Fan Fiction
Updater on Duty: Alanna
In Alanna's Head: What a bloody gorgeous movie!
In Alanna's PSX: FF8. Replaying it to get footage for a music video I'm working on.

Oh. My. Word. That. Movie.

Yes, I just got back from the late showing of the Final Fantasy movie. It's not perfect; very few movies are. But as movies go, this one was mindblowing in some ways, and a bit of a letdown in others. Read on for my full review, copied from my weblog; those who (like me) don't want to know anything about a movie or a game before seeing it can just skip down here to go on to the Notes from Fanfic Land.

Okay. The Final Fantasy movie. What can I say about this movie? I was just simply blown away by it. I think it was well worth the price of admission. In fact, I'm going to be going back to see it again -- and I'm currently boycotting movies for idealistic reasons, so you know it had to have been good.

Now, it wasn't perfect. There are plotholes that you could drive a truck through, but that's because it's a little light on the actual plot department; any reader of science fiction will recognize the basic setting, but there are a few twists that are revealed about halfway through the move that had me pleasantly surprised. It's standard sci-fi fare, but it's standard sci-fi fare with the kick in the ass that we've come to expect from Square; the overall concept is fascinating even if the execution leaves a little to be desired. One of our fellow RPG nuts made the comment that it's like playing disk 4 of a four-disk game, and I'll agree with that; the story plays catch-up with itself the whole way, leaving the audience overall quite confused about the significance of most of the plot elements. There's a lot of mystical handwaving and technobabble to explain the significance of things, but somehow, when you get there, you forgive it. We're not there for the story, anyway.

I thought that the dialogue was wonderful. The scriptwriters threw in some random humor at some pleasantly surprising points, and our audience was laughing out loud even in the middle of some of the worst dramatic tension. The characters talked like real people under a lot of stress and trying to keep their cool. The timing between dialogue and facial motion was amazing; there were a few places where I actually forgot I was looking at pixels, not people.

The voice-acting was a refreshing change from most American attempts at animation. Steve Buscemi was insanely great as Neil, which is what disappointed me about the fact that he didn't get very much screen time. He was probably my favorite character in the movie, though his object-of-unrequited-affection Jane kicked some serious arse in the Ripley-against-the-aliens sense. (And my spoiler-free assessment of a Certain Point in the movie is that Jane took the only possible action she could have taken, and it was lovely. I'm a big believer in dramatic necessity; see previous rants.)

The chief 'villian', General Hein (which made me snicker; it's pronounced exactly the same way as I pronounced 'Hyne' from FF8) has "EVIL" written all over him. It's something about the eyebrows. Or the Seifer-went-broke-and-had-to-sell-his-wardrobe-to-Goodwill outfit. The movie did bother to give him a bit of characterization in the middle, which made me a lot happier with the fact that he was just bloody dumb. However, he was dumb in the way that real people are dumb, so I forgave it.

And the graphics. My Lord, the graphics. If you see this movie for nothing else, see it for the graphics. The movie opens with, among other things, a close-up of Aki's eye; you can see all the subtle shadings and gradations that a human eye contains. There are moments -- all too many, sadly -- when you can identify the computer-generated nature of the movie; but that's all to be expected for the first of its genre. Aki, for instance, often seems flat and lifeless; her face is far too perfect, far too plastic in places, and the way she moves is often stiff and painful. Each major character was given a lead programmer, and it's obvious that some of them are better than others. Sid and Jane, for instance, were nearly indistinguishable from live humans, while Aki and Gray occasionally made me wince. The aliens are fascinating, and speak to that back of your hindbrain that comes up with the evil monsters that populate the creepy dreams that surface from time to time. The most insanely amazing graphics moment of the movie, for me? Not any of the explosions or fight scenes, not the zero-gravity scenes, not the aliens (though they were cool); it was watching General Hein standing in front of a government committee meeting to shout at Dr. Sid, and realizing that you could see the little muscle twitching in his jaw. It's the little details that really make or break it.

The ending was (no spoilers, I promise) fairly typical, though the resolution of the Obligatory Love Story pissed me off far less than it usually does. We all had a heart-stopping moment where we thought that Square was going to completely cheese out and cause us to have to kill them, but fortunately they restrained. I was, however, severely disappointed that there was no Squaresoft patented post-credits final FMV. At least give us the starfield and the crystal theme, dammit.

Was I happy to spend the $9? Yes. Will I see it again? Yes. Is it Final Fantasy? In name only, really; it's missing a lot of the familiar elements of the franchise, and probably would have been better standalone were it not for the fact that Square needs the loyal-gamer contingent to help save its corporate ass. Is it a good movie? Tolerably so, and better than most of the drek that's out there these days. Is it a ground-breaking revolution in special effects that should make Industrial Light and Magic quake in their boots? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Notes From Fanfic Land

Look, ma, an update on time. Yeah, I know, it's not all that amazing, but I'm proud of it, especially considering that it's been a horribly busy week. Thanks to everyone who's been emailing offers of support and encouraging words, and my apologies to the authors who have been waiting for things to get done. I did get a chance to poke at the archives a little and do some of the updates that have been waiting (some since January ... erp), so at least that's progress. I dream sometimes that someday I might actually get caught up on email. One request I do have; when you send us email, please make sure that the reply-to address on your message is a valid email address. I've had a few letters returned to me this week as undeliverable, and it's frustrating to have to throw something in the update that's directed to one person individually.

Writing Tip of the Week

From Palagoon ( A thesaurus can be your best friend when writing. I've learned over several years that saying 'he said', 'she said', 'he said', 'she said'. It gets monotonous! Use a little variety! Like try, 'he called to her loudly', 'she whispered softly', 'he told the man arrogantly', 'she sobbed'. There are tons of diferent ways to phrase things, and they are all in your thesaurus! Even when I just started writing, I could realize this repetative stuff was bad, but I couldn't detect it until I read it again, so be on guard for repeating words! (To which Alanna adds: Reading your fic out loud is a very good way of detecting if you've overused words; sometimes hearing it out loud will make you realize.)

Alanna "And now, if you excuse me, I'm going to be over here stomping on all the fanfic ideas I got from The Spirits Within"

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New Fan Fiction - July 12, 2001
Since we're getting behind a bit, here's a double dose of fanfic goodness this week. And in honor of The Spirits Within, let's go with a bit of the Final Fantasy theme ... not like we ever get much of anything else. ^_~
Illusions of Reality
By: Michael "Bacon Slicer" Dixon
(Final Fantasy 6) Why would Relm want to crash the game by sketching a vanished Leafer, Michael asks -- in other words, this is a great look at a rather-unappreciated character. [Update 7/13/01: I'm braindead and originally marked this as FF4. My apologies to Michael and to the readers; it was my fault, not his.]
By: Lesley
(Final Fantasy 6) Celes looks over her companions and thinks about what they mean, to her and to each other.
Garden Party
By: Wallwalker
(Final Fantasy 6) Setzer is, in my opinion, one of the neatest damn characters to ever grace an RPG. In this story, Wallwalker shows us that she honestly, truly gets Setzer, portraying some of his despair at losing someone dear to him set against the backdrop of perhaps one of the most frightening events possible -- a Jidoorian garden party.
Is Golden
By: Joelle Thomas
(Final Fantasy 6) FF6 wins the prize for "best female characters in an FF title" so far. Joelle brings us two of those characters, in an excellently-characterized, amazingly-written meeting in which they try to decide what went wrong.
Measure Up
By: Prositen
(Final Fantasy 7) Oh, Yuffie. Yuffie, Yuffie, Yuffie. What can you call Yuffie but "irrepressible"? A great look at Yuffie post-game.
The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
By: Alhazred
(Final Fantasy 7) There isn't really much that I can say about this piece; it's nearly impossible to describe. Alhazred takes the familiar characters and -- with a little help from a Babylon 5 episode -- transforms them into something utterly alien, and yet somehow so true to themselves.
By: Ani K.
(Final Fantasy 7) A short collection of free-form poetry inspired by characters from FF7.
By: Kage
(Final Fantasy 7) A piece apparently inspired by a drawing, in which Sephiroth attempts to reconcile what he's always known with what he's just discovered. The scene's been done before, yes, but Kage lends a certain deft hand to this new version.
Cherry Blossoms
By: Larathia
(Final Fantasy 8) Every once in a while, we here in fanfic-land find an author who just knows their characters, inside and out; Larathia is another one of these happy finds. This story -- the tale of Squall as a cadet and his new roommate, and of Garden life in general -- reads like a snippet from the game's outtakes.
Oak Trees and Angel Wings
By: David James Johnston
(Final Fantasy 8) I don't even know where to begin telling you about this epic, except to say that it's about change, consequences, aftermath, politics, and growth. And, of course, that it's a darn good story.