What Is The Most Expensive Video Game Inspired Film Ever Made?
Answer: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Funding a movie based on a video game is a dicey proposition. Even a modest movie isn’t a cheap undertaking and you can easily lose your audience. If you fail to make the movie true enough to the video game, you’ll alienate your built-in fan audience. If you make the movie too confusing for a non-fan to watch then you alienate an even bigger audience in the process. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within failed to navigate that treacherous water and took a beating for it at the box office.
From a technological perspective, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a remarkable film. Released in 2001, it was a full length film that was entirely computer rendered with gorgeous landscapes, textures, and photo realistic human and humanoid characters–it was the first time a film had featured a cast of entirely computer rendered photo realistic actors. For the time (and even today) it was a visual treat.
The company behind the film, Square Films, invested an enormous amount of money into the production with the intention of it being the first of many films populated with a cast of their virtual actors and actresses. The film cost 137 million dollars to produce and recouped only 32 million at the North American box office and a total of 85 million world wide, leaving the studio 52 million in the hole.
The film received poor reviews (although a visual feast, it failed to bring the story home for movie goers unversed in the nuances of the Final Fantasy universe) and was, for the most part, critically panned. Robert Ebert, however, gave the film a high rating despite the lack luster story line. He noted that it was a technical milestone and, though dubious completely computer-generated films would be well received by audiences, hoped to see more progress in the area.