It seems like just last week that the creators of the Final Fantasy game franchise sought to bring their vision of the universe they created, and their story, to the silver screen. Well, okay. It wasn’t last week. It’s actually been about 15 years since this really took place in 2001.
I remember being extremely excited for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but the movie itself escapes me today. I think the lack of a lasting impact could have to do with those same creators scrambling to find the distinction between a wide-release movie and a game they’re already heavily invested in. After re-visiting the film, I remember my initial thoughts and they remain the same today. The nowhere-near-photo-realistic animated characters battled and chased each other to and fro in a tale that made little to no sense, with or without the rules of the (bad for its time) computer animated gamescape it’s all set in.
Flash back forward to today, another Japanese made FF movie makes its way to the screen via Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. Kingsglaive represents a quantum leap forward in animation and design, if not a great leap in mo-cap technology and story. The images are far more flexible, more mobile, and more tactile; though, the faces still lack expression, much less what anyone could called subtle or nuanced. The backdrops are striking and surreal, on a par with many of the big sci-fi and fantasy films hitting theaters these days.
But, take away the advertorial nature of Kingsglaive, ignore its use as a cheat sheet, prep for the players of various corners of the game world it depicts, and deal with it as a story with characters and incidents anybody not devoted to the game would watch, and it’s the same old, same old when it comes to FF. It remains a misshapen mash-up heavy with sci-fi fantasy exposition and a back story so convoluted that a single two-hour movie cannot encapsulate it.
Kingsglaive dwells mostly in the realm of fantasy, inside a universe of medieval castles, steampunk weaponry, armor, and creatrues. A world where the Kingdom of Lucis faces a new threat at the end of an uneasy peace with the Niflheim Empire. There’s a magic crystal (of course there is) and the only warriors King Regis (Sean Bean) trusts to defend it are his Kingsglaive, who are empowered by the magic of their sovereign. There are tusked wildebeest warhorses. You would think these would be the point of reference when someone shouts, “Release the DEMON!” But no, they’re actually talking about war crabs – crabs that spit out a hailstorm of fireballs.
The stakes are high, and there’s been quite a bit of intermixing of Lucians and Niflheimers in the “hundred years of peace”, but anti-immigrant backlash rears its ugly head. Taunts and slurs against the immigrants are present, as is there a wall – who says video game movies can’t be topical. With the immigrants who must prove themselves, there are good soldiers, an evil prince, all with tongue-twisting names like Lenafreya Nox Fleuret, should you choose to try and remember them.
The dialogue, delivered by the likes of Aaron Paul and Lena Heady, could have been better. Though I don’t so much blame the voice talent as much as I do the script itself, with classics like “Get back here alive! That’s an order!” and “You speak of matters beyond the wall.”
Probably the biggest thing most movie fans will remember, is the name of the city under threat. It probably has the silliest name this side of Raccoon City. They call it, Insomnia. Which is kind of ironic, because Kingsglaive may be a cure for the condition for some.
2 out of 5 stars