One hint: Don't use Lara Croft or ''Final Fantasy'''s Aki Ross as a model, says Noah Robischon

By Noah Robischon
Updated July 27, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ghost World: Tracy Bennett

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

  • Movie

How to create the perfect 2-D heroine

Most comic book and videogame heroines are cut from a predictable pattern: They wear skin-tight outfits, possess magnificent powers, and display very little human emotion. Which is why ”Ghost World,” the new Terry Zwigoff film based on an underground graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, is such a relief. The main character, Enid (Thora Birch of ”American Beauty”), wears thrift-store garb instead of latex. And her super power of choice is cynicism combined with a droll sense of humor. And then there’s her pal Seymour (Steve Buscemi), who doesn’t have Cyclops’ laser-beam eyes but belongs to an outcast tribe of Gen-X men nonetheless.

”Ghost World” is now playing in limited release — so Enid won’t be seen in the multiplexes along with two of this summer’s more prominent cartoon babes, Aki Ross from ”Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” and Lara Croft from ”Tomb Raider.” This is a shame, because Enid, a teenager battling the transition from high school to adulthood, could teach Croft and Ross a thing or two about being a heroine. And no matter how eerily realistic Aki Ross’ hair looks, or how many flying leaps Lara Croft takes, Enid’s mental agility is far more entertaining.

To be fair, Angelina Jolie surpassed everyone’s expectations in her role as the femme fatale Indiana Jones. But then, Lara Croft — as anyone who’s played the game Tomb Raider knows — is nothing more than a two-dimensional, pistol-packing bra size. All Jolie added was a dash of attitude — that uniquely arched eyebrow ought to do it — and bang! Croft gained new shelf life. Jolie is obviously capable of more complex and loftier roles (”Girl, Interrupted”), but the source material for ”Tomb Raider” didn’t exactly give her a deep well to draw from — unless she was shooting her way around to find some treasure.

And Aki Ross, the computer-generated star of ”Final Fantasy” is even shallower. Her utterly real-looking flesh — which every close-up photo shows off in porous detail — isn’t perfect enough to mask her character flaws. Or lack thereof. She’s about as memorable as an anime schoolgirl. This is particularly upsetting because she looks like a half-dozen different celebrities morphed into one face, and you half expect her to have the talent to go with it.

Yet for all the sexy hoopla that accompanied ”Tomb Raider” and ”Final Fantasy,” neither film has triumphed at the box office — or with fans, for that matter. Maybe Lara Croft and Aki Ross would have made the transition to the big screen with more success if they displayed a little bit of Enid’s quirkiness.

What do you think? Who’s your favorite 2-D heroine (or hero) who’s made it to the big screen?

Episode Recaps

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 106 minutes