Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Motonori Sakakibara (2001, Columbia Tristar)
Starring Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Perri Gilpin, Donald Sutherland, and James Woods

Scientists try to defeat an alien invasion using unpopular spirit theories, while the military uses harsh weapons.

View count: Twice



3 stars

August 31st, 2005 on TV  
    My first thought upon re-watching this movie was that Aki was really cute- and I loved the way her hair moved. For a CG character, that hair was terrific, and I couldn't keep my eyes off of it when she was on-screen.

I didn't quite have the awe I had the first time watching the film. The most amazing thing about it was that it looked so real, in many of the scenes. The CG creatures could be from any more recent movie, like Revenge of the Sith, even.

I wasn't too thrilled with the story, which has many faults, which I have mentioned already below. The concept also seems rather silly, making me wonder about how the spirits of these aliens survived the trip, anyway, and how they could be killed by conventional weapons.

Still, it was mostly enjoyable, though I doubt I would watch it a third time.



3 stars

September 22nd, 2001 in the Theatre  
    Wow! I was thoroughly impressed. This was a decent story, on what is probably an uncomfortable topic, using incredible visual effects and some interesting characters.

I went into this with lots of trepidation. The only reason I was watching this movie was because it was 2-for-1 with Tomb Raider. When I walked out of there, I liked this one better! I had heard so many negative things about this movie, but I thought it was great! What went wrong with popular appeal?

The plot centers around Dr. Aki Ross, a young woman who is out searching for the eight living spirits that would make up a waveform to cancel out the spirits from the phantoms, aliens that have ravaged every living thing on Earth. Humans live in sheltered areas, behind biogenic force fields. I find it pure folly, in an age such as the one we see on this screen, that they would open the force field garage door for so long, with so many phantoms around.

The theories of Dr. Ross and her mentor, Dr. Sid, are extremely unpopular, because they involve spirits and what seems to be magic. I myself don't know if this is such a good theory to study too closely, but that is beside the point. Sure, it seems like magic. Sure, it comes out of the blue. But it is an energy field created by life, and they plan to use it as a weapon as soon as they find the missing parts. That is, if the military doesn't use its Zeus laser cannon first. 

We learn about the phantoms in a really cool way -firsthand. Ross was infected with a phantom during a failed experiment. Luckily, they had isolated the first five waveforms, and were able to use them to contain the phantom. The other three spirits would be needed to kill it altogether. Ross records her dreams, which show us that the phantoms are the ghosts of aliens that were blown off their world after they destroyed it in warfare. The asteroid that crashed on Earth was debris from that planet. The inhabitants died, but their life energy remained. How they managed to get all those lifeforms on a single piece of debris, and how the ghosts breed -because there are far too many of them, is beyond me. 

The other problem concerns the fact that Ross and her escort find the last three spirits within a couple of days. She has been searching for years to find them, and her mentor had these theories for years before he found her. 

But the characters are strong. Ross believes in the theories, because she is living proof of it. She is single- minded in pursuing her goals, even when it means risking her life and the lives of the police team sent to keep an eye on her. The captain of this team is a love interest, which is helped along by the rest of the team, as they strand the couple in a tall lift. The captain doesn't believe in Ross, but as they go through some missions, he begins to protect her. Then he shares a dream with her, and his doubts begin to disappear. I liked the way this character developed.

The bad guy comes in the form of a military general. He knows force can kill the phantoms, and we get some spectacular scenes where the weapons do just that. The phantoms are really neat to watch, ranging from small to large. But every time they come into contact with life, they snuff it out. The general, tired of waiting for this "spirit nonsense" to come to fruition, decides to take matters into his own hands. He weakens the shield around New York (with its eerie view of the World Trade Center towers) to let in a few phantoms, but an entire herd enters, and ravages the city. Knowing that he has made a great blunder, he heads for the space cannon. He is surprised to see that although his plan led to a catastrophic result, it still had the desired consequences. The council wants to use the Zeus cannon. 

Of course, Ross and the captain have also escaped New York, and have discovered the eighth spirit in the crater formed by the phantom asteroid, where the cannon will fire. Coincidence?  Before they get there, the captain's entire team is sacrificed in a terrific battle where they go from dune buggy racer to Ross' impounded ship. The team gets in some wonderful shots as they fight the phantoms unleashed into the city. For them, it is worth it, because their captain gets away, along with the people who have the best chance to destroy the phantoms. 

The cannon fires as Ross and the captain are inside the crater. They are nearly killed; in fact, the captain is really wounded. Inside the crater, the cannon has just made the phantom spirit dig deeper into the Earth, where it comes into contact with Gaia, the spirit of Earth itself. There is a point where they fear the cannon might fatally damage Gaia, but when an extended burst hits Gaia directly, we do not see any repercussions. Some mention of concern would have been nice. 

The eighth spirit finds Ross, and the captain sacrifices himself to deliver it into the phantom source, which then dies. I expect the spirit waveform would be then delivered all across the planet. 

The visual effects were outstanding. From every standpoint, this is something special. Since every character was computer generated, sometimes they moved with computer-game mechanics, but so often they looked and acted so very real. Even the hair, which is what normally looks wrong, was amazingly done. 

The characters were all realized nicely as well. We got to know Ross right from the start. The captain and general had less depth, but were still decent characters. The general became obsessed. I think he went over the edge after inadvertently destroying New York City. He ends up dying trying to fire the cannon over and over again, overloading it to the point where it explodes. The other team members looked like a real team, with the banter and emotional levels that accompany a group that has worked together for a long time. There is one wise-cracker who was really funny, even in the so-obviously expected scene where he waves his hand and the energy beams of their jail cell disappear. 

With all the effort Ross went to at the beginning of the film to rescue that plant from New York, and the surprise expressed by everybody about any life-form there, it seemed inconsistent that a falcon could live out in the wilderness, among so many phantoms. I don't have a problem with that, really, but that there were plants and grasses in the Tucson wasteland seems unbelievable. I suppose some sort of food supply is necessary for the falcon to survive, and that food source needs food, also, but it seemed wrong. Life was expected to survive only inside the shielded cities, but nobody acted surprised to see the grass in Tucson (though they were very surprised to see the falcon).

I really thought this movie was well made. It had some pitfalls, and some inconsistencies, but overall, it was very enjoyable. It was a very satisfying experience. I was really expecting it to be a machine-gun bonanza, but that was completely avoided. The guns were used in defence, and they were not overused -imagine! The spirit phantoms, and the human spirits, which were lifted from the human bodies that were touched, were really cool, though the invisibility that they started with disappeared very quickly. The matter of the spirits was a little to obscure for me, as well -essentially souls, I guess. But the subject matter is a little weird. Still, given what we were in terms of a setup, it was executed very nicely, and overall, it was quite rewarding.

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