasn't for the silly tone and the kung-fu fights, this movie could almost pass for a horror flick. Whatever you want to call it, it's a monster movie. All the monsters just happen to know how to fight. Even the battlegrounds for the Guyver and the Zoanoids are varied. From grimy urban alleyways, to big grim warehouses, and even a secret science laboratory.

  The sights in this movie are outrageous and insane. There's nothing grounded about this movie. Pervy mad scientists, bumbling henchmen, alien monsters, mutating people into creatures, Mark Hamill as an angry CIA agent with a mustache, and kung-fu fighting. Who knew these alien monsters could fight so well? Nevertheless, despite the stiff acting, shoddy dialog, and so on- when the movie cuts to the chase and gets serious, it's really fun. The lead monsters have their moments of being truly scary and when it really matters, they feel like a true threat to our hero. Anyways, the movie is indeed a mixed bag. The ridiculous slapstick humor pretty much sinks it, but there's some really neat stuff that's made it worth a few re-watches for me. Most of it is so bad it's just... bad, the rest is really cool and sleekly made.

  They simply don't make movies like this anymore. Either you're someone who's glad about that... or you're the kind that's already made up their mind they'd like to see this movie. In that case, I suggest you do as I did and follow up with the vastly superior sequel: Guyver 2: Dark Hero. Nevertheless, if you're in the mood for something a little dated, a little nostalgic, something wierd or just plain odd... you could do worse than The Guyver. It's stupid, odd, gizmo-filled and action packed. It's by no means good, but it's strange, and sometimes... that's enough.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

  The year 2001 seems like forever ago, it was the year we first got Lord of the Rings on the big screen (Bakshi's version nonwithstanding) and Harry Potter for that matter. Not to mention hundreds of other incredibly good and famous movies that people remember fondly to this day. Then there was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Now, I dunno. I can readily see why fans of the game franchise would be pissed off with this movie. It has literally nothing to do with the games. Who thought that would be a good idea? I don't know. Nevertheless, non-fans (myself included) found it fairly accessible, realizing they wouldn't have to be on the up-and-up with the games to understand the movie. The result? A largely mixed bag that serves as an incredibly interesting piece of history, ripe to be explored and discussed.

  As a movie itself, The Spirits Within isn't bad. It's exciting, flashy, and full of action. It's brimming with concepts and ideas that are much bigger than could adequately be explored within the confining runtime of a feature film. The Spirits Within needed to have it's own game series. I would've played it. On the other hand, nothing about blonde kids with spiky anime hair and obnoxiously gigantic swords appeals to me. I know I probably just alienated a bunch of readers, but as consumers in a media-obsessed culture we all have to look from the outside in. We have to judge books by their covers, and we have to make decisions on what we see. To me, the Final Fantasy games look like the epitome of what I hate in gaming. Anime style, turn based, RPG fantasy games make my skin crawl.

  Some people love it, I get that, I'm cool with that, but since The Spirits Within isn't even a remote adaptation of the games or their stories, the most you can even complain about is that they used the name "Final Fantasy". Beyond that, this movie has to be judged as it's own beast. When I talk about the 'concepts and ideas' in The Spirits Within, I really don't mean it's whole Gaia theory. The environmental message in this movie is snore-worthy. It's really sad when you find yourself as annoyed with the protagonists as the main villain is.

  "So, if I point a gun at the Earth, and fire... I'm not just shooting dirt, I'm killing the Earth?" he asks, sardonically at one point. A line clearly meant to make him seem like a douchebag, but I'll be damned if it didn't make me smile. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for making sure we take care of the planet we live on, it's not like we have a backup... but I don't need that message shoved down my throat in my movies. In almost every sci-fi movie with an environmental message, the plot and characters suffer greatly. They only just get by in this movie, and no thanks to the computer animation either. Which is where I'm torn. I think if this movie had been live action, it would've been easier to watch, and might've had more shelf life... but at the same time, it probably wouldn't have gotten as much notice, or been as memorable.

  Not to mention the technological achievements they accomplished in making something like this. Despite how dated it looks, there are moments you can easily forget you're watching computer generated models move about in a digital environment. There are some fantastic shots in the movie, and it's visually stunning at times. Which helps. It feels like it has all the bones of an amazing sci-fi movie, but none of the guts. Dr. Aki Ross is cute and stoic, but she's a one-note character. No matter how well she's rendered, her emotional range is kind of stunted. Which can't be said for all the characters. Maybe it's just the other voice actors breathing life into their characters, but some of the secondary characters are simply fantastic.

  Computer animation needed to mature a bit before an experimental movie like this was made. At the same time, it's experiments like The Spirits Within that push the boundaries and advance the technology. Nevertheless, I'm feeling particularly scatterbrained today. The concepts and ideas I love in this movie, are the elements that almost get sidestepped. Alot of the technology they use, the little gadgets, gizmos. All of these things would be put to much better use either in a long standing film franchise, or a video game series. Who wouldn't love to play as one of the Deep Eyes soldiers? Shit, I'd love to. Sign me up dammit. And the aliens... in this movie, are ghosts. Taking the Starship Troopers aesthetic to a whole new level. It's a mind blowing concept put to great use here, and then quickly forgotten altogether once the movie bombed.

  Granted, some would point me towards the Mass Effect games, and I would explain to them I've already played them, and the ending last one left me cold and wanting. Ick. I'm a fanboy. I have gripes. Get over it. Nonetheless, it is interesting to point out the connections between Mass Effect and this movie. Stylistically, they're kissing cousins. But the low key ambiance in the earlier scenes of the movie, and the Earth-based globe-trotting adventuring featured in the rest of it, are not things I felt directly echoed into Mass Effect. Those games played more towards Star Trek or Firefly. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a huge heap of potential just waiting to be tapped into again.

  It's a shame it had no real audience to love it and connect with it. It's technological feats were praised, but it's ideas were left alone to collect dust while the company behind the movie went bankrupt and shut down, with no intentions of ever expanding on the world they created here. The movie is dated, a little stiff, and unfortunately more lifeless than it has any right to be, but it still surprised me. It's probably my third viewing of it since it came out, and it's never looked better than it has on Blu-Ray. All the glowing x-rays, holograms, and alien ghosts make for stunning atmosphere and fantastic visual treats that movies today are still struggling to adequately deliver.

  The action scenes are impressive. The filmmakers made use of the fact they were working in a digital environment, putting the camera places you couldn't normally, capturing the action from exciting and unexpected angles. A huge chunk of this movie reminds me of Starship Troopers, and that's a good thing. The difference is that this movie has a strange sort of technical freedom in things like lighting and camera movement. It's unhinged in a way that you couldn't get in a live action movie. On top of that, there are settings and scenery that are just breathtakingly intricate and eye-popping. More than the special glowing gadgets and creatures, it's these shots that create the atmosphere of The Spirits Within.

  All in all, for a movie about souls, spirits and ghosts, it could've used a bit more heart. That's not to say the characters are devoid of merit. I liked them. They were if anything, likable. I heard that they had planned for the likeness and model of Aki Ross to be a digital actress and star in other movies, becoming a cornerstone of their studio. I would've loved to have seen her become ever more realistic over time. It's nothing short of a shame that this neat little sci-fi gem is all but forgotten, save for the hateful comments in passing by a bunch of bitter Final Fantasy fans lurking on internet forum boards. Those are not the right people to appreciate this movie. Mass Effect fans might enjoy this, and certainly those looking for something more in their sci-fi movies. It's short on feeling, but huge on neat and original ideas.  Well worth watching for the visuals alone, and definitely worth a look if you can stand the semi-dated looking CGI.