Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 02, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 24, 2006
What They Say
Two years later...
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is the much anticipated sequel to Square's top selling game Final Fantasy VII: a full blown CGI movie!
After Cloud saved the world from Sephiroth, the citizens of the planet begin suffering from a strange sickness called Geo-Stigma. Meanwhile, Cloud has secluded himself, and is being haunted by demons from his past...
After a considerable wait, SPHE finally release the movie based on one of the most popular RPGs of all time that is made purely for fans.
For this review I listened to the disc in Japanese with subtitles. The 5.1 track is excellent and made good use of directionality, with the sweeping orchestral score and action scenes sounding really immersive. I didn't notice any technical problems like dropouts or distortions on this track, it just sounded really good.
I briefly sampled the English 5.1 mix and I noticed no problems with this track either.
Video quality is going to go one of two ways depending on your equipment. For me, it looked pretty good most of the time, with some occasional compression artefacts cropping up. Moving the disc over to my PC though, and the ghosting and interlacing became more pronounced because this film has received an NTSC-PAL conversion. While I rarely mention it for TV series and the like, for a big-name movie like this, coming from a big studio (whose previous anime features are all proper film transfers), this makes no sense at all and is quite disappointing.
Subtitles are in a bold white font, easily readable, and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.
The two-discs come packaged in a standard hinged keepcase, and we have a nice cover featuring Cloud on the left and Sephiroth on the right, with the logo centred at the top. The back cover features an array of screenshots as well as a bit of artwork of Sephiroth carrying Aerith, as well as the usual description and feature listings. Technical information appears in SPHE's usual grid.
The menus are quite simple but stylish at the same time. The main menu features looping video of scenes from the film while Sephiroth's theme plays in the background, with all the options at the bottom of the screen. Sub-menus are all static with no music, but still look in style. Access times are fast all round, and in general the menus just fit the film well.
The first extra in this set comes on disc 1, and is a 20-odd minute recap of the story of the Final Fantasy VII game using the game's footage. Seeing the graphics again after all this time was an interesting experience, but although this is no doubt here to help people unfamiliar with the games as well I think it'd best work as a refresher for those that have just forgotten parts of the story, because the game was huge and the story was long. Cramming it into 20 minutes doesn't quite work.
Disc 2 holds the bulk of the extras, kicking off with 11 deleted scenes. I was a little under whelmed to find these were little more than 10-15 second vignettes, only a few of which featured dialogue (as they were cut, none feature music). They're nice to have here but ultimately add nothing anyway. What is very nice to have, on the other hand, is the Venice Film Festival footage. Essentially this is a 25-minute cut of the film (credits included) that was show at the festival, and it turns out to be a really interesting take on the story. It's good fun to see the whole story stripped down so much and worked into what is presented here. The other major extra is a 25 minute making of documentary entitled "Distance". This features various members of the creative team, including the director and producer, talking about how they came up with the ideas for the movie and how it was brought to the screen, and is well worth a look. Finally we have trailers for the movie, as well as for upcoming games in the Final Fantasy VII universe.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I'll start off by saying it right away: I really enjoyed Advent Children. This is a movie that, since its release, has completely polarised opinions, of those who are both fans of the game and not. The game in question is, of course, one of the most popular RPGs of all time, one that really captivated in the west just as much as the east, and is fondly remembered by most who played it on the PlayStation. At the time the graphics were amazing, and the gameplay and story were pretty damn good too.
So the thought of a sequel was both great and met with some caution at the same time. After all, this was a movie, and the game did a good job of wrapping its story up, so how would it turn out? Well, it's really interesting, because Square Enix have really taken the approach of unabashedly making it something of a celebration for the fans, saying "screw it" with regards most of the character introductions, and in my view that's definitely the right approach to take. The film weighs in at 90 minutes total, so doesn't exactly allow a great deal of time for introductions to returning characters (a couple of whom don't even have their names mentioned), although there is a pretty good recap of the major events of the game.
The story opens two years after the game's conclusion, where Tifa has opened a new bar and runs a delivery service of sorts with Cloud, and lives with Marlene and a young boy called Denzel. Cloud spends much of his time in the church where he reminisces about Aerith, having never really gotten over her death. Since the end of the first game, where the planet fought back using all the Lifestream, a new disease called "geostigma" has begun to spread amongst the population, infecting both Cloud and Denzel along with many others. The disease mainly affects youngsters and is designed as the planets way of restoring the Lifestream. Cloud has pretty much resigned himself to death, just living out the days until he comes to an end, while Tifa tries, and fails, to get him to open up to her.
But while he's out on his bike, a group of three young men attack him, looking for their "mother" and calling him brother. It turns out their leader is an avatar of Sephiroth, made from Jenova, and that is the "mother" they are looking for, and believe Cloud will lead them to. Rufus Shinra has also somehow managed to survive the onslaught during the game, and when the three men pay him a visit, their leader, Kadaj, says that with Jenova's head they'll be able to bring Sephiroth back. Kadaj goes to the church and following a fight with Tifa (as Marlene watches on), he steals the material Cloud has been hiding and kidnaps many of the children suffering from Geostigma. Naturally, Cloud can't allow that to happen and with the help of some returning friends, he learns the truth of their plans and sets out to stop Kadaj and finally get over the death of the one woman he couldn't help.
The plot is fairly east to pick up as long as you know of the events of the game, and although it's not really that involved I thought it served its purpose well. It might be by the books but the execution was good (if predictable at many points), and did just what you'd expect it to: provide a way to bring back all of the familiar faces fans would want to see and set up the fight scenes that populate the movie.
And let me just say now, the fights are awesome. The characters all have their characteristics and moves that anyone who's played the game will be familiar with, and Square Enix have done a wonderful job with making them fast paced and full of bone crunching action. One thing that I really appreciated was that rather than tone things down from the game and go for a more realistic approach (as they did in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), the creators run wild and never forget the fantasy setting this game was based in. Characters jump all over the place pulling of some fantastic looking if unrealistic moves, but it works very well and just helps add to the drama within.
For fans of the game, getting to see all the major characters from the game again is great. Even the likes of Yuffie and Cait Sith get some screen time (although I have to admit that, with Cait Sith's dialogue translated with a Scottish accent in the subtitles I had little clue as to what he was saying " thankfully he only has a few lines), even if it is mainly to show up in the big battle against Bahamut. All the characters have their different personalities in tact, and perhaps the one character I was really surprised not to see a bit more of was Barret, considering he was there pretty much the whole way through the game.
Visually, Advent Children is just stunning. Square Enix definitely have one of the finest masteries of CG in the world, bringing these characters to life with an incredible amount of realism, while still retaining the flair and character that they had during the game. Hair flows naturally, their faces emote as they move and they walk around lifelike thanks to the use of motion capture techniques. The action oriented set pieces all look stunning and really, it'd be hard to see how you could ask for more from the creators in this respect (yes, the younger guys are bit "pretty boy", but I'll forgive them for that because they still look nice!).
For all its positives though, it'd be foolish to pretend there is nothing wrong with the movie, because it is definitely flawed. If you're not a fan of the game, probably the only redeeming thing about it would be the eye candy and action on show, because even with the Reminiscence extra and the brief exposition, you really need an idea of the characters, events and relationships to get the most out of the film. Frankly, you wouldn't have a clue who Red XIII or Cait Sith were if you hadn't played the games as I don't remember either of their names ever being mentioned, and you'd be left wondering exactly why anyone cares about Cid or Barret, Vincent or Yuffie and quite frankly what the big deal about Sephiroth is. And even if you have played the games, you still might not be able to see past the fact that the plot is fairly simple, doesn't fully realise some of the ideas it brings up and can get a bit silly at times. Because of this it's easy to see why even among fans it polarises opinion, but mine definitely verges on the "like it a lot" side.
For all its flaws, I still enjoyed Advent Children a great deal. The story isn't the most complex but it works in allowing the producers to do what they wanted " give something to the fans that would be fun and involve all our old favourites. It's not really a film for non-fans though, and I wouldn't recommend it given you wouldn't have a clue who half the characters are or why they matter, and the plot wouldn't make a great deal of sense either. But a lot of fans will find a heck of a lot to love about it, as I did. While I initially wanted my fond memories of the game to be left untouched, I enjoyed seeing a new entry in this universe a great deal and now I have fond memories of revisiting the characters one last time.
Japanese Language (5.1),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII (Story Digest),Distance: The Making of Advent Children,Venice Film Festival Footage,Sneak Peek of Upcoming Final Fantasy VII Games,Final Fantasy VII Advent Children ,Trailers,Deleted Scenes
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Running time: 101
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children