Eventually, rumors of a Final Fantasy 7 remake ran rampant, updating the graphics and whatnot to enhance the experience of the original game. While that still has yet to happen, Square-Enix decided to create the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, which is a series of games and other media expanding on the world of FF7. Each title would focus on a different aspect or set of characters to help on the expansion.
The first to come out for this was a phone/mobile game called Final Fantasy: Crisis Core that acted as a prequel to the original game and focused on the Turks. However, it wasn't the first to be announced. That honor went to a movie sequel the game--Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The film was conceptualized to follow the story of Cloud and Tifa, along with the children they helped to take care of. And while there were other game titles to follow, it's the film we're focusing on for now.
The film takes place 2 years after the end of the game, and this brings with it some positives and negatives. First and foremost, the film caters to the fans of the game, giving you characters, events, music, and overall visuals that are an FF7 fan's wet dream. On the downside... the film caters to the fans of the game. If you have not played Final Fantasy 7, this movie will make absolutely no sense to you, and this has been the primary complaint of reviewers and critics everywhere. But is that the only problem with the movie? Let's see...
Of course I own this on DVD, but it's been a while since I last watched it. Even having played the game more than once... I found it a lot more confusing than I remember it being. The film, as I said, picks up 2 years after the end of the game, and everyone is just trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild what's left of their lives. But a deadly illness called Geostigma has spread around the world, mostly infecting children and young adults. Cloud and Tifa have begun a delivery service (on top of taking care of orphans), but Cloud has run off to be alone, leaving Tifa to take care of Marlene and other kids. However, the remnants of Shinra Corp have contacted Cloud, wanting his help taking care of a certain matter. Three guys who look suspiciously similar to Sephiroth--the previous big bad--have appeared, and they're looking for the head of Jenova (an alien being that wanted to destroy the planet and that was used in experimentation by Shinra, thus helping to create both Cloud and Sephiroth). With it, they can resurrect Sephiroth and continue the plan to destroy the world.
See? Even in the opening plot summary I had to go into background game information just to get through it. To be fair, the movie doesn't intend to alienate its audience. There's an opening narrative that gives a brief (very brief) summary of the game. But it leaves out some information that can leave the unaware viewer a bit lost, particularly anything dealing with Aerith or Zack (or any of the other side characters that show up in the film later, at least anything outside a quick visual of them all fighting Sephiroth). Regardless, the biggest thing a viewer unacquainted with the game is missing is the character development and connections. Gamers would have spent anywhere from 60-100+ hours with these characters prior to getting to this film. They would know their background, their connections to each other, and everything they had to go through to get to this point. In other words, a non-gamer would have no emotional connection to any of these people or their situation going into this... and, unfortunately, the film tends to rely on the fact you already know them.
Don't get me started on the Geostigma stuff--it's a new thing to the film, and it's kinda poorly explained so that even I have a hard time following it. In fact, for the most part, the new stuff (geostigma, the Sephiroth remnants, etc.) could have been fleshed out a wee bit better. It's like they had a cool idea, but ran out of time in the writing department to figure out and explain exactly what these things are or how they came about. Geostigma is at least mostly explained, but the baddies are just... there. No idea how they came to be, they just are. I suppose if you don't think about it too much, it's fine.
All of that being said, practically everything else about this film is outstanding--particularly the visuals, the action, and the music. Let's start with the pretty, pretty pictures. This is basically the best looking animated film you're going to see for years. Even just watching it again, I have to say I'm having a hard time thinking of an animated film that is more gorgeous than this one. The animation is purely brilliant and ahead of its time. Matching this are the awe-inspiring action sequences. They actually tried to do as much motion capture as they could for the action, but then had to go back to pure animation when it came to things that were physically impossible to pull off in the real world. The way the "camera" is used and the set-pieces and the choreography... everything just comes together perfectly to give a lot of style and some of the best damn action scenes you'll see in an animated film (not to mention better than some live action films). And then, of course, the music. Composer Nobuo Uematsu returns with a score taken and updated almost entirely from the game, giving a fun, beautiful, nostalgic feel.
So whereas Spirits Within was considered a failure (though it really isn't) based on how it's absolutely nothing like the source material, Advent Children can be considered a failure (though it really isn't) by those who haven't played the game, since it relies too much on the source material. Regardless, the action and animation are so brilliantly done that you'll sometimes forget you have no idea what's going on. So if I'm saying the story is the issue, but the visual aspect makes up for it--it's a style over substance film? Completely. If you're going into this movie, you're going to take out those two things as the biggest positive (well, those and the music). Honestly, I don't think I could recommend it to anybody who hasn't played the game, unless you just want to see it for the cool factor. It ain't perfect, even for a gamer, but it's a fun enough time.
A Keanu 'Whoa'