Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

final_fantasy_vii_poster“Your ma’s cool. WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING!”

The Scoop: 2005 PG-13, directed by Tetsuya Nomura and starring Steve Burton, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Mena Suvari

Tagline: Two years later…

Summary Capsule: Grumpy loner Cloud and his posse come back to save the day from a renewed threat of Jenova and Sephiroth

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Shalen’s Rating: Nine out of ten giant popsicle swords.

Shalen’s Review: Tallying up the Cult Bonus Points, I really can’t imagine why we haven’t reviewed this before. I mean, just look at it. The film is from a video game. It was made in another country, in another language. It has tons of action, some beautiful visuals, AND it is animated in high-budget CGI. And somehow it never had a theatrical release in the United States.

Why didn’t anyone NOTICE this?

It probably has something to do with the abysmal failure of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which I hate even to mention in context of this film. They are nothing alike. That one was a bad ripoff of scifi survival horror in the Aliens mode mixed with corny New Age mysticism, featuring few action scenes and a really ludicrous premise. Then (SPOILER) everybody died, including the main protagonist. It was the worst possible sf/fantasy hybrid, and there was nothing the visuals could do to redeem it.

Advent Children is not like that. Beyond the titles, it’s not related to that other film at all. This one is set right after the events of Final Fantasy VII, which I’m guessing is still quite a popular game, because I’m having a difficult time finding a cheap copy for my PC now that I’ve seen this movie and caught a serious case of fangirl squeeage for Sephiroth.1

This is more or less about Cloud Strife, the spiky-haired gorgeous blonde with the giant combining swords. He is now a messenger boy who, surprise, is about to be called out of retirement to save the world from the remnants of Sephiroth, who want to… Uh… Okay, I sort of lost focus on that part in the welter of superpowered pretty men, but it has something to do with recombining the genes of their dead Evil Space Mother Jenova to recreate Sephiroth, the crazed super-soldier who killed Cloud’s friend Aerith.2

Fans of the game will be disappointed to hear that Sephiroth is more the McGuffin here than a real character, but still, his final appearance is quite the payoff. (Note in the quotes section that, despite being in the film for less than 10 minutes, he has the best lines.) No part of this film fails to deliver. The fight scenes are excellently animated, lovingly choreographed, and the dialogue… Well, the dialogue isn’t too painful to ignore. There are a few tedious mystical bits for those who actually care whether or not Cloud is going to get over Aerith’s death in the game, and plenty of insane aerial fighting for those of us who don’t.

Not only that, the CGI is just stunning. I remember saying to Sibling 1, “Can you imagine what this would be like on a big screen?” I’m really very disappointed I’ve never had that opportunity. The flashy lights and hyperactive fights would really be awesome in a theater. It took ten people just to animate the hair in this movie, which is more than they hired for the faces.

Of course, that does sort of show. Facial expression isn’t the forte of these characters. And it was weird for me, enamored as I am of cinematic bloodbaths, to watch this much fighting with swords and guns and no one ever get injured enough to bleed. There’s not much suspense to any of what goes on; it’s sort of like a really long cut scene from the game. People die when the plot says they die, and until then, they’re invincible.

This is definitely a triumph of style over substance, but what lavish, stunning style it is.

1. In this venue I cannot repeat Sibling 1’s comment the first time we saw him on the DVD menu, but suffice to say it was succinct, of one syllable, and fully echoed my own sentiments on that occasion.

2. Notice how I didn’t say “crazed and utterly gorgeous” there? That’s because I’m a mature, adult female who is completely in control of my urges and who does not judge the opposite sex on things like appearance. Ha ha.

 

Justin’s Rating: Your party has fallen…

Justin’s Review: There’s been a long and bitter debate amongst us nerds — a conflict that has left a battlefield strewn with twitching bodies and pocket protectors. It comes around to every internet forum at least once a year, and leaves no soul untouched once it does. The debate begins so innocently: which is the best Final Fantasy game?

The hardcore FF junkies out there will typically spit out one of two camps: the SNES’ Final Fantasy 3/6 (which is a confusing little story I’ll not go into), or the PlayStation’s Final Fantasy 7. Both camps have rabid, growling fans that you probably wouldn’t wish to encounter in any room without a convenient escape route. These games were not just loved in their time, but revered. Now that it’s almost a full decade after FFVII, nostalgia takes a swing with its warhammer and knocks us all silly. Ultimately, they’re just games, and the debate is pointless unless you’re debating how much or little social life you may have.

(And God help you if you mention “FFX-2” to the answer above; they may never be able to identify your corpse.)

I say this because Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is for the geek at heart, and a specific geek at that: one who loved FFVII, remembers the labyrinthine plot, and was eager to see melancholy girl-boy Cloud mope around for another couple hours. This limits the demographic somewhat.

Maybe you should even ignore all that, because Advent Children is everything that the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within film was not. Both movies rely on cutting-edge computer graphics and share custody of the title, but that’s all they have in common. While Spirits Within was a dull futuristic tale barely within the vein of the Final Fantasy games, Advent Children is a direct sequel to one of the best-selling (9.7 million copies) video games of all time. It luxuriates in the Final Fantasy spirit, even going to far as to use the original music, characters and plot.

Maybe they shouldn’t have held so tightly to plot. It pains them so.

I’m going to end up telling you that Advent Children is a wicked awesome movie in its own right, but a spanking is due before that. As a direct sequel taking place two years after FF7 concluded, it is mired in the same weird plot that took about 80 game hours to explore. It goes without saying that new viewers will be completely lost, even with a brief explanation beforehand. You won’t have a clue who these people are, why they’re friends, or why it’s not a good thing that Sephiroth might be coming back. You will probably whimper and look for a loved one to bury your head in their shoulder. It’s not a bad idea to make this sequel, understand, I just feel like they should’ve let the original story go (which was concluded well enough on its own) and given these characters a new quest. As it is, the whole affair feels like cleaning up after the mess of the first story, sweeping up loose ends and tidying the place before they turn the lights off for good.

A mixed bag comes in the form of the characters used. I personally felt that FF7 had a great assortment of hero characters, such as Vincent the vampire and Barret the Mr. T-lookalike. The only one I never much liked was the lead hero, Cloud, who mostly just felt sorry for himself (in true Japanese heroic form) before kicking butt. In Advent Children, we get a reunion of all of these guys, but there’s no real explanation why they show up or what they want from life, other than to shoot, stab and punch their way to the victory screen.

Two years after Jenova and Meteor (sort of a vicious alien planet) tried to destroy the world, people are picking up and rebuilding. However, the threat is not completely over, and a mysterious plague called Geostigma has infected many, including Cloud. More mysterious are three blue-haired warriors who show up asking for “mother” over and over again until you just know they are leaking brains somewhere. It turns out they want to resurrect Jenova (that’s bad) and bring mega-baddie Sephiroth back (that’s worse) and destroy everything (meh). Good guys find that sort of talk annoying, at best, and so there’s gonna be a bit of a rumble on the horizon.

I’d estimate that about 80% of Advent Children consists of hyperactive fight sequences, which is a universal language of geeks. Doesn’t matter how much you know or don’t know of Final Fantasy, you’ll get everything you need to acquire from the fantastic sword play and motorcycle chases that abound. It’s here where Advent Children shines like a shiny… star… thing… and blows away the viewer. In true anime tradition — only with lush, detailed CGI — this film goes balls-to-the-wall in making every fight one for the ages. Each character is well-known for their accessories (Barret has his gun-arm, while Cloud pulls out a progression of massive swords from his motorcycle sheath and Tifa just goes all martial arts girl on anyone who dares oppose her), and they each get their piece of the pie. I think I actually cheered when Cid showed up and laid waste while still chomping on his cigarette.

If you’re not opposed to some mindless eye candy and need a quick action fix, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is ideal for the soul. Diabetic Candy for the Soul, I should market those books, ya think?

Fighting evil with the power of Vidal Sassoon.

Fighting evil with the power of Vidal Sassoon.

Intermission!

  • While fans debate the “greatest” Final Fantasy video game, no one can deny the impact Final Fantasy VII had when it hit the Sony Playstation in 1997. Nintendo fans saw Square’s shift from their platform to Sony’s new one a traitorous move, and they had plenty of reason to be upset — FF7 almost single-handedly propelled the Playstation to the top of the console wars at the time, battering Nintendo back.
    So what is FF7? It’s a linear role-playing game, in which you progress through a plot and fight plenty of bad guys. It takes place on another world, where an evil corporation named Shinra is using its technology to suck the life force from the planet to power its machines and cities. A band of rebels — including ex-soldier Cloud — fight back against the corporation as best they can, and discover an even greater threat. A really bad guy named Sephiroth is looking to infuse himself with the ultimate power, which involves bringing a planet-destroying meteor down on the surface and exposing the planet’s life force. More fighting. There’s also a mysterious alien being known as Jenova, which has ties to both Sephiroth and Cloud. By the end of the game — prior to the start of this movie — Sephiroth was defeated, the meteor stopped, and Jenovah put away for good.
  • Kadaj’s weapon is named the “Souba”. Loz’s weapon is named the “Dual Hound”. Yazoo’s weapon is named the “Velvet Nightmare.” Cloud’s sword is named the “First Sword”. Cloud’s bike is named “Fenrir.”
  • The creators of the film had no prior knowledge of how to make a movie, so it was based on their knowledge of in-game movies. (Shalen: Ha ha.)
  • According to Director Tetsuya Nomura in the DVD Commentary, the original movie was only supposed to be twenty minutes. The details of the original story are sketchy, but from what little Nomura has said about it, all we know is that it featured someone requesting a message to be sent to Cloud. The message is then relayed to Cloud through several children and, when the message finally reaches Cloud, we learn who the messenger is. Although Nomura insisted that he very much liked the original script, as it became the foundation for the theme of the final result of the movie, he decided to make the project more grand in scope only because early word of this movie generated so much interest that a demand for the film to be feature length eventually became so great that Nomura complied.
  • This movie is brought to you by the makers of Clorox bleach, sponsors of Sephiroth’s hair and all his little clones’ hair and Cloud’s hair and… And…
  • Little children are freaky. They just are.
  • The Geostigma makes you get nifty tattoos and sweet-looking vertically pupiled eyes while lacking any effect on your energy level? Why do we want it cured, again?
  • Tifa’s one fight scene. Wicked sweet, but it would’ve been nice if she’d been anything but useless the rest of the film.
  • In the above scene, Tifa conspicuously puts on her gloves before fighting Loz, but they’re gone when Cloud finds her.
  • Loz’s cell phone at one point plays music from an older FF game. It’s a hilarious moment in the film, actually.
  • Aw, poor Loz. I want to give him a hug.
  • Cloud has that huge sword and he really never cuts anybody with it at all. So disappointing.
  • Unusually good job with the translation into English for an anime-type film.
  • The way persons of African descent are drawn in anime. It’s like Basil Rathbone bulked up and got the end of his nose torqued downward sharply.

Groovy Quotes

Reno: Mother, schmother. It’s Jenova’s frigging head.
Loz: HEY!
Yazoo: We will not have you refer to mother that way!
Loz: You meanie.
Rude: Our apologies.
Reno: Your ma’s cool. WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING!

Yazoo: Don’t cry, Loz.

Sephiroth: I’ve thought of a wonderful present for you, Cloud. Let me bring you despair.

Kadaj: [to Cloud] Brother! I’m with her at last.
Cloud: So what’s gonna happen now?
Kadaj: Mother’s going to tell me.
Cloud: I guess a remnant wouldn’t really know.
Kadaj: So what if I’m a puppet? Once upon a time, you were, too!

Loz (into cell phone): I’m NOT CRYING!

Sephiroth: Tell me what you cherish most. Give me the pleasure of taking it away.

Sephiroth: Oh! Where did you find this strength?
Cloud: I’m not about to tell you!

Vincent Valentine: Anybody know where I can buy a phone?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
  • Tron
  • Akira
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2 Comments

  1. It seems like they have the concept boxed in. On the one hand, “Spirits Within,” which requires no knowledge of the games but at the same time lacks all their spark. On the other, “Advent Children,” which is more or less fan service that is impenetrable to anyone who hasn’t played one specific game in the series.

    And somewhere in the middle? The ideal “Final Fantasy” movie they’ll probably never make 🙂

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