Back in 1997 Square released Final Fantasy VII for the original Playstation which was not only the first of the series to be rendered using 3d graphics, but it was also the first to leave the sumptuous womb of Nintendo consoles. It quickly became many players’ favorite of all Final Fantasies, and as with almost every game that people love there has been a huge demand for a sequel. In a rather risky decision Square decided to make the first follow up to the game in 9 years to be a feature-length computer animated movie.
I say this was a risk because their first attempt into the realm of cinema, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, was not well received and ended up plummeting the company toward bankruptcy. However with Advent Children it seems that they have righted whatever past wrongs they may have done. The movie is an hour and half long and picks up two years after the end of the game. It begins with a perfect tie in to what we remember from the game as it re-states the final scenes where an older Red XIII looks upon an overgrown Midgar, followed by the text “498 years earlier.” Every single character in the movie which we already know from the game is perfectly written and beautifully computer rendered. Even with 3 million more polygons, the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies from the old playstation game shine through.
Each main character is present, although Cloud and Tifa are featured far more prominently than any of the others. There are quite a few group scenes that simply ooze fanboyish fantasies as they feature the entire cast filling their exact roles both in combat and witty banter, but the central plot revolves around Cloud and his relationship and decisions involving his life after Sephiroth and his life with Tifa. Immediately it is clear that much of the music from the game is going to be re-used, which serves to ignite rampant nostalgia. The sound quality throughout the film is excellent, but eventually you begin to wish that they had produced more of an original score for the movie to differentiate it a bit more. However, there are several excellent new arrangements of themes that alleviate the lack of original music, and they are well used thematically for scenes which involve characters that were not present in the game.
The entire movie is in spectacular 3d computer graphics, easily some of the best cinematic material I’ve ever seen. Even in fast-paced chase scenes or intense action, the backgrounds, textures, and characters maintain their quality and clarity. The model physics are well done, how clothes drape across figures and interact with objects, and the character movements seem much more natural then they often did in Spirits Within. Don’t take that to mean that all of the physics are realistic as this is still an animated feature; bodies do not accelerate at constant rates due to gravity and characters can leap over thirty times their own height. Above all else, the fight scenes spread throughout the movie are amazing. They are packed full of interesting choreography that flashes by in seconds, providing the feeling of a fast-paced battle while making you want to go back and watch them over again to see exactly what each person is doing.
The weapons, objects, and vehicles in the movie are reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII while still being new creations that give you the feeling that the world has really evolved over the previous two years. You should recognize many of the environments from the game, though the city of Midgar is mostly in ruin, and they look far better then they ever did in the game. Probably the most interesting aspect of the movie is that it has several moments where it serves to explain the game’s plot in much more detail then the game itself ever did. Through the use of flashbacks, memory fades, and voice over you get a better idea of what happened previously then some people get from playing through the whole game. Overall, the plot is not spectacular but it is well written and very well presented, the visuals are amazing, and the voice acting is well done.
I very strongly recommend this for anyone who has played any of the Final Fantasy games, and the movie is good enough that even someone who has no prior knowledge of the back-story could dive in and enjoy it. It gets 9 out of 10.