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An ambitious sci-fi disaster that tried to change cinema but killed a studio instead goes back under the spotlight

Trying to change the face of cinema forever ended in unmitigated disaster.

final fantasy the spirits within
Image via Sony

Plenty of big budget blockbusters come along and claim that they’re going to change cinema forever, but you can count the ones that have actually managed to do it on a couple of hands at most. As flawed as it was, colossal commercial catastrophe Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within did at least make an ambitious play to reinvent the wheel.

Thee first-ever photorealistic computer-animated feature film, almost a thousand workstations were required by a team of 200 to put the finished product together over the course of four years, at an eye-watering cost of $137 million – plus the additional marketing and distribution expenses that came after picture lock.

Not only that, but Ming-Na Wen’s Aki Ross was intended to be the first digital actress, one who was planned to cross over into live-action projects to have a career of her own, despite being an entirely pixelated figure. It was massively ambitious, and more than a little bit nuts, but it never came to fruition after The Spirits Within tanked spectacularly at the box office and sent Square Pictures to its doom.

And yet, more than 20 years later, and it’s clear the movie still has its supporters – many of whom have rushed to defend any and all criticism of Final Fantasy‘s pioneering nature, even if it was a flop for the ages.

via Sony

If anything, The Spirits Within was so unashamedly ambitious and doggedly determined to blaze a trail nobody had even imagined possible that it bordered on outright folly, something that was unfortunately proven to be true when you take a 44 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and an estimated loss of $94 million into the equation. Still, at least it’s still being discussed and debated, which is something.

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Scott Campbell

News, reviews, interviews. To paraphrase Keanu Reeves; Words. Lots of words.