I have no idea why the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tanked at the box office. True, it wasn't based on any of the Final Fantasy games, although the franchise name was heavily leveraged during the marketing campaign. That lack of connection may have turned off the hard-core fans.
...But what about other movie goers? Aside from being technologically brilliant, The Spirits Within had a good story, lots of good action, plenty of suspense AND - gasp! - it actually made you think. Ok, perhaps I just answered my own question, which also explains why a few of my other favorites weren't welcome at the box office either, the best example being Contact. The Spirits Within brings up - although somewhat awkwardly in places - some very profound concepts that people have been pondering for centuries. Is it all over when we die? Do inanimate objects have souls? Is our planet actually a living organism?
The first time I ran into that latter question was while reading the science fiction novel by Arthur Conan Doyle. Ok, who doesn't know that Conan Doyle actually wrote some decent sci-fi? The Lost World? The Poisoned Belt? Does the name Professor Challenger say something to you? Sigh... Anyway... One of the novels from the Professor Challenger series explores the theory of Earth being a living organism that could feel pleasure and pain, like the rest of us - only on a much greater scale.
The same concept is brought up by Isaac Asimov in Foundation's Edge, where he introduces us to an entire world where all living things are spiritually connected and, while maintaining their individuality, can at times present a united front as one organism - Gaia. Incidentally, Gaia is the Greek name for Earth and the name used in Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within to refer to Earth's spiritual essence. Arthur Clarke takes the idea even further in Childhood's End, where a super-intelligence encompasses the entire Universe.
If people were unhappy that The Spirits Within made them do too much thinking, I still don't understand why they didn't like the action portions of the movie. The monsters (called "phantoms" for reasons that are explained later in the movie) are absolutely spectacular both in their appearance and in their flawlessly horrifying movements. After watching the movie, a large cricket (one of the late November survivors I suppose) that wondered into our bathroom seemed warm and downright cuddly.
There is more than one nod to the Alien movie franchise (not sure whether it was intentional or not): a tough fighting crew that includes a masculine, although rather attractive, woman who, as it turns out to be, is in love with the wimpiest of guys; a ruggedly handsome captain with the "shivers-down-your-spine-ladies" voice of Alec Baldwin; a cute female scientist who is no shrinking violet in her own right; and, the last but not the least, very cool weapons, vehicles, all of which are involved in breathtaking chase scenes and spectacular explosions - what's not to like? Oh, well... I don't think I'll ever figure it out.
If you like what you have just read here, go rent Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within - considering it was available at the Movie Gallery in our backwater of a Kings Mountain, NC (I mean, they don't even A Chorus Line here!), they'll probably have it at your local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or on Netflix. It's worth it!