REVIEW: HELLBOY ANIMATED: BLOOD AND IRON

CAST

Ron Perlman (13 Sins)
Selma Blair (Anger Management)
John Hurt (Alien)
Doug Jones (The Neighbors)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)

In a series of flashbacks played in reverse chronological order it is related that in 1939, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm investigated a series of murders in Eastern Europe. Erzebet Ondrushko, a vampire who bathed in the blood of innocents to stay young, was responsible. She had sold her soul to the Queen of Witches, the goddess Hecate, and had just kidnapped the fiancee of one of the townsmen. When the search party confronted Erzebet in her castle, all members of the party were horribly killed, and Bruttenholm was left to face her alone. He tricked her into the sunlight, effectively destroying her.

In the present day, an elderly Bruttenholm, who is overcome with memories of his encounter with Erzebet, takes a particular interest in a publicity stunt case in the Hamptons on Long Island. A haunting has been reported in a mansion recently purchased by developer Oliver Trumbolt, a friend of a U.S. Senator with hands deep in the BPRD’s budget, and considered a low priority. Bruttenhom insists that their most advanced team should go: Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien, Hellboy and junior agent Sydney Leach as well as himself (to everyone’s surprise). Bruttenholm does not explain his motives at first.
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Ana, a blushing bride-to-be is met on the streets by two elderly women who encourage her to go to her bridal gown fitting, where she meets Erzebet, who had already killed the shop owner and her baby. Ana innocently comments that Erzebet reminds her of her “older” sister, offending her until she notices that Erzabet has no reflection. She screams, and everything goes dark. Later, upon being told that Father Lupescu was the one who convinced Ana to go to her fitting despite the disappearances of the young girls in the village, Erzabet pays him a visit, frightening him with her dark powers and confirming that his faith is not enough to keep her power from affecting the town. The BPRD team arrives at Trumbolt’s site and sets up to investigate the haunting. Despite a few open windows, a creepy lifelike replica of Erzabet and an old, suspiciously familiar-looking groundskeeper, everything seems normal until night falls and they each encounter strange ghostly apparitions, culminating in dozens of spirits of Erzabet’s former victims. Excited that he may have found a goldmine, Trumbolt ignores the professor’s warnings and is attacked. Ana goes to visit Father Lupescu who convinces her that she should not fear danger because the church is strong and the faith will keep her from harm. She hurries off to have her fitting done, running into Professor Bruttenholm as she leaves. Bruttenholm attempts to explain to Lupescu about Erzabet’s true nature and her allegiance to Hecate, but he becomes offended and turns Bruttenholm away.
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Using his abilities to detect metal, Leach finds a secret passageway through the house’s cellar, inadvertently coming across Trumbolt’s body, drained of blood. The blood has been placed in a bathtub, apparently for Erzabet’s revival. Bruttenholm and Liz head for the gardens to stop Hecate and Erzabet’s Harpy-Hags from summoning her back from the dead while a werewolf attacks Hellboy and Abe. Abe is knocked unconscious and taken by the harpies for experimentation while Hellboy fights the werewolf, eventually subduing it and revealing that it is Father Lupescu, the groundskeeper whom Bruttenholm had earlier identified. Meanwhile, Liz and Bruttenholm are attacked, first by wolves, then by Erzabet’s withered body, which knocks Liz out and takes Bruttenholm. Hellboy is dropped through a hole in the courtyard and meets Hecate, who is perplexed as to why he helps the mortals, and tries to lure him to the dark side. He bluntly refuses again and again, forcing Hecate to take a physical form to deal with him. After Abe escapes them, the harpies come across Hecate, but one is killed as she violently thrashes with Hellboy and the other escapes. Erzabet bathes in Trumbolt’s blood and rejuvenates herself, but she begins to wither and decay again from the Holy Water which Bruttenholm had added to the bath. He breaks off a chair leg and finishes her off. Her death enrages Hecate who brutally attacks Hellboy and badly wounds him, and when he realizes her weakness is the sun, he lures her outside, forcing her back into the darkness of her own realm, defeated.
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Bruttenholm is preparing for his trip to Transylvania where rumors have it that there is a vampire on the loose. As he is packing, his colleague comes in and they discuss the “right hand of doom” (Hellboy’s stone hand); Bruttenholm asserts that so long as evil exists, good will rise up against it, before revealing an image of Hellboy’s right hand, signifying that he will be responsible for the destruction of the world.Hellboy wakens in his bed, admiring Bruttenholm, his adopted father, before falling back to sleep again.4df3f410-fefa-404e-86a7-7d9d462f78b3_mediumHellboy: Blood and Iron is a solid Hellboy spinoff movie, and serves as a window into the past of the underused Professor.

 

REVIEW: HELLBOY ANIMATED: SWORD OF STORMS

CAST

Ron Perlman (13 Sins)
Selma Blair (Anger Management)
Doug Jones (The Neighbors)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)

15977966_377665005938992_7057322466359487057_nThe film starts in the middle of an unspecified mission which sees Hellboy, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien battling bat-worshipping Mayan zombies who are led by a gigantic zombie bat. The group are eventually able to defeat their opponents when Liz unleashes her pyrokinetic powers, although she is still unsure of her ability to control her powers.
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Meanwhile, Japanese folklore expert Professor Sakai obtains an ancient scroll containing the myth of two demonic brothers, Thunder and Lightning. Hundreds of years ago, the brothers roamed the earth, unleashing storms on the lands of a Japanese Lord. In exchange for mercy, the Lord promised to give them his beautiful daughter. One of the Lord’s samurai warriors was in love with the daughter and hid her in a shrine to protect her. Armed with the Sword of Storms, a mystical sword imbued with an ancient spell to defeat Thunder and Lightning, the warrior fought the brothers and trapped both demons’ spirits in the sword. Although his lands and daughter had been saved, the Lord was not pleased since the warrior’s actions meant the Lord had broken a promise. In an act of vengeance, the Lord summoned the gods to turn the warrior to stone and then killed his daughter in the shrine.
0-n1m5bgtjim060lfjIn current-day Japan, Professor Sakai is possessed by the spirits of Thunder and Lightning while reading the scroll. The demonic brothers send the professor in search of the mystical sword. After he attacks the sword collector who currently owns the sword, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is alerted and Hellboy, Kate Corrigan, and a psychic named Russell Thorne are called in with a team to investigate. During the investigation, Hellboy picks up a discarded katana and vanishes to another dimension that is reminiscent of ancient Japan. Hellboy meets a wise kitsune, who tells him that the sword he holds is the Sword of Storms and that the goal of his journey lies to the west. Hellboy travels through the alternate universe and learns that he can only return to his own world by breaking the sword, although that will also free the demonic brothers. Along the way Hellboy encounters several mythical Yōkai, sent by the still possessed Professor Sakai, who try to steal the sword from him, including the kappa, a trio of rokurokubi, a group of nukekubi, a Jorōgumo, Gashadokuro, tengu, Yomotsu-shikome, and the restless ghost of the Lord’s daughter. Hellboy is able to outsmart or defeat all of them.
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Meanwhile, Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman are called to the sites of disturbing earthquakes and discover that Thunder and Lightning are summoning their brothers, the dragons. They meet the same kitsune who guided Hellboy and are instructed to stop the dragons. One of the dragons attacks them but Liz manages to hold it back using her pyrokinetic abilities. Professor Sakai, in the meantime, has gone to the shrine where the Lord killed his daughter, followed by Kate and Russell who have just survived an attack by several objects from Japanese folklore. At the same time, Hellboy is tricked into destroying the sword by the giant Oni (who faded away before the final blow can be struck) which releases Thunder and Lightning, frees Professor Sakai, and sends Hellboy to the shrine as well. Hellboy eventually manages to trap both spirits in the sword again. As a result, the dragons are sealed back into the underworld. The ghosts of the daughter and the Lord possess Kate and Russell, in order to replay the daughter’s execution. Hellboy accidentally frees the ghost of the samurai warrior from its stone form and then convinces the Lord to forgive his daughter and the warrior, thereby breaking the cycle of their unending deaths. The spirits depart, thankful to Hellboy and the others for helping them.4df3f410-fefa-404e-86a7-7d9d462f78b3_mediumIf you are seriously into Hellboy or even if you are just a casual fan of the movie then you totally have to get this.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 2

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Mitchell Ryan (Halloween 6)
Rob Paulsen (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Tom Kenny (The Super Hero Squad Show)
William Atherton (Die Hard)
Fairuza Balk (The Craft)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
David Kaufman (Prom Night)
Dorie Barton (Down With Love)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Larry Drake (Darkman)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Kim Mai Guest (TMNT)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Bruce McGill (Lincoln)
Ted McGinley (No Good Nick)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Tracey Walter (batman)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Brian Doyle-Murray (JFK)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (Nocturnal Animals)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lamabs)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Brad Garrett (Tangled)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead)
Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans Go)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Hynden Walch (Groundhog Day)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Kimberly Brooks (Voltron)
Robert Ito (Midway)
Victor Rivers (The Mask of Zorro)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

MV5BMTkxOTY5NTY5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjEwOTM2MjE@._V1_Now this is more like it. Justice League’s second season takes all of the wrinkles found in the first year and smoothes them over. The action is bigger, the stories are more exciting, and Batman’s rating on the cool-o-meter reaches new highs – exactly how things should be. The result is a boxed set that offers perhaps the finest collection of superhero animation that your hard-earned dollars can buy. They don’t come any better then this, kids.MV5BODg3ODYzM2QtNTIwOS00YzhjLThmMDItZTY4MDc0NzU1NDhkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Much like the comic book universe from which these characters came, the Warner Bros. superhero shows headed by Bruce Timm and friends (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond) have created a continuity and universe all their own. Justice League is the latest (and, sadly, final) entry in this cartoon universe and it takes all of the best stuff from what has come before it and combines it into a near-perfect superhero animated series. While the first season was light on character development and solid storytelling, the second season gets the balance of action, story, and character just right. Again we’ve got great supporting characters and villains from the DC universe; Darkseid, John Dee, Despero, and even Doomsday all make appearances.MV5BMTQxNzgzNDg3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_The action is also a lot more exciting, with more imagination having gone into the writing of the fights. Furthermore, this season we’ve got some great CG effects (used for vehicles and ships) – the air dogfight in Maid of Honor between the Batwing and some jetfighters is especially cool to watch.  Another standout this season is the music. The series composers (Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, and Kristopher Carter) have created some amazing stuff here. In each episode you’ll find several musical cues that will really get your attention and at least one that will tug at the ol’ heartstrings. The music knows when to fade into the background and let the images do the work and when to take centre stage. With stuff this good you want the music to take centre stage as much as possible. There is a Princess Mononoke-esque “nature endures” moment in Hearts and Minds where the score was just wonderful. The music in these episodes is too good for a cartoon TV show.MV5BMTQ1MjM0MTMwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjc5ODM2MjE@._V1_So the action is awesome, Superman is fixed, and the music is one-of-a-kind. All that’s left is the writing… and it’s the best part. The writing here is really great, with story and character always being the focus of each episode. A Better World answers a simple question in an interesting way: what if Superman crossed the line? In an alternate universe, Superman realizes that Luthor really is an unredeemable villain and he kills him. We see that the murder – even the murder of a monster like Luthor – changes both Superman and the League. They become Big Brother-like sentries of the planet. When a cross-dimensional rift is opened, this “darker” league (known as the Justice Lords) has a showdown with our untainted heroes. The episode brings up some very interesting questions and is a blast to watch.MV5BMTYwOTU0OTUwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTk5ODM2MjE@._V1_We’ve also got some fantastic variety. The Paul Dini-penned Comfort and Joy is a very touching Christmas episode, while Hereafter transports Superman to a Planet of the Apes-ish future where he is the planet’s sole survivor (he even grows a Robinson Crusoe beard and fashions himself a jungle-machete!). The Terror Beyond makes for a very fun H.P. Lovecraft-inspired romp which sees Solomon Grundy fighting his way into the brain of the massive Ichthulhu (voiced by Rob Zombie) and wrestling a nightmare creature inside this thing’s head. Very bizarre, but very cool. Finally there’s the three-part season finale, Starcrossed. This is a balls-to-the-wall action spectacular which culminates in Batman piloting the League’s watchtower into the planet, while Green Lantern and Hawkgirl’s relationship is torn to shreds.MV5BMTkxMDQzODI2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDIwOTM2MjE@._V1_This is a fantastic collection of episodes, to be sure, but there are still a few nitpicks that keep the set from getting a perfect score. For one, while Superman is tougher, much of the new attitude doesn’t feel genuine – it seems that they wanted to make him “cooler” so they made him more badass. Problem is, Superman isn’t a badass character. Second, there are a few episodes (Maid of Honor and Eclipsed) that feel somewhat stale, and one episode, Wild Cards, that, sadly, let its driving gag get the better of the story. On TV you’ll find many cartoons, but you’ll only find one Justice League – its second season is a shining example of superhero animation done right in virtually every respect. Most importantly, the show’s creators have crafted a series that respects the intelligence, attention-span, and maturity of its audience. This isn’t just a kids show nor is it just a television show. It’s Justice League – and it’s great.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

Tim Daly (Madam Secretary)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
David Kaufman (Stargate SG.1)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sharon Lawrence (The Ranch)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Renée Taylor (The Nanny)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Brad Garrett (Christopher Robin)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Steve Sandor (The Yellow Rose)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Victor Brandt (The Batman)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
William H. Macy (Fargo)
Peter Gallagher (The Gifted)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mathew Valencia (The New Batman Advntures)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Glover (Smallville)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Bob Hastings (The Poseidon Adventure)
Charity James (Space Jam)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Melissa Joan Hart (No GOod Nick)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Bud Cort (Harold and Maude)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Gilbert Gottfried (Critters: A New Binge)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Carl Lumbly (Supergirl)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael P. Greco (Bleach)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Peter Mark Richman (Defenders of The Earth)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations)
Billy West (Futurama)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
David Warner (Tron)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
Michael Horse (Roswell)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

3447328-absolute-powerSuperman is everywhere. He’s also been everywhere; for nearly seventy years now the character has been inspiring us with his tales of heroism, adventure, and fantasy. Seventy years is a long time and with a character as popular as Superman it equates to a lot of different interpretations. From the original comic books to a radio series to a handful of television shows, it seems that the Last Son of Krypton has done it all. We are very lucky then to have these DVDs, because in all of that time, throughout all the years, the stories found in Superman: The Animated Series are his best. The fifty-four cartoon episodes (spread across three boxed sets) that make up the complete run of Superman: The Animated Series aren’t just the best take on the character because they’re faithful. Nor is it because they’re animated, for all ages, or very imaginative. It’s for all of these reasons. And several more.3447300-little_big_head_manThe creative team behind the series has plundered the rich mythology of the character and come up with a fantastic take on each and every piece of the Superman universe. For starters, their Clark Kent and Lois Lane interpretation is spot-on. Clark isn’t too much of a goof, nor is he too simple. Similarly, Lois is fiery, funny, and lovely. Seeing the characters come together at the end of Legacy, Part 2 makes for a great cathartic moment. Superman has saved Lois a countless number of times, it is only fitting then that Lois save him when he needs it. The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.maxresdefault (1)While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.stas-legacy7Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League. We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.Superman_TAS_2x27_001The animation is somewhat more limited when compared to the fancy digital effects that more modern shows exhibit, but the handcrafted style gives the show a wonderful atmosphere. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that a lot of effort has gone into the design of the animation – much more so than most animated series. The framing here is frequently packed. Helping flesh out the world are all of the voice actors; everyone from Tim Daly (as Superman/Clark) to Clancy Brown (as Lex Luthor) is perfect in his or her role. The only thing holding the show back, and this is a small point, is the fact that the stories, due to their child-friendly animated nature, are a little more limited than the best television shows tend to be. Even so, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better adventure series – animated or live action.Superman_meets_SupergirlIn one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.

REVIEW: FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

CAST (VOICES)

Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Alec Baldwin (Mission Impossible 5)
Ving Rhames (Julia X)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Keith David (Picth Black)
John DiMAggio (Futurama)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)After the runaway success of Final Fantasy VII on the original Playstation, Sony greenlit a Final Fantasy movie. The final result, The Spirits Within, didn’t appear on movie screens until 2001, the same year as Shrek. However, unlike the unfunny green ogre, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within failed to generate any meaningful business at the box office, and it was the biggest bomb in film history up to that point. It’s admirable for its sweeping alien vistas and imaginative space-age designs, but the story just doesn’t have enough in it to keep the audience’s interest.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)The film follows Doctor Aki Ross (Ming-na) as she and her mentor, Dr. Sid (Donald Sutherland) attempt to discover a way to clear Earth of a strange race of alien beings known as Phantoms. These Phantoms have made Earth uninhabitable, aside from a few protected cities. The film opens with Aki dreaming of an alien world, only to wake up on a space shuttle. She takes the shuttle down to Earth to find remnants of organic life. However, she’s soon trapped by Phantoms, determined to kill her, when she’s saved by a group of space marines, led by Captain Gray Edwards (Alec Baldwin), Aki’s former lover. It’s soon discovered that the plant Aki was after was part of a series of organisms that Aki and Sid are collecting to assemble a spiritual wave that they believe will counter the alien infestation at its source (a giant asteroid from which the Phantoms spawn).Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Their theory is not a popular one, however. The human government still has armies, and their general, Hein (James Woods), has erected a giant space cannon which he intends to use to blow the asteroid to smithereens. Sid and Aki contend that this would irrevocably damage the planet, but without further proof, their protests fall on deaf ears. Now it’s up to Aki, Sid, Gray, and his team to find the remaining organisms so they can finish the wavelength before Hein uses the cannon. And Aki keeps having these strange dreams.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within feels like what Aliens might have been like had James Cameron been into New Age philosophy. The space marines (voiced by Steve Buscemi, Frasier’s Peri Gilpin, and Ving Rhames) are reminiscent of those more famous marines in Cameron’s film. The overall design feels like it could have been in line with that world, and the idea of the Phantoms infecting you and taking you over from the inside feels very similar to the parasitic nature of Alien’s xenomorphs. In point of fact, the one thing it doesn’t feel similar to in any way, shape, or form is the Final Fantasy series of video games from which it derives its name. Dr. Sid is the most notable callback, as in almost every Final Fantasy game there is a character named Cid. Also, some of the other character names vaguely resemble those found in the games. The Gaia theory posited in the film is very similar to the Living Planet of Final Fantasy VII, but to no real effect. I can understand wanting to create a fresh story that newcomers and old fans alike could enjoy.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)The film’s half-baked idealistic philosophies, combined with its often groan-inducing dialogue probably killed the movie more than any lack of resemblance to the video games. The whole conceit of the wavelength, while explained repeatedly and in excruciating detail, never quite gels. Similarly, Hein’s Zeus cannon doesn’t seem like a much better alternative, and it doesn’t help that he’s a terribly written villain. Of course, you have to respect James Woods’ ability to chew the scenery even when there isn’t any actual scenery to chew. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Woods, as he’s one of my favorite actors, but he’s so over the top here it hurts.The rest of the cast fare marginally better. Ming-na has a respectable voice acting pedigree that serves her well, as does Peri Gilpin (most recently heard in the animated Hellboy projects). Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames don’t take their roles too seriously, which works to their advantage. Alec Baldwin, aside from being a great actor, lends his voice to one of the most memorable cartoon characters of recent memory (that of Leonardo Leonardo from the Clerks animated series), but he plays it straight here and is fairly disappointing. It doesn’t help that his character is animated to look exactly like Ben Affleck. I’m not kidding. This movie’s worth renting just to see how meticulously the filmmakers recreated every facet of Affleck’s face–only to give him Baldwin’s voice.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)That does bring up an important point, though. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was meant to be the first in a series of computer generated films that were photo realistic. And while it’s clear the film is CGI, it still looks damn impressive. The character models are exquisite, making the more cartoony offerings from Pixar or Dreamworks just seem amateurish by comparison (and I know that Pixar and Dreamworks aren’t striving for realism, I’m just saying how one looks against the other). The environments are amazingly detailed, and the movie is just a beauty to behold. Unfortunately, the film’s complete and utter financial failure bankrupted Square Pictures, although they did manage to make The Final Flight of the Osiris for Warner Bros. Animatrix project before closing shop. Square returned in 2005/2006 with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which looked even more spectacular than Spirits Within, but did not see a U.S. theatrical release.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within deserved a better fate than it got at the box office, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great movie. While it certainly was a great technological breakthrough, it didn’t have the story or characters to make it work.