REVIEW: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (Tetsuya Nomura, 2005)

Two years after Cloud and company saved Midgar from the threat of Sephiroth (the Darth Vader of gaming), a tale chronicled in the epic video game Final Fantasy VII, a new chapter is unfolding. Cloud, who left his new home with friends Tifa and Barret in Nebleheim to live in seclusion and battle his inner demons in his departed love, Aeris' church, has recieved a plea from Rufus, the former owner of evil energy giant Shinra, to protect him from a snot-nosed newcomer named Kadaj and his two cohorts Loz and Yazoo who are searching for their "mother." Confused yet? All the key characters from quite possibly the best video game ever are back to defend their planet and tie up loose ends in this aftermath story.

Advent Children was released in Japan in 2004 but its American release date was postponed repeatedly since then. Rumor has it the filmmakers were searching for precisely the right voice talent to perform the dubbing (they ended up with, among many others, two easily recognizable actresses - Rachel Leigh Cook and Mena Suvari - voicing Tifa and Aeris, respectively). Due to this flirtacious release, anticipation for the film on these shores has risen feverishly among fans. Since I did not pre-order the DVD, I made sure I woke up early on release day to ensure myself a copy. The magic of the Final Fantasy games is that while they carry accordingly fantastic storylines, they have potential to be pleasantly unfocused when it comes to plot, allowing the player to grow emotionally attached to the characters. By the time I finished the seventh installment in the series that this film picks up after, I felt like I was part of the surrogate family of indelible characters featured within. With such raw emotion involved in a situation like this in which I have little to no control over the progression of events, a sequel - especially one that would only take up 110 minutes of my time as opposed to an entire winter break from high school - was more than welcomed into my Aeris-adoring arms.

I was overjoyed to unwrap the DVD and pop it in my player, and it provided me with a great ride with familiar characters and only a few speedbumps along the way. The first thing I had to get over was the occasionally anime-esque dialogue. Despite my love for ├ćon FluxBurst Angel and, well, Final Fantasy, It takes a lot for me to invest in most anime (well, okay, Flux isn't Japanese... Korean/American fusion... but still). Thankfully the dialogue in question is easy to get past, a fact most likely attributable to the utterly fantastic computer animation that is impossible to argue with. This is by far the best CGI feature I've seen to date, and to think - it's not even cutting edge anymore... it premiered almost two years ago!

Advent Children is basically one long action scene but it's punctuated enough that it doesn't grow tiresome. The slick action is handled as only an animated film could handle it (live action has tried, read: Matrix Reloaded's first multi-Smith fight, Van Helsing's Mr. Hyde bout) and is always fun as hell to watch. I'm glad I decided to pull my comfy chair up nice and close to the TV screen for it. There's also a rousing sequence during the Bahamut battle in which all the characters we had yet to see make their entrances - Barret (the Mr. T of the crew) with his chaingun, Cid with his bo and airship, Yuffie with her whatever-that-is and Red XIII carrying the excitable Cait Sith on his back (a welcome dose of comedic relief.) Where Children is packed to its chocobo gills in action, however, it could really stand to have some more quiet scenes between the characters to further develop their relationships and give us that extra 'oopmh' of caring when we see them fight. And yeah, I know chocobos don't have gills, I just wanted to throw them in this review somehow.

While at times the film seems fairly random and aimless - a poor excuse of a story to get our gang back for another adventure - the payoff is exactly what I was looking for. With familiar locations and score pieces (and even the level-up sound effect cleverly utilized as a ringtone) to make my heart hark back to the emotions I felt while playing the game, there's no way I wasn't going to enjoy myself. Along with all that though, was a much desired learning of what came to pass between Cloud and Aeris.

If you're a fan of the video game series, Advent Children is an absolute must for you. Otherwise, you might find yourself a bit bored and certainly confused (previous knowledge of the material is a requisite here - the film is extremely authentic in that regard). I'll be enjoying many more viewings of this one as time goes on.

1 comment:

  1. Recovered comment posted by Teresa on December 7th, 2006:

    Hey, you have a blog! *will link to it*


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