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Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Co-Produced by:
Elliot Goldenthal

Conducted by:
Dirk Brosse

Co-Orchestrated by:
Robert Elhei

Co-Produced by:
Teese Gohl

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

The London Voices

Score Vocals by:
Lara Fabian

Sony Classical/Sony Music Soundtrax

Release Date:
July 3rd, 2001

Also See:
Alien 3

Audio Clips:
5. The Kiss (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

9. Winged Serpent (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

14. Dead Rain (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

16. Adagio and Transfiguration (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

Regular U.S. release.


Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
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Buy it... if you seek appealing thematic development and emotional depth on top of Elliot Goldenthal's usual, morbidly dramatic sensibilities and wild instrumental applications.

Avoid it... if you expect this score to be as tonally challenging as Goldenthal's straight horror scores or if you, like many, demand only game composer Nobuo Uematsu's strikingly different music for the concept.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within: (Elliot Goldenthal) By the time of Columbia Picture's feature length production in 2001, Hironobu Sakaguchi's extremely popular creation of the nine Final Fantasy video games had already established one of the greatest cult followings the genre had ever seen. With a futuristic, fantastic vision of Earth in decades to come, as well as the nasty alien forces that come to conquer us as we evolve into energy, the games feature awe inspiring graphics, as does the film. While technically falling under the anime genre of films, this full Final Fantasy production exhibits the best CGI rendering technologies to date, making its animated characters, with voices performed by an impressive cast, look remarkably realistic. The film's debut coincided with the imminent release of the tenth installment of the game, though fans looking for shared content between the two were inevitably disappointed. Somewhat surprisingly, the film failed to garner the impressive fiscal success necessary to inspire the assumed cinematic sequels of like-minded technology. Enthusiasts of the concept were hoping to hear the music of Nobuo Uematsu, composer of all of the game entries to date, in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but were instead treated to an entirely different sound from avant garde composer Elliot Goldenthal. The two composers' styles are radically divergent, as any avid collector of Uematsu's game scores can testify, and debate has persisted throughout the 2000's about the comparative merits of Goldenthal's involvement with the franchise. Since Goldenthal's emergence into film scoring in the early 1990's, the classical composer stood on the fringe of the mainstream, shunning most major projects that didn't involve a dark, mysterious, or terrifying plot. The exceptions, of course, had been his two scores for the first Batman franchise, which, along with Alien 3 and Interview with a Vampire, gave him enough mainstream name appeal to add credibility to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

Still, Goldenthal was an anomaly best appreciated in the totality of his works by a fraction of the film music collecting community. His distance from mainstream popularity at the time was best exemplified in a large, late 1990's Vanity Fair photo of the top two dozen film composers of the era, for which most were seen happily conversing with each other, oblivious to the camera. That is, except for Goldenthal, who took the opportunity to give the cameraman the evil eye. His scores aren't much different, often verbose in their unpredictable expressions of dramatic darkness. His experimentation with electronics is often accompanied by the challenges of 20th Century avant garde creativity and 19th Century classicism that mutate into gothic themes and high pitch strings that typically perform his solemn adagios. More than anyone else in the 1990's, Goldenthal was a master of creating unnerving scores, and although such music doesn't always translate well onto album, his disharmonious scores for films such as Alien 3 and Sphere had proven very effective in stirring debates among intellectual listeners and, more importantly, scaring audiences. While Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within contains its fair share of creepy and frightening moments, it is an entirely different breed of film. The fact that the film was an animated project presented Goldenthal with a difficult twist, one that would require him to change his equations to an extent. Rather than allowing his work to exist as simply a supplementary atmospheric tool in the film, Goldenthal was presented with the challenge of portraying and extending the emotions that the animated characters feel, since those characters (despite the fantastic CGI rendering) still suffered from a lack of convincing realness for many audiences. To accomplish this emotional depth, Goldenthal was forced to create a more lyrical and melodic score than his norm, something that might have come as a shock to film score collectors at the time. This general shift in the direction of consistent harmony would assist him in acquiring an Academy Award the following year for Frida.

Goldenthal recorded Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within with a massive expansion of the London Symphony Orchestra in several of the largest and most impressive English locales available. For cues of large-scale bombast, Goldenthal employed extra brass players and a wide array of percussive experts. When combined with the full chorus, the total sum of players and singers for this score numbered in the hundreds. This is obviously no run-of-the-mill Los Angeles recording; the budget allotted for Goldenthal was very generous, and he used every last bit of it to record one of the most brutally expansive scores heard in recent memory. In sheer volume, Goldenthal's music abounds with a mighty force of sound. While the composer may claim that his thematic development is more lyrical and melodic than anything he had ever done before, his title theme and softer secondary ideas for this work are still saturated with his gothic, melodramatic style of brooding weight. Instead of creating straight forward major key motifs to signify a hero's theme or a grand vista, Goldenthal continued to handle such cues by simply amplifying his oppressive minor key inclinations to a level of monumental resonance and volume that produces a similarly adequate result. The title theme for Final Fantasy, heard first on album at the outset of "Race to Old New York" (a cue not heard in the film), is a twisted waltz with agonized strings performing over layers of ostinatos that are as turbulent as those in any of Goldenthal's other scores. There's a certain pompous nature to this theme, especially when the brass section takes its helm, which gives it the personality of a treacherous yet gloomy fanfare. An actual fanfare of solitary simplicity is introduced prior on the product; in "The Spirit Within," Goldenthal employs his bloated brass section and pipe organ to deliberately blast out a theme of more malicious intent. A softer theme for both humanity and romance is heard in "The Kiss," exploring on piano the personal element in its most commonly related form. None of these themes is particularly catchy, for their arguably awkward constructs lend them a complexity that is best appreciated only in the context of their often complicated renderings.

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The majority of the score consists of abrasive action cues will likely please listeners who enjoyed Goldenthal's two Batman scores, with significant references made back to Batman Forever specifically. These sequences are sometimes scored with the monumental power of the percussion section at the forefront, highlighted by "Winged Serpent," which returns to the opening fanfare of gloom over a bed of relentless timpani and snare drum performances. Luckily absent from this score is the trilling of brass that Goldenthal seems to love, and even his usual high pitched quivering of strings is limited to a handful of cues. Only in "Toccata and Dreamscapes" does Goldenthal (admittedly) revert completely to his Alien 3 style of total disharmony and obnoxious sample mutilation. For their novelty at the time, the highlights of Final Fantasy are the cues that gently explore love and remembrance in the softer theme for humanity, culminating in a full ensemble statement in "Adagio and Transfiguration." These cues show that Goldenthal can indeed express his own intense styles within the context of a highly romantic performance of a harmonic nature. The project allowed Goldenthal the rare opportunity to expand his theme into a song for the film, which he adapted for Canadian Lara Fabian (a native of France) to perform. Hearing a pop song translated from Goldenthal's unorthodox chord progressions is an interesting experience, perhaps too awkward compared to the commonly accepted and simplistic James Horner type of song to be successful. The second song is a harder, more irritating rock affair that will probably not interest Goldenthal's collectors. Both songs were set to appear over the film's end credits. The album is an "enhanced CD" that concentrated on giving concept fans a preview of the forthcoming Final Fantasy X game. Overall, Final Fantasy is stylistically rooted in Goldenthal's usual, morbidly dramatic sensibilities and wild instrumental applications, so it will be jarring for some listeners in its more active moments. The brutality in its tone can be overwhelming. But its thematic development and emotional depth is far beyond anything heard from Goldenthal outside of Frida, and it's therefore an easy album to recommend. Parts of it will blow you out of your seat. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Elliot Goldenthal reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.07 (in 15,601 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 56:36

• 1. The Spirit Within (2:05)
• 2. Race to old New York (1:20)
• 3. The Phantom Plains (1:42)
• 4. Code Red (2:05)
• 5. The Kiss (4:14)
• 6. Entrada (0:54)
• 7. Toccata and Dreamscapes (8:29)
• 8. Music for Dialogues (2:18)
• 9. Winged Serpent (1:35)
• 10. Zeus Cannon (3:24)
• 11. Flight to the Wasteland (5:56)
• 12. A Child Recalled (2:25)
• 13. The Eighth Spirit (0:50)
• 14. Dead Rain (1:50)
• 15. Blue Light (3:29)
• 16. Adagio and Transfiguration (5:23)
• 17. The Dream Within - performed by Lara Fabian (4:43)
• 18. Spirit Dreams Inside - performed by L'Arc-en-Ciel (3:42)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. The CD is an "enhanced" product with information about the concept of the game.

  All artwork and sound clips from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within are Copyright © 2001, Sony Classical/Sony Music Soundtrax. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/29/01 and last updated 1/24/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.