Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth, Marlene, Barret, Vincent. The names could go on. This series reigns in many Final Fantasy fans' minds as being the best. Though in recent years a lot of people roll their eyes and say its over-rated (and it might be), for me, and for a lot of fans, Final Fantasy was a turning point in the genre not only in terms of graphics and presentation but also in story. I have been playing video games and RPGs since the very first NES. Final Fantasy VII was the first game that made me stop and go, wait when did a video game become something more than just pushing buttons?
Now we have the official sequel, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Advent Children is basically a love note written for the fans of VII. Those who did not invest 40, 50, 60+ hours into the game will probably have no interest in it. But those who were shocked when (should I even say spoiler?) Sephiroth murders Aeris, who have a deep connection to the characters, and over the 40-60+ hours grew so attached to them that to this day they still draw fan art or look for that elusive way to get Aeris back in game(it doesn't exist lol), this movie will mean something.
AC is a beautiful CG movie taking place two years after the events of FFVII. While the ending of VII was climactic and exhilerating and provided a resolution of sorts to the people of Midgar, it did not provide a resolution, happy or not, for Cloud. In fact, it left him empty and hurt as we find in the beginning of AC. What AC does is finish Cloud's story. Another reviewer here made a comment that he liked FFVII's ending. I do too, don't get me wrong. But the one thing it didn't do was end Cloud's story. Its not that there was an unhappy ending; to me, there really was no ending to his story. As I said, AC ends Cloud's story with a bang. And it is damn well worth the wait.
I don't think it would be right of me to talk about what happens in AC. Part of the fun and surprise is to see how well it fits together, brings memories of the video game and works to create an emotional core. I will keep the review as spoiler free as possible because I know I'm tired of reading reviews where people stick in something that can ruin the whole movie.
For those who didn't play or watch FFVII, this movie will not have much resonance. Like I said when I began, this movie is basically for the fans, both die-hard and casual. Those who loved FFVII will more than likely love this movie. AC is basically an action movie and the action is spectacular although the slow motion was used (while effectively) a little much. The sword play, the battles and the action is all directed with style oozing everywhere. The characters are all animated exceedingly well and the animators did a great job in making PS1 characters into spectacular CG. The musical score varies for me from being excellent to just okay. By far, the best moments are ones I can't talk about aurally for fear of spoiling surprises. Needless to say, the music is at its greatest when it brings in hints of FFVII, the video game.
There are a lot of connections to both VII and the final fantasy series as a whole. From moogle dolls to The Turks, the game oozes both FFVII and FF; although I was disappointed in not seeing any chocobos, there are a few moments that made up for it. One in particular revolves around the games End Battle Theme. Hillarious, laugh out loud scene. There are some minor annoyances. A couple of the scenes felt episodic and not connected. Some scenes were directed very well and lead into each other or intercut between each other. But there are a couple scenes that stand out because they didn't feel attached to what was going on. In fact, it felt as if they were cutscenes from a video game. Did this detract from the movie? Not in the least, but its there nonetheless.
What surprised me the most with this movie is that it wasn't done to milk the saga. I mean, of course its there to make money, and FFVII is a great way to do it because of fans' love for it. Anything in the business world is made around making money. But what I mean exactly is best represented in FFX-2. I am one who did not find FFX-2 at all interesting. In fact it is the only FF game I gave up on. It felt like it was a way of milking FFX for a little more money while the wait for FFXII kept getting longer and longer. However, AC is so intrinsically related to VII that it has a heart and emotion that I haven't seen in many movies released this year. I felt chills from the very opening moments as the narrator explained some of the events from VII and we see a flashback of Sephiroth standing in front of flames. And that was just the start of the thrills; there are scenes both emotional and thrilling to be found throughout the 1 hour 40 minutes of the film. And what satisfied me above all else was that Cloud's story finally received a perfect resolution.
I think most fans have been hoping and wishing that Aeris would return and I think the creators give a great answer to this in this movie. I won't spoil the ending, I won't tell you who does and doesn't return. But I will tell you the resolution is damn well awesome and probably the most satisfying ending to what is by far many people's favorite (if cliched) choice for the Final Fantasy series. I do need to make a plea and I apologize for it, but if you downloaded this movie (like a certain reviewer did ^^) please support it when it comes out here in the States and buy it. We need to show support to Square-Enix that this is the kind of sequel we want to see. They spent a long time and a lot of money making a movie that is direct to DVD here in the states. We need to return the favor and support it.
Square-Enix, my hats off to you for handling this with flair, tenderness and sympathy for the characters.
Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children