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 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.
Major Elliot (Matt McKenzie): 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?
Elliot: 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)
Elliot: 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.