Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, June 11, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Taking place two years after the end of the game by the same name, Advent Children deals with the aftereffects and repercussions of that final battle.

What They Say
Continuing the storyline based on the hit Playstation® game Final Fantasy VII, two years have passed since the ruins of Midgar stand as a testament to the sacrifices made in order to bring peace. However, the world will soon face a new menace. A mysterious illness is spreading fast. Old enemies are astir. And Cloud, who walked away from the life of a hero to live in solitude, must step forward yet again . . .

The Review!
Audio:
Advent Children really makes out well in the audio department and this is a big plus considering how good the DVD was. The feature has three lossless tracks on it with English, Japanese and French all provided in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 format. There’s so much going on in a lot of the big action scenes that the speakers get a good workout when it comes to directionality and impact. But it also plays out really well in the more subtle scenes with dialogue and placement, giving it appropriate depth during the few scenes where it’s required. I was also particularly amused at how much more distinct certain sounds are, such as when Cloud walks through the ruined church for the first time and his footsteps are very apparent. Though I don’t think this sounds as impressive as I once though it did, especially after listening to so many other lossless tracks in the last couple of years, this is a very solid piece and fans of the music alone will be thrilled by this.

Video:
Originally released in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 at 1080p and is encoded using the AVC codec. Advent Children is going to be a film that’s going to really vary from person to person in how they view it. With the new footage that’s included, some may notice the differences in sharpness with it while for others there may be no perceptible difference. I have to admit that for me, it all looked pretty much the same and the transfer overall is good, but “suffers” from the stylistic choices made in how it was animated. It’s not a blazingly sharp feature, but it was never intended to be like a Pixar film either. It has a film-like feel throughout, which means some softness, but there are edges where you can see some minor noise that’s in the source material itself. This does look quite good overall, but it’s not something that’s going to massively sell the high definition format. It does appear to be representative of the source material itself though.

Packaging:
Advent Children has a good looking cover for its release, which is duplicated with the cardboard slipcover it gets. The front cover has a very good looking visual of Cloud and Sephiroth going at each other against the backdrop of the city with the sun rising up, giving it all a particularly epic yet personal feel. It’s a bit muted overall without much vibrancy, but it fits the feel of the film and the design itself. The back cover has a few good looking visuals from the film along the top and a clean listing of what we’re going to find inside for extras and the technical presentation. The summary is pretty meager and all of this is on top of the back end of Sephiroth’s wing which has a few feathers falling off from it. It’s a clean looking cover overall and it’s mirrored with the actual Blu-ray case packaging itself. The only difference is that piece has a reverse side to it with a blue filtered shot of Cloud that’s spread across both panels.

Menu:
The main menu design for Advent Children takes its cue from the opening credits sequence with the grid format combined with feathers floating throughout it – in static form- with the navigation mixed into it along the bottom. The bulk of the main menu is given over to clips from the feature with music playing along that’s all designed to excite and get you in the mood for a big action piece. It’s a decent looking menu overall that fits in with the design of the feature itself and the pop-up menu utilizes the same design during playback. The menus load very quickly, though going back to the main menu in the middle of the film was a bit laggy. The disc defaulted to the Japanese language track for us with non-SDH subtitles and we had no issues with the menus otherwise.

Extras:
The original release of this was a double disc that had a second disc full of extras. The Blu-ray edition ports just a little of that over onto the main feature disc with a little something new. The big original feature is the 'reminiscence' piece that shows a lot of animation and story events from the video game, with Japanese text but subtitled in English. It's interesting to go back to that time when the CG animation was considered gorgeous cutting edge material. After that, we get a seven minute Legacy piece that goes back to even earlier looking games in the series and describes where all of it came from. The Reminiscence of FF7 Compilation piece takes the material from the game, its cuts scenes and all, and puts that into a thirty minute feature that fleshes out some of the background of the film for people new to it, or those that never finished the game. Another lengthy piece is the 30 minute anime episode entitled, “On the Way to Smile” which focuses obviously on Denzel. It’s another interesting angle that helps to bring out more of what the feature is all about by giving it more depth and angling to events surrounding the original Final Fantasy VII storyline.

Overall, I’m disappointed that more of the extras from the original release didn’t make it here, such as the deleted scenes and the full Venice showing that compressed the movie down into an intriguing cut. Other extras are gone as well, though we do retain the trailers, some of which came after the original release. This release does have a mixture of standard definition and high definition pieces, and thankfully the Denzel piece is done in HD which gives it a very strong feeling. Unfortunately, beyond the trailers that are in HD, the only other piece is the Final Fantasy XIII expanded seven minute commercial, which is actually encoded using MPEG-2. The extras for this release have some really positive pieces to it, but it also lacks a lot of what would truly make it complete. I suspect we’ll see “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete EX” some day with all the extras restored. I really like the extras we got, but it should have been truly complete.

Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Advent Children first came out in 2006, I was rather excited by it because the FFVII game was of course one of those game changing moments in video game history that a lot of people participated in. It wasn’t like other things nor was it marketed and hyped like others. So a chance to recapture a little of that in a CG animated adventure had me very interested in it. Unfortunately, even though it is basically a love song for the fans of the game, it just doesn’t do a thing for me. It’s very pretty and it has some great big video game oriented action sequences, it’s so poorly executed in direction and the meager plot that you’re left wondering how it got through. What kills me the most is that with the added footage, they essentially turn it into an hour of minor action and exposition (i.e. cool quiet moments) before it descends into another hour of pure non-stop action.

Advent Children takes place two years after the events of the game and it touches upon those events a bit as the film progresses. In the time since taking down the company that had a stranglehold on the planet in how it was manipulating its life energy, Cloud has moved on to become a delivery boy of sorts for his own business that he works with Tifa with. The two have taken in some orphans in that time but Cloud spends most of his time on the road or in the church where he keeps his remembrance of the one woman he failed horribly, Aerith. Tifa's been trying to get Cloud to open up more to her but he's still stuck in the past and can't quite make things work with each other. While the planet is seemingly recovering at least a little bit in the time since the Lifestream took action against Shinra, one of the things that's been introduced into the world is something called the Geostigma.

This disease seems to affect primarily kids as they get splotches along their bodies and it claims their lives after a relatively short battle. The disease is designed to kill and bring more of the life essence spread into humanity back into the Lifestream. At the same time, history seems to be repeating itself in the form of an avatar of Sephiroth's that's worked up a small group of followers. Kadaj has taken a couple under his wing and in the same tight black leather and powered with intriguing weapons, they take to their bikes and intend to hunt down Cloud who they consider their older brother in order to find their Mother. Mother is initially somewhat of a mystery but for anyone who follows the clues or played the game, it's clear that they're seeking out Jenova, the true villain of the game and the one that in a sense birthed all of this pain and suffering. The avatars of Sephiroth intend to finish what he couldn't and that road leads through Cloud and the numerous children with the Geostigma that they can warp to their cause.

In the first half of the film, we get a somewhat convoluted story that attempts to tell the key points of the game which directly affect things here while moving the new story forward. The cast is kept relatively small considering how many characters populate this particular universe but a lot of them do show up over the course of the film. Names are few and far between though outside of the core characters which makes it a bit difficult to connect with at times. The flashbacks to the previous events are well done for the most part but as is a common device, they're scattered throughout almost the entire film so those new to the franchise will be making some of the connections very late in the game.

Visually, the film is simply stunning. The motion capture approach isn't new and each time it gets applied seems to provide different but intriguing results. What we get here is a movie that at times is so close to being what could be considered real that it's hard to tell. There's an amazing amount of detail in the faces, clothing and backgrounds. Some of the close-ups of the faces are just startling to see how much is there and this is still just a film encoded at 480. The animators have done an incredible job here that in some ways tops what you get from the Hollywood CG films since this one, even in its most fantastical moments, has so much of what it does based in simple reality. From the clothes blowing in the wind, the detail of the leather or the layering of the hair, it's amazing.

As gorgeous as the animation is, some aspects of it were just plain unsettling. A lot of the action scenes are very well done, but when it comes to the one on one combat as opposed to bike chases and the like, it takes on such a hyper feel that it loses a lot of its realism. Now granted, it's basically a film extension of a video game and they're keeping true to the source material, but it just felt like a sharp shift from what it was doing before. In and of itself it wouldn't have been all that bad, but with the myriad number of quick cuts and edits, occasionally inserted flashbacks and so many movements looking like they were leapfrogs in how they jumped about, it almost made me laugh more than be wowed by what I was seeing.

The other problem that I really had with the film is that by the time it hit the halfway mark of about fifty minutes, it simply loses a lot of its steam. And that steam is lost at the time when it shifts from most of its storytelling attempts into one of straightforward action that just goes on and on until the end. Kadaj's summoning of the giant beast that attacks the city square as his pledges line around them is a massive action piece but it was also at that point that interest in what was going on. The first half introduces a lot of interesting material, material that I felt like you really had to know at least some of the game in order to appreciate, but it was things that I knew or could at least make the logical leap with. This isn't a film for those who don't have a familiarity with the franchise since I think that while they could make some of the leaps necessary for the story, a lot of the key elements would be lost.

In Summary:
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a visual and aural feast in this format, even more so than the already very enticing DVD from 2006. This is the kind of film that should have been made several years ago and put into theaters here instead of the Spirits Within. But even then I think it would have been a critical failure simply due to the way the storytelling is executed here. The film is a big love song to fans of the original game and not something that stands alone. I don't think it can just be jumped into without any real knowledge beforehand without losing a lot of what makes this as powerful a piece as it is for those that it was made for. For that audience, this is almost a once in a life time kind of event and it's easy to see why it generated such hype and love from its fans. Being a casual fan, I can see that appeal but a lot of the weaknesses inherent in the film simply stand out too strongly to make it enjoyable. When I'm checking the countdown timer at the halfway mark – when the feature decides that it wants to be pure action – it’s not a good sign. The narrative simply can’t carry itself and the added footage didn’t change anything, not that I could tell what was added in the three years since I last saw this. Pretty but forgettable, much like many pretty boys in the world of anime and Japanese video games.

Features
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Arabic Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Dutch Subtitles, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, Animated Film, Original Story Digest,  Story Digest, Legacy Featurette, Trailers

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MSRP: 38.96
Running time: 126
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children