Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, the world is still recovering from the effects of the great catastrophe that nearly destroyed it. Many people suffer from a malady known simply as Geostigma. Now, three mysterious men emerge, seeking Jenova, and Cloud and his friends must unite with old adversaries to fight a new threat to their civilization.
Before I was an anime fan, I was a Final Fantasy fan. For years now, fans like us have been waiting for the Final Fantasy anime, only to be disappointed time and again with substandard material. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this movie.
I needn't have worried.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a visual masterpiece, a showcase of exceptionally skilled computer graphics, tangled around an interesting story in a familiar universe, and giving life to characters who we know and love. There is a lot to appreciate and enjoy in this title.
For starters, the inclusion of voice-acting in a previously silent world is a definite success, with a reasonably nuanced performance from Cloud's voice actor, Sakurai Takahiro (Fakir, Princess Tutu), who doesn't take the easy pitfall of making Cloud whiny. The true standout here is the scene-stealing Reno, played by Fujiwara Keiji (Maes Hughes, Full Metal Alchemist) channeling his inner goofball. If anyone is a disappointment, it's thoroughly cheesy Morikubo Shoutarou as Kadaj, hamming up a "too-cool" attitude seemingly drawn equally from Orphen's Orphen and Spriggan's Ominae Yu. It's a good casting job, mind you - the fault here is with the screenwriters.
The problem here is that Advent Children seems to be include the pretty-boy antagonists specifically to draw in the yaoinista crowd, and the characterization is therefore nonexistent - they're not faceted, "real" characters like the protagonists, insofar as they're there to grandstand, look pretty, and set up battle sequences.
Granted, most people are not going to be watching this film for the characterization. Where Advent Children shines is in its technically astounding action sequences, which suffer from none of the problems of the previous Final Fantasy film offering, The Spirits Within. Rather than aiming for realism, Advent Children is the next logical step of the flying swordsman film, unfettered by ropes, the limitations of the human body, or even gravity. Who cares about little things like the laws of physics when you're having this much fun watching Cloud zoom through the sky? I sure didn't!
Looking a bit deeper, Advent Children explores and explains some of the loose ends created by the end of the original game. Want to know why Sephiroth did what he did? Looking for more of Cloud's mysterious background? It's definitely here, though unfortunately, many of the revelations and explorations end up taking a backburner to the action. Ultimately, Advent Children devolves into the world's longest continuous video game FMV, soaring through boss fight after breathtaking boss fight, even snagging a set of very familiar Uematsu Nobuo tunes from the video game itself.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is best appreciated as a direct sequel to the video game as the title implies, though it can be appreciated without the context. Still, the dual-purpose marketing of this film does make it suffer markedly as a film - there are numerous cameos of game characters who appear specifically to remind you how cool they are, or how silly they are (yes, Yuffie, that means you), or that they even exist. It's distracting and breaks the narrative a bit, though not nearly so much as the over-the-top antagonists, whose motives ultimately seem simplistic and downright stupid. I should probably also say that putting fans of the game and fans of androgynous pretty-boys in the same room to watch this film is a really bad idea. Frankly, you could ignore the context and story of the movie and watch the pretty boys dance, though that seems awfully shallow and disrespectful to the material. But then, what do I know, I'm only a critic.
So as it stands, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is good for fans looking for a deeper understanding of a familiar story universe, or by fans of spiffy computer graphics and crazy over-the-top fight sequences, or, yes, even by fans who like to see pretty boys. I imagine that Square Enix probably doesn't care how you appreciate this film, so long as you applaud at the end, and pay them for it. Sure, it's probably the biggest piece of fanservice ever created, but ultimately, it's enjoyable and well-crafted, and that's pretty much all you can ask for.
It's good. Have a nice day.
Grading on a purely visual level, it's absolutely excellent, but cliched storytelling, an overreliance on special effects, and particularly weak characterization on the part of the villains knocks this down to merely above average. More demanding crowds who want something cerebral may drop this two stars and should probably move on to something by Oshii or Shinkai instead. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: While there is some occasionally rough violence, and depending on the translation, some harsh language, this movie is generally safe for older teens and above. There is no nudity and no sexual content in this film.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R2 release
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children © 2005 Square Enix
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