Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, starring Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland and James Woods.

The year is 2065 and earth is at the mercy of the phantoms, shape shifting blobs who level cities, rob souls and give scientist Aki Ross (voiced by ER's Ming-Na) plenty of fitful nights. Troubled by her dreams and with humanity all but on the ropes, Aki tries to reason with the authorities. She believes firepower is no solution and that the menace can only be stopped with the help of eight distinct life forces or spirits which are scattered across the globe.

Against the wishes of arched-eyebrow baddie General Hein (James Woods), Aki, her superior Dr Sid (Sutherland) and gung-ho officer Gray Edwards (Baldwin) embark on a mission to find the eighth life force. But as Aki and her friends soon discover, the deadliest enemy is often within.

Made at a cost of over $130m, 'Final Fantasy' is the first film to completely rely on CGI from start to finish and comes on the heels of the disappointing 'Tomb Raider' - another game-to-cinema makeover. But with its eerily lifelike characters (strands of hair move on Aki's head, the six pack ripples beneath Gray's t-shirt) and aversion to wholesale carnage, it's both a visually stunning promo for the shape of things to come and a cerebral afternoon in the dark for younger viewers and joystick jockeys alike.

The plot itself is convoluted sci-fi fare, taking in elements of botany, biology and philosophy but it makes more sense than 'Pearl Harbor' and the cast seem a lot more human. Granted, the love story between Aki and Gray is as clunky as anything on kids TV circa 4.45pm, but this is more than made up for by some memorable scenes - including an eerie search through a gutted New York and a race through mayhem in an armoured jeep.

The only major letdown is the phantoms who look more like the graphics from an ad for household cleaner than the greatest threat to mankind since the last one. After four years of work you'd expect that Sakaguchi and the gang could've come up with something a little more terrifying, but you also know that nothing will be left to chance by the time part two rolls around.

Harry Guerin