Four years after the flop of their first motion picture effort nearly bankrupted Square, the company has released their second effort. Whereas The Spirits Within was a ponderous, unusual tale that had nothing to do with any entry in the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children succeeds where its successor fails: it appeals to the fan boy in us all.
Final Fantasy VII won the hearts of a generation of gamers when it was released for the Sony Playstation way back in 1997, thanks in large part to its brooding and mysterious - yet lovable - spiky haired hero, Cloud. Advent Children accomplishes many tasks, but as the movie begins it becomes perfectly clear that it is Cloud's story and no one else's. And, for all the other things it accomplishes, Advent Children proves once and for all that Cloud Strife is one of, if not the, badasses of videogame history.
Anyone hoping for a thought-provoking or particularly engaging storyline in Advent Children will likely leave the film slightly disappointed or confused. Maybe both. It has been two years since the defeat of Sephiroth and the end of Final Fantasy VII. The world is healing its wounds, and Cloud and friends, who had once fought together to save the planet, have now drifted apart. A mysterious and incurable disease called Geostigma has begun to ravage the population, and Cloud is confronted by a trio of JENOVA remnants, led by Kadaj, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Sephiroth. When Kadaj's gang begins brainwashing Midgar's children suffering Geostigma, Cloud takes it upon himself to save them. Cloud's task is as much coming to terms with his past as it is confronting the future. With the aid of allies old and new, including familiar faces such as Tifa and Shinra's goofy lackeys Reno and Rude, Cloud fights to rid the planet of Geostigma and the last traces of JENOVA's corrupting influence.
Advent Children's plot is thin and not as well executed as it could have been. Still, it's hard to expect a team of game designers who have never before created a full-length film to deliver a masterfully told drama. Perhaps that was never the intention. Director Tetsuya Nomura does, however, deliver a fantastic action film. The storyline serves to place Cloud in one battle after another, each one more intense and jaw-dropping than the last. Other characters get in on the action, as well: Tifa's brawl with Kadaj's "brother" Loz is especially entertaining, and Reno and Rude do a bit of combat on their own. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast of Final Fantasy VII - Vincent Valentine, Barret Wallace, Cid Highwind, Yuffie Kisiragi, Red XIII and Cait Sith - only join the fray for one battle. As I mentioned before, Advent Children really is Cloud's movie. Even so, it would've been nice to see the rest of the crew play a larger role in the film.
Each fight scene is suitably over-the-top and absolutely entertaining. They succeed so brilliantly thanks to the absolutely gorgeous CG animation, which is amazingly detailed and fluidly graceful. It's simply hard not to grin like a child when Cloud takes on Kadaj's gang, fighting them two or three at a time with an intricately detailed sword in each hand. Even the landscapes look magnificent, and are photorealistic in several instances. Each and every character stays true to their original look, but has been spiffed up a bit for Advent Children. If possible, watch Advent Children on a high definition TV to really take it in.
Advent Children is hit-and-miss in the sound department. New versions of several of Nobuo's classic pieces make their way into the film, but in a few fight scenes they feel a bit out of place. The mood of the music often doesn't quite match up with the intensity of the scene; thankfully, as the film ramps up to its climax, the lightweight piano gives way to electric guitar based rock, and from that point on the music works perfectly. Even the English dub is handled well; Cloud is fittingly somber, though, unfortunately, Kadaj and his "brothers" Yazoo and Loz sound laughable. Purists will likely wish to watch the film in its original Japanese - thankfully, both language tracks are available on the DVD.
In short, Advent Children will appeal to the majority of fans of Final Fantasy VII. The story is disappointing, and the secondary characters don't receive enough screen time. But for a kickass action film that appeals to the Final Fantasy fan in all of us, Advent Children is absolutely worth a watch - or three.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
| Sound: ||7/10|
| Visual: ||10/10|
| Acting: ||5/10|
| Storyline: ||4/10|
| Overall: ||6.5/10|