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Posted on Apr 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, Final Fantasy, movies, discussion


Final Fantasy VII was released over 20 years ago, but to many it's still heralded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Personally, I feel the sacred status some have heaped upon it is a bit overblown, but I won't deny having a big ole soft spot for it. For its time, it was an incredible experience and Square Enix (then Squaresoft) exploited its popularity with spin-off games and merchandise. And despite nearly bankrupting itself with the unmitigated disaster that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the Japanese developer saw fit to make another movie, this time based in the world of Midgar and featuring Cloud Strife, and everyone's favorite villian with an absurdly, impractically long sword. So how does Advent Children hold up? Let's find out together.



This film sets a pretty clear tone right off the bat. Before we see even one scene, we're treated to the following caption: "To those who loved this world...and knew friendly company therein: This Reunion is for you." The message is plain as day; Advent Children is fan service, for better or for worse.

The first couple of short scenes are pretty nonsensical. The first is a man in a wheelchair talking to someone about the past, and the next is of a helicopter descending into the Northern Cave, then coming back out again not long after. The voiceover dialogue and grunting give the impression something bad is happening, but there's no other signs of what's going on so it's kind of a throwaway.

After that the film pulls a "wait, let's back up" to bring the audience up to speed. A flashback montage of scenes from FFVII is accompanied by a narrative voiceover from Marlene before focusing on her and the current state of the world. It seems the lifestream that played a key role in saving the planet from Sephiroth is poisoning people. They've called it geostigma and people are scared of the afflicted. The catch-up summary is greatly oversimplified, but that's just fine. FFVII's story is pretty convoluted, and after playing the game and seeing this movie several times, I'm only able to make a limited amount of sense of it all.


Fortunately, this is where Advent Children gets to the stuff fans want to see. Red XIII (remember that red mutant dog thing?) is shown running across a field. He stops on the edge of a cliff and the camera pans over to an establishing shot of Midgar, overgrown with fauna as if the planet is trying to absorb it. It's an impressive shot, made to tug on fans' heartstrings as the opening bombing mission theme music from the game fades in.

The next scene introduces our villains, three blonde-haired, effeminate-looking dudes who manage to go the majority of the movie with only a small portion of their dialogue making any sense. They track down Cloud Strife in the desert outside the city and proceed to attack him, interrupting his daily routine of being his typically mopey self. I mean, let's be honest here. If he dyed his hair black and didn't use any gel to put it into those spikes, he'd basically look like Robert Smith from The Cure. But I digress. This is our first taste of anime-styled action; they proceed to fight each other with swords and dark magic wolf things while riding cool-looking future motorcycles. It's a short scene but very frenetic, focusing less on logic and more on flashy jump cuts.

Kadaj, president of the Sephiroth fan club

Eventually the leader of the Sephiroth wannabes, who calls himself Kadaj, calls off the fight for no reason that I could tell, then things quiet down again to focus on Tifa and Marlene. This is pretty much the flow throughout the entire film. Slow scenes filled with sad heroes dealing with a sad world and trying to convince Cloud to quit having his sad long enough to defend them. Evil doers giving speeches about their plan, using phrases like "Mother's mimetic legacy" and "take revenge on the planet." Then high energy fight scenes that look freaking rad but throw the laws of physics completely out the window, because anime.

The details of the plot are pretty incomprehensible, but the broad strokes come across just fine. Kadaj and his cronies are looking for Jenova, whom they call Mother, and think that by gathering up all the kids infected with geostigma they can resurrect Sephiroth and finish the job...or something. It's all a device to bring back your favorite characters from the game for one more battle. Remember Vincent, Barrett, Cid, and Yuffie? Remember Bahamut? That's right, Bahamut is in this movie. Even Aerith and Zack have brief cameos, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII didn't even come out until three years later. Last but not least, Nobuo Uematsu returns to provide wonderful remixed and orchestrated versions of some of the most popular tracks from the FFVII soundtrack.

If you know who the cat and the thing it's riding on is, then you're probably in this movie's target demographic

I feel like this is both Advent Children's biggest strength and its biggest weakness. If you're not familiar with Final Fantasy VII and its characters then this movie doesn't really give you much to latch onto. If you do know and love them, then you already know if you're going to like this movie. For myself, I don't really care that Kadaj and his friends' origins aren't explained. I don't care that Cloud's friends just randomly show up halfway through to help with no explanation for how they even knew what was happening. I don't care that when fighting Bahamut they propel Cloud further and further into the air using nothing but said air as a supporting structure, or that his five buster swords can somehow combine into one massive buster sword. I just want to put on the Japanese audio track with the English subtitles and go all in on the absurdity. And while it's technically a spoiler, at this point it should really be no surprise who shows up at the end of the nearly 30 minute finale.

I don't really watch much anime outside of video games, but I love the over-the-top theatricality of it. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is more than a bit inscrutable for those not already steeped in FFVII lore, and even if you are a fan it can be exhausting by the time the credits roll, but it's totally ok with that. It knows exactly who its audience is, and for that crowd it delivers all the action and nostalgia they're looking for. I'm also happy to say that even now, nearly 13 years after the movie's release, it still works. It's more fun than a box of materia and the bluray transfer looks great on a nice display. I definitely recommend it for anyone who considers themself a fan of FFVII or anime. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below or in the RF Cinema discussion thread here.

Nothing puts a damper on the day like someone casting a summon spell on your city

For next month I'm going to try something different for RF Cinema. There are a couple of video game movies in theaters at the moment that I think deserve some discussion. For May I'll be taking a look at Rampage. Starring Dwayne Johnson, it releases in a few days and it looks absolutely terrible. I've listed the IMDB link and trailer for it below for your viewing pleasure, and the discussion thread is always open should anyone else see it between now and May. It should be a lot of fun. I'd also like to open up the floor to others who would like to contribute to this feature, so if there's a special place in your heart for a great (or not so great) movie that uses video games either as direct inspiration or as a backdrop, please feel free to add to the list.





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Comments
 
Yeah...this movie is a mess.  I'm a fan of FF7, and enjoyed watching this, but honestly, I'd rather watch Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.  It's not perfect, but at least it has a coherent plot.  I have a soft spot for it, since I saw it in the theater upon its release, and despite being a generic sci-fi movie with the FF name slapped onto it, I still enjoyed it.  That said, FF7:AC is a fun romp if you go in knowing it's a mess, and turn your brain off, so you can enjoy the animation, action, and soundtrack.  If you go in expecting much more, you'll probably be sorely disappointed.
 
I actually like this better than FF:TSW, but that really isn't saying much I guess.  As a video game movie it's not too bad, but as cinema it is pretty terrible, for all the reasons you gave, zophar.  The characters are amusing and are great representations of the personalities in the games, and I loved the fight scenes and felt that is how they would have looked in the games.  But that dialog...  I feel the movie would have been sooo much better with if they had done something with the dialog.  Take Loz, for example.  The guy is supposed to be a simpleton (which makes sense only in context with who the "triplets" are) but his lines make him sound more like a goof than anything else.  When he called one of the characters, "A big meanie!" I about peed my pants.  And the whole "Dilly-dally, shilly-shally" thing was just embarrassing to listen to.  But when the big S showed up I got goosebumps.  Very cool.

I think I remember hearing that there were no motion capture for the fight scenes (maybe the whole movie, but I can't remember), but I guess that it helps if you don't hate anime (or at least some anime).

Overall not too bad, but only if you like the game, and if you turn your brain off (like FRO said) and only watch the movie for its fight scenes, it's not that bad.

I was going to completely ignore Rampage until I saw the pic you posted and say that The Rock is in it.  Now I'm going to watch it!
 
@MetalFRO: You might be the first person I've ever heard defend The Spirits Within lol. The uncanny valley effect in it is just too creepy for me to not be weird. It's also too slow for me, not enough action.

@bombatomba: Yeah I didn't really get the dilly-dally, shilly-shally thing either. I heard that and was just like "what the he** was that?" lol. Loz was pretty ridiculous, with his crying and everything. His fight scene with Tifa is pretty great though. I like when he's holding Tifa and Marlene throws a piece of materia at him. It's one of those "small character tries to hurt a big one and completely fails to phase them" moments that always make me smile. And Loz's cell phone ringtone inspired me to do the same. I've had the FFVII fanfare as my ringtone ever since I saw that scene Smiley

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