Monday, July 16, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Anime Review

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Sony Pictures
Movie - 2 discs
101 minutes
$26.96 (2006)
$49.95 (2007) Limited Edition
$38.96 (2009) Blu-Ray
ISBN 043396118966
Japanese/English Audio - English/ French/Spanish/Portuguese/Korean/
Thai/Mandarin/Cantonese Subtitles
Director - Tetsuya Nomura
Studio - Square Enix

Synopsis: It's been two years since Cloud Strife and his band of fighters were able to defeat Sephiroth and stop him from destroying all life on the planet by summoning a catastrophic meteor.  Sephiroth died in the battle and the group managed to cast the spell "Holy" to counteract "Meteor", but the spell was not strong enough to save the day.  The planet itself fought back by sending the Lifestream (the coexistent life energy of all beings on the planet) to halt "Meteor" and preserve itself.
Cloud visits his old Buster Sword and reminisces about the past
After the final confrontation the group has begun picking up the pieces of their lives.  Cloud lives with Tifa and they care for Barret's adopted daughter Marlene along with an orphan boy named Wenzel.  Tifa is broken-hearted because Cloud still holds a torch for the deceased Aerith (who died at the hands of Sephiroth before she could fully complete the spell "Holy").  Cloud runs a delivery service and the group still remains in touch.
Yazoo, Kadaj and Loz are searching for Jenova's remains
The Lifestream has been acting strangely and a debilitating disease has spread called Geostigma.  Despite many efforts it has no known cure and is currently ravaging the population.  En route to a meeting with the Turks (former elite soldiers from Shinra, the corrupt corporation which harnessed the Lifestream to establish a stranglehold on cheap energy supply), Cloud is attacked by three men bearing a striking resemblance to Sephiroth.  They are incredibly powerful and seeking their "mother" (presumably Jenova, the extraterrestrial lifeform used to genetically create Sephiroth).
Tifa fights Loz in an old abandoned church
Many think Geostigma is the planet's retribution against those who would exploit the Lifestream, but it's clear the three men plan to resurrect Sephiroth.  Cloud has become a loner, but the band has to get back together in order to save the human race.  We'll see all of our old favorites, but will their combined power be enough this time?  Will Geostigma consume the population just in time for Sephiroth's return?  What happened to all that Materia from the final battle?  Can Cloud find his true memories and move past the devastating loss in his life (Aerith)?
Cloud is ready for a final showdown
Pros: Stunning CG (computer-generated) visuals - literally everything has a lush texture, nostalgia overload at seeing all of the FFVII characters again, superb character redesigns, sequel to original FFVII game which was a critical (almost historical) success for video game console RPGs (role-playing games), eye-popping fight scenes, great musical score - especially the theme, nice love triangle resolution with Cloud/Aerith/Tifa, additional scenes in Blu-Ray edition + even better HD visuals, actual FFVII story scenes included to recap events of the game (for the most part), Sephiroth!

The gang's all here - Yuffie, Cid, Tifa, Vincent, and Barret
Cons: Plot is relatively simple yet horribly convoluted by bad writing/dialogue, the Turks get more screen-time than 90% of the group members, the three "Sephiroth" clones are really annoying, barely any emotional depth to the characters (yeah, they're CG, but c'mon!), CG is highly detailed yet surprisingly crude in terms of character movements and depicting emotions (facial expressions primarily, but also body language)
The three clones of Sephiroth summon Bahamut!
Mike Tells It Straight: I spent at least 100 hours playing Final Fantasy VII during college and was the first in my crowded apartment to actually finish the game.  It was a memorable experience back in late 1997 and FFVII will stand as one of my favorite video game experiences (in front of the original Final Fantasy and close behind the Tekken franchise - a tale for another review) while I still had time to play video games.  The characters were awesome, the story was interesting with a key death of a main character (Aerith), amazing CG cut story scenes, and the game-play was ground-breaking (Materia, Summoning, optional attributes, side games).  FFVII will always have a soft spot in my heart.
Red XIII - the Samuel L. Jackson of Final Fantasy VII
When Square Enix put out the first fully-rendered, CG Final Fantasy film (The Spirits Within) I was disappointed to see the plot was completely unrelated to any previous FF game.  It never resonated with me.  I guess they got the hint as Advent Children is a direct sequel to FFVII!  Score one for Square Enix.
Sephiroth!
It was great seeing all of the old characters stunningly redesigned with incredible detail and returning in an interesting story premise.  Cloud's motorbike and wide array of swords were better than anything I expected.  The fight scenes were fast and epic - timed perfectly with slow motion cuts amid lightning fast exchanges.  The music added audio texture to an already abundant visual palette.  The writers resolve the Cloud/Aerith/Tifa love triangle in a satisfactory way.
Does Aerith return from the dead!?
The story premise seems promising as it starts with a real crisis (Geostigma killing people), but it quickly falls apart as we jump from one action scene to the next.  Square's fully-rendered CG scenes were awe-inspiring back in 1997 and we all thought a full-length CG movie would be the best thing ever, but today we expect more from our CG.  Sadly, the character motions and 'acting' are horribly stiff and awkward in this film.
The haunted eyes of a former SOLDIER
If you loved FFVII back in the day or came to it later - Advent Children is a great experience.  Those with no prior contact to the original game are likely to be lost at the significance/backstory of most characters - you've got to have some familiarity with FFVII because this film is a sequel.  The slick visuals and exciting action scenes are impressive, but the story and CG character 'acting' are terrible.  After my awe at the rich CG wore off and I focused more on the story it was clear the plot sucked.  Definitely a visual feast and that fact alone makes this film worth checking out, but the poorly executed story really killed any urge for repeat viewings.

TO BUY and Recommendations: