One of the most influential RPGs in recent memory is the Final Fantasy franchise that has spawned numerous installments that are highly popular in Asia, Europe and the U.S. While it isn’t exactly a necessity to have played the video game for one to fully appreciate the beauty of Tetsuya Nomura and Takeshi Nozue’s 2005 pure CGI-animated film “FINAL FANTASY VII: Advent Children”, it would definitely be an advantage since the film takes off 2 years after the game ends. For those who haven’t played the game, the film is still a groundbreaking achievement in CGI animation and features of Japanese anime designs. Yes, I am going out on a limb to say this; it dwarfs the animation that we have gotten used to from so-called animation giant PIXAR studios (Yes, I said it). Oh, this film is totally unrelated to “Final Fantasy Spirits Within”.
I will have to give a small background on the events of the game. The film does give the viewer some background, but I am going to do it anyway. The world of Final Fantasy is full of mysticism and magic, science and technology. The two faces are always at odds with one another that it almost appears to be a war between the planet and technology. In the world of Midgar, a corporation called Shin-Ra had found a way to harness the energy of the life stream, which is called Mako and to turn it into power. It is the source of the planet’s life energy, and provides life to its inhabitants. When one passes on, his or her life source is returned to it and life goes on; think of the Mako as the ‘cycle of life’. Shin-Ra discovers that there is such a land where Mako is rampant and only Cetras are able to find it, Aerith is the supposed last one of her kind.
Cloud Strife is a member of Shin-Ra’s SOLDIER unit as well as other characters who were introduced such as Tifa, Barret, Sid, Yuffie, Vincent, Red XIII and Cait Sith. They all fight for the welfare of the planet against a being called Sephiroth and an organism from another planet called Jenova. This is where the plot becomes complex as Sephiroth is found as having genes derived from Jenova. Also Cloud himself is a product of the Jenova gene as a form of cloning if you will. Now as the game moves along, Sephiroth has evil intentions of using black materia to summon a huge meteor to destroy the planet. Materia is an element that gives its user special powers, the element is believed to be a byproduct of the life stream and Mako. Anyway, our heroes come together to stop the machinations of Sephiroth but not before he murders Aerith in cold blood. Obviously our heroes managed to defeat Sephiroth or else we wouldn’t be privy to this film…or are their problems just beginning?
“Final Fantasy VII Advent Children” takes off two years after the events of the video game. While Sephiroth’s threat has been vanquished, things are still very bleak. The once-great city is now in shambles and the Shin-Ra corporation is now no longer in existence. There is also a new problem in Midgar, a sickness called “Geostigma” has infected thousands of children across the world. There is no known cure for the disease that usually ends in pain and death.
In this city, Tifa Lockhart (Ayumi Ito) has opened a bar and operates a delivery service with Cloud (Takahiro Sakurai). They have also provided shelter to Barret’s daughter Marlene (Miyu Tsuzurahara) and a geostigma-stricken child named Denzel (Kyosuke Ikeda). Cloud apparently hasn’t come home in a long while, as we find him in a barren area of the city, fighting off a trio of powerful beings; Kadaj (Shotaro Murikubo), Loz (Kenji Nomura) and Yazoo (Yuji Kishi). The trio can summon shadow monsters and are able to match Cloud in combat. Who are these three who appear to call Cloud ‘brother’, and also has the same type of energy signature as judged by the color of their eyes? They are also obviously related to the menace of Sephiroth whose goal is to bring about Jenova ‘REUNION’. Also the founder of Shin-Ra is found very much alive and is determined to atone for his past sins, that proves to be the catalyst for the battle between Cloud and Kadaj--but it appears Cloud is a lot weaker than before, and is only a shadow of his former self. Cloud is infected with ‘Geostigma’…
Anyone who had played the game can attest to my claim that the death of Aerith is one of the most tragic events in the game. Her death set the tone for the rest of the game’s story and made Cloud’s quest to save the world more of a cry for vengeance. Since the events of the game, Cloud had become more isolated and withdrawn, the screenplay shows him living in a church gathering flowers is a true testament to the pain that Cloud is bearing for his loss. I liked the fact that director Nomura took the time to expose Cloud as a shadow of his former self. It makes him more attached to the events of the game, and gives him a sense of humanity. The film’s emotional side also provides a balance to the film’s awesome fight sequences. The film never forgets to initialize a mood and an atmosphere--it is easy to invest in Cloud’s character since he has to overcome his own personal demons to overcome this new threat brought about by Kadaj who is a vassal for Sephiroth. The film has scenes that go deep into Cloud’s psyche, as he remembers, and expresses pain for Aerith’s death. While some may see such scenes a little too sentimental, keep in mind that Cloud himself lost a part of himself, and sees himself as undeserving of anything good--nor do anything right. Cloud needs to forgive himself.
Enough about Cloud, we see classic Final Fantasy VII characters that would give its fans a great sense of nostalgia, it is such a treat for fans to see the old gang back together. There are some differences to their appearances such as Cloud’s “Daytona” motorcycle has been replaced by a bike more reminiscent of Akira--and oh boy, does Cloud carry a lot more swords! The one minor issue I have with the screenplay is the fact that aside from Tifa and Vincent, the other characters seemed to be minor plot devices and they play such a small part in the film’s big picture. However, there may be hope for us, since there is such as longer version such as “Final Fantasy Advent Children” Complete. (Which I will review much later) Thankfully, as moody and emotional the film is, it does have doses of humor as embodied by Reno and Rude; their scenes of satire does lighten the mood a bit.
One element that gives the film its sense of awesomeness is the exquisitely executed battle sequences. There are many fights in the film--even Tifa gets to rumble with Loz in a very cool church fight. The fights are nicely placed around the film’s screenplay to keep the viewer interested; there is just nothing better than cool, stylish brawls to keep us invested in the film. Some may say that some encounters resemble the ‘Matrix’ but remember, the Japanese have been doing this type of battles longer than the Wachowski brothers have in their Hollywood movie. The fights blend the use of magic, martial arts and awesome swordplay--it is fantastic action to be sure, but they aren’t really realistic. I also fancied the weapons being used by our combatants, they are obviously advancements in technology made through the enhancements of magic. There are a lot of fight sequences to be had with the film, as we see Cloud and company engage a huge mystical dragon, the tunnel fight is destined to be included in the annals of the coolest fights ever filmed. The final encounter between Cloud and Kadaj and Sephiroth also matches the quality of the rest of the fight scenes.
I have mentioned that the animation in “Advent Children” trumps the ones that Pixar can offer--Square-Enix has definitely outdone themselves. Given its emotional nature, the film isn’t exactly for kids and more meant for fans and adults. The skin tone, the fluid motion, the reflections, the texture of the material and light sources; wool looks wool, skin looks like skin, metal is metal, shiny is shiny, clothes mimic the body's movements--SquareEnix’s CGI animation is just stunningly beautiful and breathtaking--it is a work of true art. The characters look photo-realistic and doesn’t have the over-expressive eyes seen in the game. Not that the animated facial features lack emotion, look at the eyes, it is just overflowing with different streams of emotion. The movements are also very fluid and never stiff; the motion capture is just stellar.
I am such a fan of the game but I do have to point out that the film isn’t perfect. While the film does make an effort to give a background of previous events, one may feel a bit alienated at times if you have no prior knowledge of the previous comings and goings; one may feel the film’s small emotional sequences to be a bit of a drag. “Final Fantasy VII Advent Children” is definitely aimed at its fans, but no one can deny that the film is a TRUE technological marvel. The action, the jaw-dropping CGI animation is just such a sight to see. To Nomura’s credit, it doesn’t get too over zealous with itself, and manages to strike a compelling story that balances its eye candy.
As a fan of the Playstation game, I was blown away the very first time I saw this movie. The characters, this world that blends magic and mysticism, science and technology, action and drama is just enthralling and awe-inspiring. The film may be a bit light in its storytelling, but the extreme action is definitely one for the senses. I think I can safely say that “Final Fantasy Advent Children” is the BEST CGI-animated video-game themed movie ever made.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
Note: Watching the film in its original Japanese Language is advisable.
I remember playing Final Fantasy VII when it first came out in 1997. I was eleven years old. The game was one of the greatest I ever played. I am now twenty two going on twenty three and I still play through it constantly. The storyline was divine (albeit, didn't completely come together in the end), the characters memorable, and it still has one of the most memorable video game moments in history. When one of your main characters is killed off permanently with no way to revive said character. … more
Pros: Tifa looks hotter than Jessica Alba Cons: HOW did the game's designers forget to write a story? The Bottom Line: Stick to the game. Ten years ago, Final Fantasy VII would have been released as a movie and its movie sequel, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children would have been the video game. It's a pretty unusual case: The video game should have been a movie and the movie should have been a video game. The thing that's really … more
This computer animated film picks up where the Playstation FINAL FANTASY VII video game left off. Cloud, the hero of the game, has retired into seclusion, but when a mysterious and lethal disease known as Geostigma begins to spread across the planet, and three powerful, villainous children appear, he reluctantly emerges to face the new and mysterious threats. Featuring some of the most spectacularly lavish computer graphics ever created, ADVENT CHILDREN continues the complex and compelling tradition that has made the Final Fantasy series one of the most popular games of all time.