Films based on games, by and large, are rubbish; Super Mario Bros., for instance, or Street Fighter to name but two. A few years back, Square tried to capitalise on the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise of games with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a feature-length CGI cut-scene that, while looking great and feeling fit, was, sadly, not very good.
Despite this, we have here another Final Fantasy film, this time a direct sequel to the seventh Final Fantasy game. I have fond memories of Final Fantasy VII, having played it twice and clocked up around 100 hours of play time, and ebayed my copy only a few weeks ago which I now regret because Advent Children has brought my finely-honed nostalgia sense crashing to its knees and weeping.
This film is a gift to the fans. If you never played Final Fantasy VII then you may still enjoy Advent Children — it has some gob-smacking CGI action sequences — but you just won’t appreciate it on the same level. You won’t appreciate it when Barret, Yuffie, Cid et al turn up to fight the freshly-summoned Bahamut. You won’t appreciate it when Sephiroth returns. You won’t appreciate seeing Aeris. You won’t appreciate the use of the original Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack. You certainly won’t appreciate it when a character has Cloud’s triumphant “dadadadaa daaa daaa da DA-DAA!” riff as their mobile phone ringtone. This film is pure, unadulterated, 100% fanwank. I loved it.
I…won’t be just a memory.
On a purely intellectual level, this film is terrible. The plot is incoherent and relies entirely upon you knowing intimately the plot of the game (and even then it doesn’t make much sense). The dialog is poor and the action sequences are ridiculous and the CGI characters often leaden and emotionless. But on an emotional level it’s utterly engaging and had me grinning like a loon — look, it’s Cloud, and he has SIX SWORDS! Look, it’s Barret and he has a BIG GUN! Look, it’s Rude and Reno and they LOOK LIKE I REMEMBER! And so it goes on.
So if you don’t know the game (or do know the game but didn’t like it — Thom, I’m looking at you here) then you might enjoy parts of this film but probably not really get it. But if you do know the game and it featured heavily in your gaming life, then you must see this film. Tycho of Penny Arcade summed this up perfectly with this Fanboy Warning:
“This film contains scenes that may be totally fucking awesome. Your favorite characters may be rendered in extreme detail as they take part in mind-blowing battles set in familiar locales. Futuristic scabbard/motorcycles might be depicted in a way that makes them appear sweet.”
He’s right, you know.