Cast of Characters –
Cloud Strife – Our hero from the video game and the hero in this movie, during which he displays a whole range of emotions; from sulking, to brooding, to scowling, all in an exciting, emo-fashion! Legally prohibited from smiling.
Tifa Lockhart – The girl Cloud should have hooked up with. Her fisting abilities make her very popular!
Barrett Wallace – The man with the silver gun arm! He doesn’t really do much other than show up, swear and shot things. He’s here to kick gum and chew ass… or… something.
Kadaj and the Crunch Bunch – A pack of whinny, annoying, always-crying, emo-ish, Sephiroth cos-players who are somehow great bad-asses, thus giving us a great example of an Informed Attribute. Apparently representing elements of Sephiroth’s personality, though not so you’d notice. Really, just three Oedipal losers, but scary in a Hot Topic kind of way.
The Turks – Reno and Rude are the only ones who matter, and even then they’re just pointless comic relief.
The rest of the good guys – Don’t do much, don’t really matter.
The dead – Sephiroth, Aerith and Zack were all dead at the end of the video game, so of course they are still dead and can have no bearing whatsoever on the plot. None at all. Glad we have that cleared up.
Final Fantasy VII was one hell of a game. Groundbreaking in just about every way possible, it featured a decent (if confusing), storyline, interesting characters, great music, a 3-D environment and wonderful music! It was a system-seller for the Playstation at a time when they kind of needed one.
It also knocked Nintendo down hard. See, originally the game was supposed to be on the successor system to the Super Nintendo. That was going to be a CD-based system (possibly originally made with help from Phillips), and would’ve boasted pretty much all the features that the Playstation had. Well, in the end Nintendo decided to continue with cartridge based games, which really ticked off Square, as it placed limits on them that they didn’t want. Words were said, and next thing you knew, no Square games on any Nintendo systems for several years.
FFVII was great, and left many fans wanting more. Eventually they got Final Fantasy VIII, which made a lot of people very angry, and is widely regarded as a bad move. Other games came along, none of which related to the seventh, and people still wanted to see more of Cloud and his friends.
The game remained quite popular with people at Square as well. When showing off what the Playstation 3 could do, they showed a CGI movie that copied the opening scenes from the game. This left a lot of people hoping and wondering. Could a sequel be in the works? Maybe a remake onto the PS3?
No, instead what we got was Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (or, to use its Japanese title, “Fainaru Fantajī Sebun Adobento Chirudoren”); a broad continuation of the story from the game, done entirely in CGI. Surprisingly it doesn’t suck and has a lot going for it, including a great soundtrack and some really well-done fight choreography. Unfortunately, it also has a muddled screenplay, very uninteresting villains and a lot to do in a short amount of time.
For this recap I watched the film with the Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles. I have no problem with the English dub on this (actually, it’s pretty good), but when watching any non-English film I prefer to hear the original language and read the subtitles (though if I ever knuckle under and watch Incubus that policy may have to change).
Anyhow, on with the show!
We start with a nice dedication to the fans. The entire movie is, of course, blatant fan-service, and I’m fine with that. Then we get a caption indicating that what we are about to see takes place 498 years after the other events in the movie, which themselves take place two years after the events in the game. So for those keeping count, the movie happens two years after the game, this part happens 500 years after the game, and 498 years after the movie. Right-o.
From the dedication we pan down to a lovely mountain scene showing Red XIII and what appear to be young cubs running along together. Now I’d been under the impression Red XIII was the last of his species, so I’m unclear as to how he has kids, but I could just be remembering things wrong. It’s been a while since I played the game.
Anyhow, Red XIII runs up to the top of a hill and howls. We look down and see some sort of ruins. I’m assuming this is Midgar or something, but the movie is far from clear on this point. Also, it’s really, really unclear why we need this scene. It just creates some vague confusion about when the game takes place and brings up the question of where the cubs came from.
Really, they would’ve been better opening it on the following scene, which shows Reno, one of the Turks, flying a helicopter while listening to reports from down bellow. Ah, Reno… pathetic in the game, not that much better here, but so, so cute… *sigh*
Anyhow, we hear lots of gunshots and the helicopter goes down to the rescue. We don’t know anything about who is attacking, but presumably we’ll find out later. The helicopter rescues only one person, apparently, and then goes flying off.
From here we go onto another scene with some voice-over from Barrett’s daughter explaining the events from the video game. So for those keeping count, we have so far three prologues before we get into the movie proper.
This little recap of the video game also brings up something that annoyed me from the game. First, let me say that it does look beautiful, though it makes me sniffle slightly at Aerith dying. But it also brings up what’s known as Gaia Theory, and I really, really hate Gaia Theory.
For those not in the know, Gaia Theory (also called the Gaia Hypothesis), basically state that the Earth is an organism of some sort that engages in a form of self-regulating homeostasis. It’s a silly idea especially once you take it to the logical conclusion of “what does the planet do to compensate for change?” This is of course an oversimplification, but you get the idea.
In this movie, and in the video game, the planet reacts to what humanity is doing by interacting with the lifestream and saving itself and causing geostigma and etc, etc, etc. None of which makes any rational sense. It’s very silly and pointless and, yes, I know it’s just a video game/movie, but it still irks me.
Anyhow, we now move out into the movie itself, introducing Midgar and showing some street urchins hanging about, most of whom apparently have this poorly-defined illness called “geostigma”. From what I can gather later on in the movie, it’s kind of like cancer, but there’s no real explanation. For now what you need to know is that it causes a grey rash and apparently is fatal, but we never see anyone die from it.
The scene changes to the inside of Tifa’s bar, where she eventually answers a phone call with the words “Strife Delivery Service!” Yes, apparently Cloud is working as a delivery boy, thus putting him on the same occupational level as Philip J Fry.
Tifa tells the caller that Cloud isn’t around, and we go out to a shot of the cliffs above the city. Here we see the buster sword sticking into the ground. Damn stupid weapon, but I know the fan-boys love it. After that we move along to see, sitting on a motorbike and listening to his voice mail, our hero, Cloud, whose primary functions seem to be brooding and looking vaguely hot while brooding. You know, once I made up a drinking game based around this movie. One of the rules was that you took a drink every time Cloud looked moody. Alcohol poisoning usually set in around the thirty minute mark.
The next scene features a wonderful chase scene as Cloud rides his motorcycle through a canyon and gets chased by the bad guys. Ah, yes, the bad guys. Kadaj and his gang of pussies.
Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz (hereafter referred to as Thing 1 and Thing 2), are the three chumps who pass for villains in this movie. Most of the time they taunt each other for crying and whine about Mother. They look interesting, kind of, and they have some decent moves, but frankly they do just come off as some sort of wanna-be Sephiroth cos-players.
Anyhow, Thing 1 and Thing 2 both ride down in the canyon to chase Cloud while Kadaj engages in… extreme cell phone conversation! Yeah!
Now the fight scene here is really well done, with Cloud on his motorbike, swinging his sword and looking exciting as Thing 1 and Thing 2 orbit around him, shooting and swinging their swords. It’s a really well-done fight with some great music, and a good demonstration of how the movie, like the game, can mix magic and science.
Of course there’s three problems with this fight.
First, they cut away from the action to show Kadaj on his cell phone. Now this is just my opinion, but I believe the movie would work better just focusing on the action.
Second, argh, gunblades are being used! These are swords built with guns inside (or guns built with swords outside). They look cool, sort of, but are completely useless. This also raises the question of why, in a world with guns, would anyone be using a sword? From Wikipedia, I see that the real-life versions of these weapons died out centuries ago, and that’s no surprise. Don’t bring a knife (or sword), to a gunfight.
Third, Cloud gets shot in the face or rather, gets shot in the bullet-proof sunglasses he’s wearing. This does no damage whatsoever. I can accept that this is basically a CGI anime and these people are basically super-heroes, but I mean really? Come on, guys. This scene, along with another onelater, really pull me out of the movie.
Cloud gets away and heads off to a place called Healin, where he briefly (and pointlessly), fights Reno. He goes inside a small building, and Rude confronts him. Cloud already has his sword out and ready to go, so Rude puts on a glove in a menacing fashion, whips out his sword and (pointlessly), takes a swing. No reason is given for why these two try to attack Cloud, unless someone’s trying to win a “Whose is Bigger?” contest, in which case I think Cloud wins soundly.
Rufus Shinra, president of the Shina corporation (which runs the whole world from what I can tell, cause you know how megacorps roll), turns up to exposit a bit at Cloud all about Sephiroth and how Shinra is trying to make up for past crimes. Cloud tells him to piss off and then leaves. Why they needed Cloud to drive out to see them for a conversation that could be handled on Cloud’s (product-placed), cell phone is beyond me.
The next bit shows Tifa and Barrett’s daughter arriving at the church where Aerith used to hang out. We find out here that Cloud has the geostigma (big surprise), and that he’s been living and sleeping here (big surprise).
A few moments later we see Reno and Rude getting it handed to them again, this time by Kadaj. Mind you, from what I understand, Reno and Rude’s group, the Turks, is supposed to be pretty bad-ass. This is apparently just another informed attribute, as we see no real proof of this here.
Kadaj and Rufus exposit back forth for a bit. There’s something here about Kadaj being just a memory, or an avatar or something, but it’s not very clear. Then Kadaj kneels in a menacing fashion (?), and his features briefly flicker, making him look vaguely like Sephiroth. I yawn.
Back at the church, one of the Things shows up. He briefly taunts Tifa and then, after she puts on a glove in a menacing way, the two start to fight. It’s a really good fight sequence, though the laws of physics are seriously wounded in the process. We also get a piano remix of the fight music from the game, so that’s pretty fun.
Tifa beats the snot out of the Thing and gives the little girl a hug. Then they hear the Thing’s ringtone which is, hilariously, the Final Fantasy Victory Music, something which makes the fan boy in me squee with delight.
The music pulls the Thing out from under the pile of debris he’s currently in. He banters with Tifa for a moment, and then somehow gets behind her, knocks her down and is about to kill her when the little girl throws a bit of materia at his head. It’s a small piece, so he of course glares at her, kills Tifa and then grabs the girl and leaves.
Well, in fact, no that’s not what he does, though that would be smart. Instead he menaces the girl, grabs her and runs off, leaving Tifa wounded (but not in any serious way), and alive. I’m not sure why he didn’t just kill her, aside from the fact that the story needs her alive for later.
Outside in the city we see a couple kids (one of whom is carrying a stuffed moogle! Yay!), getting into a mysterious truck that is, apparently, going to take them off somewhere to get cured of their geostigma.
Now, call me silly and all, but I’d imagine that an odd, unlabeled truck with a couple creepy guys who are rounding up kids just might attract the attention of the police. However as we learn here and later, Midgar apparently doesn’t have any police or military.
This makes no sense to me. People are people and people need policing if they are together in large numbers. Midgar doesn’t appear to be all that big (probably only a couple thousand people tops), but one would think they would have some police that might come up and try to put a stop to this. Ok, yes, maybe the police already tried and were killed, but wouldn’t that invite more police and make it less likely the kids would go off with Kadaj and the Crunch Bunch?
You know, while I’m on this rant, just how big is this world? It must be about the same size as Earth, since the gravity appears to be about the same, but the amount of land space shown in the game is hardly anything. Further, Midgar is presented as a big city, but as I noted, it seems to only hold a couple thousand people at most.
Oh, well. Enough of that.
Anyhow, Kadaj hauls the kids off to some sort of lake/temple thingy where he is, I presume, about to tell them all about thetans. He takes the kids and leads them into the water, which somehow, I think, cures the geostigma, or maybe not, since we see one of the kids with it later. The water does apparently brainwash the kids so that they become stars in the newest remake of The Bloodening.
Meantime, Cloud has heard that the kids have been taken to a place called the Forgotten City. Yes, it’s actually called the Forgotten City. First, it doesn’t look like much of a city, and second, if people know where it is, then why is it called the Forgotten City?!
As Cloud is riding along, Aerith picks this time to contact him mentally or something. He sees a vision of flowers and is standing back-to-back with her. We don’t see her clearly yet, which is a nice touch, but I have to wonder what Aerith is thinking here. Cloud is riding a motorcycle, without a helmet, at high speed and she chooses then to distract him? What the fuck?
Anyhow, Cloud survives this insane moment, though only just, and finds himself in a fight with Kadaj and his cronies. Thing 1 and Thing 2 shoot at Cloud, but they apparently went to the Stormtrooper Academy of Small-Arms Fire, as they completely miss him and his motorcycle, and, amazingly, even avoid hitting something up in the air off screen which would then “squawk!” and fall to the ground.
The ensuing fight is well-staged and interesting even if it, again, brutalizes the laws of physics. Still, these are basically super-heroes in what’s basically an anime so I can bear with it, mostly. Also, we get to see Cloud use a limit break, and that’s pretty cool.
Eventually, though, Cloud starts getting it handed to him. Before anyone has the chance to off him, however, Vincent the vampire turns up in his red cloak and spirits Cloud off to safety. Vampira ex machina, I suppose. We see some footage of Cloud being even more whiny and emo than usual. Vincent exposits on geostigma (still doesn’t make any real sense to me), then basically tells Cloud to get over it.
Speaking of getting over it, Barrett’s daughter seems to think this is exactly the right moment to start bitching about how Cloud doesn’t pay enough attention to her, Tifa and the rest. Cloud flashes back to Tifa basically giving him the exact same lecture. Yes, ok, we get it. Cloud is really, really emo, but there’s a time and place. I don’t really want to see Cloud sitting around acting like Squall.
Cloud mumbles something about feeling guilty letting Aerith die, and really, yes, he should feel guilty about that. I mean, why the hell didn’t he just whip out a phoenix down and bring her back to life? Yeah, I know that would’ve nuked the story and stuff, but it’s still a huge plot hole both in the game and in the movie, and one well-addressed by VG Cats!
As Cloud makes up his mind, we see his Panasonic FOMA P900iV cell phone slowly sinking down into the water. Yes, that’s right. Product placement in a movie that takes place in another universe. Well done! Anyhow, it’s apparently waterproof, since it’s we can hear voice mails playing and also there a lot of air bubbles coming out of it. I mean a shitload. I’m not sure how much air these things hold, but I’m betting it’s not that much!
Back in Midgar we see that Thing 1 and Thing 2 have arrived and set up camp outside a large landmark thingy. They have the landmark thingy ringed with children who are looking all sorts of creepy. Meantime the people of the city are standing there shouting curses at the bad guys, and I’m not sure why. I mean, they haven’t actually done anything yet. Yes, they’re going to, but for right now they’re just standing around. Hey, maybe they’re street performers! Maybe this will turn into a dance number! That could be interesting!
Kadaj is up at the top of a tower hanging out with Rufus, who seems to think it’s a good idea to meet with someone like Kadaj at the top of a building with nothing between him and certain splat except Kadaj’s goodwill. Rufus is apparently very stupid, but about to get stupider.
Anyhow, the Crunch Bunch summon up some demon-dog things that attack everyone as they try to open up this landmark which is, apparently, holding some clues to the location of Jenova, or possibly has Jenova inside it. Reno and Rude show up and engage in some of the strangest banter I’ve ever seen where, from what I can tell, Reno is being dissed on for being a low-level schlub. It’s strange dialogue that gets even odder when you see Reno’s face, since it looks like’s received the greatest insult ever. I don’t know, maybe this is some sort of cultural thing, but I don’t get it, but another fight happens.
Up on the tower, Kadaj is getting all, “Have you heard the word of Jenova? Are you ready for Reunion?”with Rufus and summons up Bahamut. Too bad Tiamat hasn’t shown up, cause that’d rock. We could have a big old Monster Manual party!
Down bellow, Barrett has shown up and started to fight against Bahamut. After a bit, Vincent, Cid, Red XIII, fucking Cait Sith, and Yuffie (she’s a ninja! Believe it!), show up and join in. A huge-ass battle ensues and it is, for the most part, pretty damned impressive. Some really great fight choreography yet again, along with some very cool music. Really, it’s a nicely done scene and proof that this movie is at it’s best when people are just beating the shit out of one another and not actually talking.
At about this point, Cloud turns up, whipping out yet another sword from his Swiss Army Bike and then joins in the fight.
Elsewhere, Rude’s glasses get broken (he pulls out another pair), as he and Reno continue to fight Thing 1 and Thing 2. In the tower Kadaj continues to taunt Rufus who then, suddenly, whips out a box that apparently has what’s left of Jenova.
Now comes one of the worst parts in the film as far as I’m concerned. Before this moment, the laws of physics have merely been beaten up a bit. Now, however, they get raped, pwned and totally destroyed in a scene that completely takes me out of the film and removes my ability to suspend disbelief.
I’ve watched this scene several times, including just now and what happens is this: Cloud is jumping up into the air to put the pain to Bahamut. This is fine and dandy. At one point Barrett helps him go higher, and then Cid does the same. Then, in quick succession, Red XIII/Cait Sith, then Yuffie and then Tifa, all boost him upwards while in midair themselves.
I don’t know why this breech of physics bugs me so much. I mean, we’re dealing with anime super-heroes, basically, and it still bugs me. It’s like a scene in Superman Returns where Superman is lifting something while standing on it. I can accept him flying around, but I can’t accept that. Same here.
Anyhow, past that annoying bit, we do have a lovely scene where Cloud gets boosted his last way up by Aerith, shown as a reflection in Cloud’s eye, and that’s rather sweet. It almost makes me forget everything that just happened. Almost.
Meantime, back with Rufus and Kadaj, we pick up where Rufus threw the box off the roof. I’m not sure why Rufus throws it or, for that matter, why he was carrying the damn thing around with him to begin with. Me, I’d have found a way to destroy it or toss it into the ocean or given it to Cloud and said, “Don’t let anyone else get their hands on this.” But, oh, well, I’m a logical, reasoning, intelligent person, unlike basically everyone in this movie.
Rufus and Kadaj both end up going off the building and falling as I have flashbacks to The Matrix Revolutions (speaking of movies ripe for the recap treatment). The box gets breeched, Kadaj lands safely and Rufus is saved from certain splat by…
Fucking Tseng and Elena?!
What. The Hell? I thought they were dead? I thought Kadaj and the Crunch Bunch had killed them, but apparently not! They’re here to save Rufus’ bacon. Ok, whatever.
Kadaj makes his getaway with Cloud in hot pursuit. There’s another rather nifty motorcycle-based fight, complete with Cloud cutting a bike in half as it flies towards him, and then we see Reno and Rude standing on a bridge together holding bombs. They have a little talk and it’s quite clear they mean to kill themselves and take out Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the process. Cloud and Kadaj zips by, the bombs go off and that’s it for those four (yeah, right).
Kadaj and Cloud start having their big finale fight. They beat the shit out of each other, Kadaj whining about Mother every step of the way. God, he’s an irritating bad-guy. Sephiroth whined to, but at least he had some style.
We get a view up on Cid’s airship for a bit with the other heroes arguing about what to do with the fight going on beneath them. Eventually it’s decided to let Cloud handle it, and I have to ask: why?
This is an ongoing cliché in fiction. “Let the guy handle it, he needs to sort it out for himself, let him fight his own fight!” It’s stupid. Here these people are, facing the end of the world, and they don’t want to join in the fight in case it injures Cloud’s self-esteem?! Tough! Everyone on the airship should be down there fighting, just like they were in the game when facing Sephiroth!
Speaking of which… just as it seems Cloud has beaten Kadaj, he finds that Kadaj is transforming and he’s suddenly facing… (cue music)… Sephiroth!
Well, ok, we all knew this was coming, but I really don’t get it. If Kadaj and the Crunch Bunch are supposed to be aspects of Sephiroth, how come only one of them turns into him? Shouldn’t all three, or shouldn’t they have to combine? Aspecticons! Merge and form… Sephiroth!
I don’t know. It’s cool and all, I guess, but how much cooler would it have been if it had, you know, made sense? Ah, well. It is rather cool seeing Sephiroth back now and, oh, look, he can fly. Of course he can.
Sephie and Cloud duke it out and it’s another really well-done fight scene! They exchange some banter, the celestial chorus sings and, in the end, Cloud kicks Sephiroth’s ass using some really impressive new limit break! Fan-boys around the world cum in their jeans and sit back and light cigarettes.
Cloud goes to Sephiroth who, it seems, has turned back into Kadaj. They have a little moment where Kadaj goes off to join the lifestream. There’s some celebration and we see that, oh, look, Reno and Rude are still alive. I wonder if Thing 1 and Thing 2 are kicking it somewhere? We see that, why, yes, they are, as one of them shoots Cloud.
See, this is one of the biggest problems I have with this movie. There’s no consequences. So far in this film, Kadaj, Thing 1, Thing 2, Tseng, Elena, Reno and Rude have all been, at one point or another, apparently killed only to turn up completely alive, unharmed and ready for action. It’s vexing. I hate it when I can’t trust movies and I know, just know, that someone shown as dead isn’t. Much as I bitch about Cloud not using a phoenix down on Aerith when she died, at least she stayed dead and didn’t turn up at the end, alive and healthy with no reason why!
So, yeah, Cloud gets shot and has a nice little near death experience where we hear the voices of Aerith and Zack telling him that, essentially, he hasn’t dealt with all his thetans, so he needs to go back to the world and smile more (and possibly get laid, though that’s only implied). A strange wolf walks up to Cloud (?), and Cloud wakes up in some water at Aerith’s church.
There’s a bit of rejoicing, all the kids get cured of the geostigma, Cloud smiles just faintly and we finally see Areith and Zack and, I must admit, this scene always chokes me up a little. Even now, just describing it, I have a reaction. It’s a really, really sweet scene and I love seeing Zack and Aerith properly.
Anyhow, they walk off into, essentially, the sunset, everyone is reunited, the Ewok music from the original version of Return of the Jedi plays and we go to the credits (with some of my favorite music in the series).
I still have a soft spot in my heart for this movie and probably always will. I know it’s a bad film, but it’s a very, very good bad film. Hell, given that I own two versions of it, I can’t hate it that much.
You know, there is a lot that works in this movie. The graphics are impressive, the fight scenes are great and the music is amazing.
But there’s so much fail as well. The plot is a muddled mess, the character motivations are murky at best, the laws of physics get destroyed, death is never permanent and, basically, the film shows that too much fan-service can be a bad thing.
I do hope that at some point the powers that be at Square-Enix give us a proper video game sequel or, failing that, at least go back and remake or release the original version. The movie is what it is, but the video game is so much more, and this movie could/should have been much more than it is.
Hmmm… I wonder where I get a good Playstation emulator?