It's a pity this movie failed at the box office, because in my opinion, it's really good. It combines combines the classic dystopic sci-fi future with a scorched Earth, a few heroes struggling against enigmatic aliens and a corrupt military force, action style sequences that are at times quite intense, and the typical slow-paced Asian movie storytelling. Add to this a rich amount of influences from the FF games, including eight mysterious spirits that must be found in time or the heroine will succumb, as well as a lot of mythological references that must be taken for granted rather than analysed to bits if the viewer is to find any pleasure in this film.
The trouble is that the FF video game fans wanted a story based on the games, or on their particular favourite in the series, and were disappointed with both the story, the setting and the characters. The average sci-fi movie fan, though, who ought to have loved the wicked general (excellently voice-cast by James Woods) and his huge space cannon, as well as the 'Aliens' styled surroundings and technology, was put off by all the talk about spirits and world souls. Leaving for a few of us who went to see the film with no real expectations, to enjoy it.
Because it is a good film. The animation is, for the most part, excellent, even if some scenes have a too blatant 'look what we can do' boast to them. Particularly all the scenes of Aki's hair waving in the wind. Personally, I didn't think the story was either too slow-paced, nor too weird. It works well, especially if you like Asian movies. For the European and American market, though, there's probably not enough action and too much talking.
If this movie had been released this year, it would probably have been given a better reception. The thought of fully computer animated films isn't as new and strange anymore, and with films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ring and Hero, the west is opening up for the Asian way of telling stories. I hope to see more films like this, at least if they are this well made. 9/10