Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
May 15, 2019
Tamara: Hey, you wanted to see us?
NC: Ah, Malcolm, Tamara, take a seat.
Malcolm: But... there's no chairs.
(Sudden close-up to a smiling NC)
NC: I said, take a seat.
(The two roll their eyes and sit on the floor)
NC: Do you remember the Swan Princess review?
Malcolm: Oh, yeah.
Tamara: Yeah, sure. I think a lot of people like that one.
NC: And do you remember the characters Mr. Rooster and Miss Kitty?
Malcolm: I think so.
Tamara: Yeah, we voiced them, right?
NC: (chuckling) Well, because nobody demanded it, I decided to give them a spinoff named "Miss Rooster and Mr. Kitty".
Malcolm: You know a rooster can't be female, right?
NC: I don't see gender, only money. Thus, I'm gonna have them star in all the sketches moving forward
Tamara: Wait. You're replacing us portraying characters...
Malcolm: ...with characters that we've already portrayed?
NC: Oh, yes. Virtual actors are the future, so you're no longer needed. Farewell.
(Still smiling, NC presses something offscreen...and a wall of spikes appears above Malcolm and Tamara, closing in on them! Both aren't frightened, however)
Tamara: Don't you need us to do their voices, though?
(NC hesitates a bit. The wall of spikes goes up)
NC: I guess you have a point. Or wouldn't if you didn't mention that. But we are gonna have to negotiate.
Malcolm: No need. You can't bet everything on virtual actors that nobody's even seen yet.
NC: Oh, I think you misunderstood, Malcolm. I'm not negotiating with you. I'm negotiating with your characters. Mr. Kitty, Miss Rooster, please come in.
(The Flash-animated characters, a yellow cat and a brown female rooster, come inside the room, looking displeased)
NC: You see, I had them animated earlier. They're the most perfect virtual characters you can imagine. They will be in all of future sketches, play all of future characters, look exactly how I want them to look! Real actors will be a thing of the past! (laughs maniacally for some seconds, then hands the binder over to Malcolm) If you could just read the lines I wrote for their negotiations, that'd be swell.
Malcolm: (half-smiling with Tamara) Well, gee, we'd love to...
Tamara: But our reach just doubled.
NC: Doh! Everybody associates your voices with them, though!
Malcolm: Well, if you want the illusion to be ruined...
NC: (throws hands in annoyance) No, no, let me just write then to the budget here. These sickos... (mutters a bit while writing something in another binder) Okay, fine. Say the lines.
Malcolm: (reading from the script) Gee, Mr. Critic. Since we're not real, you can negotiate whatever you want.
(As Malcolm speaks, NC notices that Mr. Kitty and Miss Rooster are standing still and doing nothing)
Tamara: Wait, why isn't his mouth moving?
NC: (sighs) I must have just paid for enough animation to have them walk in. (goes back to writing in the binder) Now to budget in more for lip movements. Ha-ha! This is so much better than actual actors!
Malcolm: Oh, oh, what kind of personality does Mr. Kitty have, by the way?
NC: Oh, none.
NC: Well, I want them to be blank slates so people can imagine them in other roles!
Tamara: But isn't leaving an impact what would make people want to see them in other roles?
NC: Oh, why are you making this so complicated? Just get to the part where everything works!
Tamara: Okay, fi...what movie did you see?
NC: (shifts eyes) What?
Malcolm: Any time you act weird or weirder, it's because of a movie that tried the same thing.
NC: Nonsense. (raises voice) Just as Aki Ross will soon be the most famous actress in the entire world...
Tamara and Malcolm: (deadpan) Final Fantasy.
NC: SO WHAT IF IT WAS?! (crosses hands glumly)
(The title of the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is shown, followed by clips)
NC (vo): Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was something of a bizarre experiment. Based loosely on the popular video game franchise, this was one of the first fully computer-generated movies to attempt to look photorealistic. Though media and entertainment has come a lot further in this technology, it still stands as a pretty damn impressive effort. And an expensive one. With a budget of over a 137 million dollars, it only made 85 million of its money back. Why was so much put into a video game movie, (The posters for Super Mario Bros. Movie and Street Fighter are shown) which infamously don't get much of a return? Because, no joke, this was going to be the start of casting virtual actors. Their main character, Aki Ross, was being pushed as the first virtual character to be in other movies.
(The posters and shots of the movies mentioned are shown with Aki's face Photoshopped onto some of the characters)
NC (vo): So you could have The Incredibles starring Aki Ross, Polar Express starring Aki Ross, maybe even cross into live-action movies, like Bad Santa with Aki Ross, or Cat in the Hat with Aki Ross. (After a beat, "???" appears on screen) I don't know. It's a weird idea! On the one hand, the lines of artistic identity are being blurred all the time, with animated musical groups like (promo posters of...) Gorillaz and Miku being such big hits. But something about this just seems...silly. I mean, what? (More pictures followed by Photoshopped ones are shown, including one from 2017's Justice League) Is Gollum gonna play a Ninja Turtle? Is Shrek gonna play Superman's upper lip? Is General Tarkin gonna play Jar Jar? Is Thanos gonna play Sonic the Hedgehog?! (At this point, the poster for the already infamous then-upcoming 2019 Sonic the Hedgehog movie is shown with Thanos' face on the main character's, followed by a caption that reads...) Please? I guess in children's media, we've kind of done this before, (The posters for Mickey and the Beanstalk, The Muppet Christmas Carol and the shot of Bugs Bunny wearing a Superman suit are shown) putting Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and the Muppets in different roles, but that's usually more for laughs. And even then, they usually don't stray far away from their well-known personalities. They don't act much different, outside of the characteristics we already know them for...which is exactly what acting is supposed to be, for the most part. (As he says this, images of Jack Nicholson and Jeff Goldblum are shown) I mean, if Aki Ross played Sadness in Inside Out, does that mean we couldn't change the way she look to match the character because it's already a designed virtual actress? Or would we morph her to look like the character, defeating the purpose of the virtual actress? The whole thing's a little odd. But people the time were convinced this was going to be the next big thing.
(The clip of the ABC TV spot of the movie is shown)
Announcer: She's one of a hundred women who may change the cultural landscape. Perhaps the movie star of the summer.
NC: (drums fingers evilly) Indeed. The perfect plan. Isn't it, Miss Rooster?!
(Miss Rooster and Mr. Kitty are shown to be...blurred)
NC: DAMMIT! Something went wrong with the render! Now I have to pay the animators overtime! (writes in his binder again)
Malcolm: (holding a phone) Oh, hey, I'm on the phone with Phil LaMarr. He says the virtual character he's playing may want to voice Mr. Kitty.
NC: (feeling excited) Ooh, having Phil LaMarr attached could be a big drop.
Malcolm: It's probably gonna cost more than me, though.
NC: (sighs in annoyance) Okay, fine. It's worth having a celebrity like that playing the part of a character playing the part of a character playing the part of a character. (proudly closes the binder) Ha-ha! This makes so much more sense!
NC (vo): But, because Final Fantasy bombed so hard, the idea was dropped faster than a sequel to (poster of...) Simone. Wink to the three of you who remember that movie; I acknowledge its existence. So, why did Final Fantasy fail to find a real audience with its virtual characters? Well, let's take a look.
NC: This is final, and, unlike the games, I do actually mean, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
Tamara: Uh, do you still need us?
NC: No. Get out of here.
Malcolm: (points at the blurred characters) But with our virtual characters still here, we might need to voice those.
NC: (sighs and takes out the binder) I don't have a budget right now to animate them leaving!
Tamara: Now, we're very method and we go wherever our characters go.
NC: (puts the binder down) Look. An off-camera alien took them away.
Tamara: What's the alien's name?
Malcolm: You might be able to star in future sketches.
(Tamara and Malcolm get off the floor, smiling, and leave)
NC: These virtual deals getting worse all the time.
(The Columbia Pictures logo is shown with the electronic laser sound effect)
NC (vo): I guess the Columbia torch is now a lightsaber...
NC: Oh, because sci-fi!
(The movie starts on a deserted planet filled with triangular-shaped bent ledges)
NC (vo): ...as we open inside Jared Leto's brain and find it's full of those things Jack Skellington likes to walk down.
(A scientist named Aki Ross is seen walking on air like this is water)
NC (vo; as Aki): Whoa. Like the movie's script, nothing is there, yet somehow, it's supporting me.
(It is shown that Aki was dreaming about that, as she herself is shown inside a spaceship)
Aki: (narrating) Every night, the same dream.
NC (vo): This is Dr. Aki Ross, voiced by Ming-Na Wen, who keeps having dreams of an alien world.
Aki: It's been 34 years since they arrived on this planet. And not a day passes that the survivors forced to live in barrier cities do not live in fear. I believe my dreams hold the key. Will I be in time to save the Earth?
NC: Boy, she really puts the "dump" in "exposition dump".
NC (vo): By the way, if you don't follow the games, fear not; the movie doesn't either. Ironic, as the director of the movie worked on Final Fantasy games before doing this film, (The posters for FF IX, XIII, and XV: A New Empire are shown) and, granted, each game has a different story and characters.
NC: I'll admit, I never followed them that closely, but you can definitely identify a solid style from them.
(The images of the mentioned games are followed)
NC (vo): They're big, they're colorful, they're imaginative, they're weird, they're over-the-top, they're a perfect mix of both science fiction and fantasy.
(Back to the film, as it's revealed that the events take place in the year 2065)
NC (vo): This looks like someone just pissed a Syfy Channel movie into a jar of mud and then tried to animate Mars Needs Moms 2 out of it. It's not necessarily lazy, it's just standard, even for back then. This is all the typical sci-fi stuff you saw everywhere. The music even tries to make such run-of-the-mill imagery sound much grander that it actually is.
(As Aki's spaceship prepares to make a landing on Earth, the grand orchestral score by Elliot Goldenthal is heard)
NC: (feigned surprise) My God, a ship landing on Earth! I haven't seen that since everything!
(The New York City, which is Aki's destination, is completely wrecked down and almost colorless)
NC (vo): Eh, damn Powerpuff Girls playing tag again.
(The spaceship lands in the city. After Aki makes a signal by shooting in the sky with a flare gun that also reveals the enemies, a Pepsi logo is shown to be hanging on one of the skyscrapers)
NC (vo): Dr. Ross lands in New York to see if more than product placement survived the apocalypse.
(Aki is wearing a mechanical magnifying glass on her head)
NC (vo; as Aki): I would wear more protective space combat gear, but...my hair.
(The signal makes a screeching sound before exploding)
NC: Why does her sensor gun sound like a little girl's hair being pulled?
(Aki makes another shot)
NC (vo; imitating a little girl): Bobby! Quit it!
(Via her glass, Aki spots several invisible alien creatures called the Phantoms roaming around)
NC (vo): Oh, no!
NC: The Generics! An alien race made out of other alien races from other movies!
(Aki quietly moves between two buildings, but changes her direction after encountering the Phantom)
NC (vo; as Aki, sarcastically): "Join the two worlds," Korra said. "We'll get along great with the spirits," Korra said!
(A squad of soldiers wearing helmets comes from above to attack the Phantoms)
NC (vo): Several soldiers land, though, to fight off the Holo-sperm.
Soldier: (to Aki) Just what the hell do you think you're doing?
Aki: There's a life form.
Soldier: I'm taking you in.
Aki: Fine. Arrest me. But I'm not leaving without that life form. (goes away)
NC (vo; as a soldier): But, uh, arresting you? Y-you have the right to be...arrested? I am not even in charge.
(Aki approaches a single plant in the city)
Aki: I need a minute to extract it.
NC (vo): She finds what she's looking for inside, a plant, but more space shrimps try to attack.
(One soldier almost falls off a small pile of wreckage, but another one manages to lift him up by the hand)
Female soldier: I got you! (This moment is accompanied by triumphant horns in the score)
NC: Music, stop confusing nothing for something! It's nothing!
(The squad fires at the Phantom before leaving New York)
NC (vo): I know as a Final Fantasy movie, it blows, but as a Ghostbuster reboot, it kinda has promise.
(Aki presents the plant before the squad. They are now shown with their helmets taken off)
Aki: It was worth the lives of you and your men.
Ryan Whittaker: (to a female soldier named Jane Proudfoot) She thinks you're a man.
Jane: I think she's an idiot.
Neil Fleming: I know you're not a man.
Jane: I think you're an idiot, too.
Neil: Very funny.
NC: ...Is it?
(The leader of the squad "Deep Eyes" named Gray Edwards takes off his helmet, revealing himself to the surprised Aki)
NC (vo): Captain Gray, played by Alec Baldwin, of course reveals that him and Dr. Ross used to be an item, and...is also Archer.
Gray: (to Aki) Nice to see you, too.
Sterling Archer: (from Archer, audio) I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of my giant throbbing erection.
(The ship returns to the "barrier city" (protected by an energy shield) the squad resides in)
NC (vo): Oh, come on!
NC: No grand music on that standart sci-fi shot?
NC (vo; imitating horns): BWAAAAAAM! BWAAAAAAM! BWAAAAM...a ship is landing...BWAAAAAAM!
(The squad is prepared to be analyzed by a group of scientists in the capsules in order to see whether they were infected or not)
Neil: I hate getting scanned.
NC (vo): The other soldiers, played by hugely distracting voices, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames and Peri Gilpin, all sound so friggin' distinct that it's impossible to connect them coming out of these CG puppets. It just sounds like the criminals from Fargo and Out of Sight are calling Ross to get on the Dr. Crane show.
Ryan: Sir, this scan is probably worse for us.
Neil: These machines are suspected of causing sterility. And I want to have a little Neil Jr. calling me daddy someday.
Jane: That's a spooky thought.
NC: (chuckles) Well, no doubt about it, they're gonna make it to the end.
(The alarm goes off after Gray is scanned, and the squad runs to the capsule he's in)
Ryan: Oh, shit!
Neil: They got him.
Gray: There must be a mistake.
Techician (Dwight Schultz): You came in contact with the Phantom, sir. Please remain calm.
NC: (as Gray) Well, that almost makes me have a facial expression. I can't start having a personality now!
Aki: What level is he?
Techician: Blue. It'll be code red in three and a half minutes.
(Gray is injected by a sleeping draft in his neck)
Sterling Archer: (audio) That is the third saddest thing I've heard today.
(Aki makes an attempt to remove the infection out of Gray's body)
Techician: There is no time! You'll gonna lose him! His treatment shield is failing.
NC: (hand on cheek, speaking flatly) Wow, the suspense I have for these human military catchphrases I've known for only a minute is really drawing me in.
NC (vo): Dr. Ross saves him by zapping the alien Phantom inside his body.
(Aki destroys the infection. Neil walks to Ryan and puts his hand on his shoulder to calm him down)
NC (vo; as Neil): I'm told this represents human emotion. Clearly, didn't work.
(Gray wakes up)
Aki: It's all right.
NC (vo; as Aki): Your chin is still 2/3 your body.
Ryan: (to Jane) What's with her and the captain?
Neil: What's with her and that stupid plant? (Jane glares at him) What?
NC: (flummoxed) No, really, what? I think you forgot to write a joke.
(Aki approaches her mentor, Dr. Sid, saying that she found the sixth spirit. Both are sure that the Phantoms will be defeated when all the eight spirits are combined)
NC (vo): Donald Sutherland reprises his role as smart old guy, as he talks with Dr. Ross about finding one of the missing spirits they're looking for in the plant.
Aki: Spirits? I thought we weren't supposed to use the S word.
Sid: (chuckles) Don't get smart with me.
NC: (as Sid) You'd be the first person in this movie to do.
NC (vo): One of the weirder things in this movie is Ming-Na Wen is known for being a really great voice actress, like, giving solid performance after solid performance every time. I don't know if it was just bad direction or if there was a time crunch, but her delivery throughout the entire film seems more computer-generated than her character is.
Aki: You made it possible to harness that energy for ovo-pacs, scanners, even the barrier. The council knows that. They trust you, Doctor.
NC: (as Aki, smiling and shifting eyes) Donny. I think I see my mom and dad in the audience. (waves) Hi, Mom and Dad! I'm a doctor.
Aki: Doctor, there is a war going on. No one's young anymore.
NC (vo; sighs): Can we write in that she pretends to be a boy for some reason? I don't know how, I'm just positive it'll add more life to her scenes!
Mulan: (audio, speaking "manly") Uh, sorry you had to see that, but you know how it is when you get those, uh, manly urges.
Sid: Our ideas are unpopular, Aki. If you have any notes or records that could be used against you, destroy them.
NC: Oh, come on. Science being unpopular, especially in an age of computers? That seems far-fetched.
(Aki and Sid appear at the leadership council in the city, where they come across General Hein, dressed in black attire, presenting his project of the giant space cannon named "Zeus")
NC (vo): Dr. Ross and smart old guy go to the Council of Space-Choosey Things and make their case that defeating the alien race known as the Phantoms with a giant cannon is not a good idea. And don't you hate it when you can't tell who the bad guy is?
Hein: Could you please explain why? Zeus was completed a month ago.
NC: (as Hein) Seeing how I'm played by James Woods, it clearly should have been called "Hades"!
Council Member 1 (Keith David): We have reconvened today to vote that very issue again.
(The shot starts zooming on various people sitting in the background)
NC (vo): My God, is anybody ugly in this movie?! Can someone have a zit?!
Sid: When we increase the laser power to destroy these deeper particles...
(As Sid speaks, Aki glances at Gray briefly)
Sterling Archer: (audio) Danger Zone...
Sid: As you all know...
(Suddenly, the explosion is Photoshopped onto Sid's head)
NC: Ah! There it is. The #1 line to warn you that you're in a shitty movie, "As you know."
NC (vo): One of the laziest uses for exposition, because, as stated many times before, if it's already known, why is it being said?
Sid: As you all know...
General Hager: (from Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) As you may know...
Kathy Morningside: (from Miss Congeniality) As you may know...
Nute Gunray: (from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) As you know...
Admiral Zhao: (from The Last Airbender, to Ozai) As you know, I conducted a raid on the Great Library...
NC: You can pretty much put it on a movie's tombstone as soon as it's mentioned. (The image of a tombstone that reads "As you know, this movie's gonna blow" appears)
NC (vo): So...as you know...the Phantoms' nest is in the meteor that hit Earth. While Gestapo McMatrixCode here (Hein) wants to blast it, smart old guy says it's not a good idea because it'll hurt the Earth's spirit. (Beat) Yep, that's what we're doing.
Council Member 2 (Jean Simmons): Injure the Earth? You mean the Gaia.
Sid: I mean...
Council Member 2: You mean the spirit of the Earth.
NC: (as the council member, while the shot of Gaia and the main characters (their heads covered by red "X"s) from Captain Planet is shown) She's gone through eighth-grade Planeteer bodies the way centipedes have gone through socks. For the sake of our children, we cannon risk this!
Council Member 2: Even if Gaia does exist, won't we still have to remove the Phantoms?
Sid: But there is an alternative to the space cannon.
Council Member 2: Please.
(The holographic board turns on before Hein and Sid)
Sid: Now, as we know...
(Another explosion is edited in)
NC: Two?! Really?!
NC (vo; as Sid): As you know, pink is a color, salt is salty, and the writer for this is never getting hired again. (as council members) As we know! (normal) He suggests using several hidden spirits whose energy can cancel out the Phantoms, but, as of now, they're not all discovered.
Hein: Gathering plants and animals from around the world to fight the Phantoms is utter nonsense.
NC (vo; as Aki, gasps): He said the N word!
Hein: ...some army of touchy-feely plants and animals...
NC: By the way, I love James Woods. I think he's a great talent, he's hugely entertaining to watch...but tell me, tell me he's not trolling the movie with this line read!
Aki: We've succeeded in containing the particles...
Hein: (groans in annoyance) Where is the proof?!
NC (vo): Seriously, how much more "please notice me" high school drama teacher can you get?
Hein: Where is the proof?!
NC (vo; imitating Tommy Wiseau): You are tearing me apart, proof!
Hein: Where is the proof?!
NC: (imitating Hein) Where is the proof?!
(Malcolm opens the door)
Malcolm: Critic, I can't find your copy of Young Frankenstein.
NC: Where is the spoof?!
(A fire is heard crackling...and cut to the image of the burned down Notre Dame)
NC: Where is the roof?!
Tamara: (shows up as a waitress) I'm sorry, sir. Want broth or minestrone?
NC: Where is the soup?!
(A classic "poof" sound effect is heard now...and cut to the end shot of Goof Troop intro, but with no "Goof" in it)
NC: Where is the Goof?!
Malcolm: (comes to NC and points at something) Look. A deer.
(An image of a deer is shown in NC's room. NC looks down and sees the absense of a hoof)
NC: Where is the hoof?!
(Tamara is now dressed like a magician)
Tamara: Look! Magic!
(She makes a white bunny disappear with her wand. No sound is heard)
NC: Where is the poof?!
(NC then reaches for something in his mouth and pulls out a tooth)
NC: Ah. Look at that. I screamed so hard, one of my wisdom teeth fell out.
Tamara: Oh, that's very fortunate.
NC: (smiles) Indeed. Perhaps I'll get some money tonight.
Malcolm: Oh, well, you better head to bed, Critic.
NC: Indeed, Malcolm. Y-y-yeah.
(NC, Malcolm and Tamara walk out of the studio. NC lies on the couch in the living room, puts his tooth under a pillow and covers himself with a blanket, smiling warmly. During this, "Morning Song" by Edward Grieg is playing)
Tamara: Good night, little Critic.
NC: Good night, Malcolm and Tamara.
Malcolm: Dream of merriment and joy.
NC: I will.
(Malcolm and Tamara quietly leave the room. As the night comes, next to the sleeping NC appears a Tooth Fairy...or rather, a crazily smiling man with a beard wearing tutu, played by Jim. He waves his wand in front of the pillow to collect the tooth and deliver a coin, laughs quietly like a lunatic and dissappears. As "Morning Song" reaches its coda, NC wakes up the next morning, yawns and walks to the kitchen. He takes a box of Lucky Frosted Cocoa Trix)
NC: (scoffs) Cereal. What will they think of next?
Tamara: Oh, hello, Critic.
NC: Good morning, Malcolm and Tamara. Sleep well?
Malcolm: Sure did. Oh, did the fairy come last night?
NC: (stops unwrapping the box) Why, I got so excited for cereal, I didn't even think to check!
Malcolm: Well, better go take a look.
(Exclaiming in joy, NC throws the cereal box away and runs to the couch like a bunny. He puts his hand under a pillow and takes out a coin)
NC: (suddenly speaking to the camera with an angry facial expression) Where is the tooth?!
(He rises up...to meet Fard Muhammad in a tux holding a mike and the confetti falling on him. Behind him, a banner that reads "Most Annoyingly Drawn Out Joke" is hanging. Malcolm and Tamara come to NC to congratulate him. In the background, Ludwig Van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is playing)
Fard: Congratulations, Critic! That was the most annoyingly drawn-out joke you've done in years! How does it feel?
NC: Well, you know, we were nervous at first, I mean, we deliberately wasted everybody's time, I mean, the review just completely disappeared. But, you know, hopefully, we gave some nightmares out there with the fairy... (points up) and I want to thank God...and to all the people I pissed off out there, I'm sorry, I'm not well! (goes to hug Malcolm and Tamara)
Fard: (chuckles and speaks to the camera) Emotional words. Stupid emotional words. I'm Fard Muhammad, and I'm not talking to a camera right now; I'm just insane!
(Back to the film; Aki reveals to the council that she has been infected and the collected spirit signatures are keeping her infection stable, convincing the council that there may be another way to defeat the Phantoms. However, this revelation leads Hein to incorrectly conclude that she is being controlled by the Phantoms)
NC (vo): Dr. Ross shows that she is infected by the Phantoms and that the research has slowed it down. But the only way to destroy the infection without destroying her is finding the other spirits.
(Gray joins Aki, who is tampering with a machine)
Gray: Mind if I tag along?
Aki: You'll probably get bored.
NC: "Get"? Have you been watching this movie?