Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children review
A Great Fantasy
OK, let's make something clear about this before we go too far into this. This movie is designed more as a follow-on to the popular video game Final Fantasy VII that graced the Sony PlayStation. However, I have not played that game, nor do I have knowledge on it past knowing of its existence. However, despite that, this isn't a bad film.
If there is one thing there is little doubt over then it is the technical brilliance the film demonstrates. Advent Children is done entirely in 3D CGI, and the sheer level of work gone into it translates over well on the screen. The result is a visually impressive animation that looks great and flows along brilliantly. Every single character put into the film, whether it's the main stars like Cloud or Tifa or simple bystanders in the city, has been rendered beautifully.
The scenery is also a marvel to look at. The city shown during the opening sequence is a perfect example. The run-down 'dirty' feel of a city comes across so well on screen. The general design is complex, with a level of depth one would expect. It's not just a dead landmark either, as the streets are filled with people going here and there, carrying out their daily tasks.
Of course, all this is complimented by the special effects that are littered throughout the film. Clashing of sword produce some excellent light shows, showering waters looks so real and material blasts look great. One of the more impressive examples of the special effects comes some way into the film, when a large winged creature is summoned into the skies above the city. The swirling lines merging together into the shape of the creature makes for a grand entrance that provides a wonderful sight.
The music tends to be impressive as well. Battles are accompanied by dramatic battle themes that help intensify the action, while you get the more melancholic music for more emotionally depressing scenes. The theme used for the finale is simply outstanding.
As said earlier, the film is effectively a follow-on from a PlayStation game. However, perhaps anticipating the possibility that non-fans may watch this, there is a fairly lengthy prologue that tries to give a summary of the events of that film, done so in the form of a child's voice reciting the summary while a series of animated scenes attempt to depict the events in visual form. This was a nice start to the film that made sure I wasn't left completely in the dark.
The events are simple enough to follow, although too much of it is content to run along such a predictable line that even those of us who haven't even experienced the game can tell exactly where the film is going. Suffice to say, no viewer is going to be surprised, although despite this the film seems to act as if the scene is meant to be surprising. Predictability isn't that much of an issue though.
There are some genuinely interesting non-action moments in the film, such as the gathering of children in that lit-up forest place. It won't tug on your emotions but it will get you to pay attention. A shame that there is also a sizable share of rather boring sequences in there too. The conversation between Cloud and Tifa after he finds her at the ruined church is just so boring and drawn out, partly due to Tifa's voice actress seemingly losing interest during this segment. Cloud and Vincent's talking has a similar feel to it. These scenes are more a reason to link to the next battle rather than advancing the plot in any meaningful way, but being so drawn out is an issue.
The voice work is mostly well done, outside of the odd occasion where Tifa's voice actress seems to lose interest. The voices tend to match up pretty well. English and Japanese audio tracks are offered for the viewer. The Japanese audio comes across a little better, making those boring sections a little less boring, so long as you're willing to put up with the subtitles. Kadaj's gang still cries too much though. Those subtitles are good here, being big and clear enough to read properly.
The collection of heroes is nice, although most characters get too little screen time to get developed in any way. Cloud comes across well as the hero with human weaknesses, and while Tifa isn't one of the most complex characters you'll meet her warm heart will be ever so present. The main problem with the cast lies mainly with the bad guys. What kind of lead villains come across as pathetic? We have three leather-wearing children who cry and keep going on about their 'mother' (and by children I am referring to how they act rather than how old they look). I'm not impressed by this, and so it is quite difficult to take them seriously. Kadaj does at least develop a little, but he never really gets out of the "mommy's boy" stage. There's some merit to presenting a sense of immaturity, but these guys go overboard and so never come off as anything more than underling material.
The selling point of this film is the action sequences. The story and talking is simply a means to link these together and give a reason for all of this. Suffice to say, if you're an action junkie, especially for impressive fight scenes, then this will likely appeal to you. There are numerous fight scenes littered throughout the film. A number of them tend to involve Cloud fighting off two of the main villains at once. Other fight scenes allow other characters to shine too, like witnessing Tifa's hand-to-hand combat skills and the grand battle against that summoned winged creature.
Any laws of gravity goes out the window as everyone seems perfectly capable of leaping great distances, moving quickly and demonstrating great strength and endurance. Battles tend to be fast-paced, with all characters pulling off some complex combination attacks seemingly effortless. There tends to be a lot going on, and it is definitely a treat for the eyes.
The integration of objects and terrain to make these fights more dramatic is an excellent touch. Characters make use of pillars, walls and even ceilings to move around their opponents, while crumbling structures or fixtures present their own dangers that come across during the scenes. There are even some scenes where fighting occurs while riding motorbikes, which is impressive.
Sometimes there seems to be a few liberties taken that go a little far even by fantasy standards, like some characters seemingly levitating at times when they don't do the same at other times, but overall it is a solid set of fantasy action sequences.
The DVD comes with a whole set of extras, most of which are sat on the second disc. All of them are in Japanese though, and for some reason subtitles on the second disc are turned off by default. Yeah, OK, most people in England don't know the Japanese language all that well. Surely on a disc that contains only Japanese-language content it would make sense to set subtitles so we can understand it without fiddling with the options beforehand?
Anyway, the only extra on the film disc is the Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII, which essentially goes through the events of the game using literal ingame footage. It was pretty interesting to see it all.
There is a set of 12 deleted scenes for viewers to look through. However, they didn't seem all that interesting to me. None of them were particularly long and some with just the same scenes that are in the film with different dialogue. There's also the Venice Film Festival footage, but this doesn't actually offer anything new. It's pretty much the film content cut down to fill a 20-minute slot and all with the Japanese voice acting.
There is a collection of trailers for the film from various sources to look at, as well as trailers for various Final Fantasy VII-related projects (quite why another Advent Children trailer is here too isn't clear).
The biggest draw in the extras content is the 'Distance: The Making of Advent Children'. The title is probably a little misleading though. Going into it I was fully expecting an extensive look into the processes that went into the design, but that was only a minor part that lacked detail. Instead, much of this feature was taken up by interviews with various members of the production cast and some of the Japanese voice actors. Despite the disappointment it was still great to sit through, although some parts were a little boring. The subtitles on this feature also have a habit of jumping between the top and bottom of the screen for some odd reason.
In the end it was a worthy investment. Some parts come across as boring and the film could use with less crybabies in the lead bad guy roles but overall comes across as fast-paced action that will hook you and keep you entertained. Some of the extras are well worth looking into as well.
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