silentfuzzle

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  1. I always took it for granted that I couldn’t defend my illogical love for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I didn’t even complete a Final Fantasy game until after I saw Advent Children. I was an aspiring writer with a guilty pleasure; I enjoyed a movie that had a nonsense plot and weak characters. Half the Internet labeled me a fangirl, pining after meaningless action scenes, technology porn, effeminate men in black leather, and an emo protagonist. The other half of the Internet, however, loved the movie as much as I did, but no one could defend why, besides citing its obviously spectacular visuals, action, and music. Then, in 2013, I asked myself, “Why do I like Advent Children?” It had been my favorite movie for eight years. I’d just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media arts. Five years of studying filmmaking and films praised as the greatest ever made had failed to dislodge a video game-based, action movie from its prestigious place in my mind. In the wake of Avatar, Pixar movies, films receiving rave reviews, Advent Children remained. The nostalgia glasses, if they even existed, refused to fall off. After all this, I wondered why I should continue to accept that Advent Children didn’t mean anything. I began a journey of self-discovery to find the most action-packed, realistic, adult, and oddball movies CGI had to offer. Even before Advent Children, computer animation had fascinated me. As a kid, I watched A Bug’s Life repeatedly until I could recite every line. I loved pre-rendered video game cutscenes particularly from the Oddworld series. Surely, if I liked Advent Children only for the graphics, I should like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. If I liked its action and PG-13 rating, then I should like Beowulf. If I liked its originality, then I should like a CGI movie with an original story like Vexille. From the mainstream 9, The Polar Express, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to the lesser known Elysium, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and Kaena: The Prophecy to the cell-shaded Japanese imports Appleseed and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, I’ve watched them all, as many as I could find. While I found each of them beautiful in their own way, none of them affected me as profoundly as Advent Children had. I began tearing them apart to figure out how they worked or didn’t work. Each film taught me a little more about Advent Children until I finally understood it. Contrary to what almost every reviewer says, Advent Children contains a complete and masterfully told story; its greatest weakness and greatest strength lies in subtlety. As an action movie, Advent Children builds its world, develops its characters, and tells its story with action. Believe it or not, its stunning cinematography and fight scenes contain a wealth of information in addition to looking flashy. The film’s visuals and short but to-the-point dialog contain everything we need to know to understand the story and characters. As expected, this visual and minimalist storytelling requires the viewer’s attention. Fortunately, its beautiful artwork encourages multiple viewings to absorb the details. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Advent Children often result in critics prematurely discarding it and unfairly describing it. Non-fans of Final Fantasy VII discard it as incomprehensible on the assumption that the story exists in the game or not at all when it is really in the frame. Fans discard it without examining its merits because it sequels a story that didn’t need one or has too much or not enough fan service. A film based in the Final Fantasy VII universe must exist solely for fans. An action movie that defies physics must not have any rules. This film is a visual spectacle; therefore, it must not contain thoughtful content. Advent Children is just an unrealistic cartoon that shouldn’t be treated seriously. In truth, Advent Children defies the stereotypes of every label applied to it: fan service film, video game movie, photorealistic CGI, cartoon CGI, action movie, original science-fiction story, etc. The film is all of these things and none of them. It achieves something completely unique that has never been done so well by any other CGI movie. It tells a dark, thoughtful, and human story with computer graphics. Advent Children is a work of art disguised and discarded as fan service. At a glance, Advent Children appears to have spectacular action, emo characters, and no sensible plot, but closer examination reveals the film’s universal story and devastatingly human characters. Reviewers say that Advent Children’s convoluted, nonsense plot exists only to tie together its action scenes and that only Final Fantasy VII fans can understand it. While the story that defines Advent Children’s setting is somewhat complex and heavy with Final Fantasy VII concepts, the protagonist’s story isn’t, and the movie provides enough details that anyone can follow along. Two years ago, a super soldier named Sephiroth attempted to destroy the planet as revenge for the experiments that made him. The Shinra Power Company created him among a special group of warriors known as SOLDIER to defend itself against rebels who disagreed with their transformation of the planet’s life force, known as the Lifestream, into energy. To give them strength, Shinra infected its warriors with the cells of Jenova, an alien being that caused a catastrophe long ago. A group of rebels, the film’s protagonist Cloud among them, and the Lifestream itself managed to stop Sephiroth, but two years later, not all is well. A terminal illness called geostigma sweeps through the population, and three mysterious figures, Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, appear. Their leader Kadaj reveals that those with geostigma inherited Jenova’s power and will to destroy the planet just as Sephiroth did. Kadaj claims that they need cells from Jenova’s remains to fulfill this prophecy, and he believes that Shinra holds them in their possession. Since the destruction of Shira’s power plant, only its president Rufus and a handful of employees, Reno, Rude, Elena, and Tseung, remain. When Rufus refuses to cooperate, the search for Jenova, which Kadaj and his brothers call Mother, turns to a monument erected by Shinra. Using materia, spheres forged in the Lifestream that allow users to perform magic, Kadaj summons a monster called Bahamut to destroy the monument. After they search the rubble to no avail, Rufus reveals that he holds the remains in his personal possession. He finds the periodic cycle of attempts to destroy the planet amusing because they all inevitably fail. To taunt Kadaj, he tosses the remains away. Kadaj manages to save some of the cells and uses them to become Sephiroth reincarnate. This may sound like something only the most dedicated of Final Fantasy VII fans would care about, but like the convoluted plots of most Final Fantasy games, this alien story serves as the setting for a much more human tale. Despite fighting alongside those who saved the world two years ago, the protagonist Cloud can’t forget the people who died along the way, especially his mentor Zack and his friend Aerith. He made a promise to Zack that he would live out both their lives, and he wants to make up for his failure to protect Aerith. But now it seems that he will not be able to do either. After contracting geostigma, Cloud retreats from his friends and makeshift family, believing that he will die as a worthless person. He can’t even save his foster son Denzel, who has also contracted the disease. Yazoo and Loz interrupt Cloud’s plans for a quiet death when they attack him out of nowhere. Shinra also offers him an opportunity to help them deal with the three violent teenagers. Initially, Cloud refuses, remembering the company’s questionable business practices, but he’s eventually forced into the conflict when the trio kidnaps Denzel and his friend’s daughter Marlene. Cloud’s attempt to free them ends in failure, but Marlene manages to escape. After receiving a lecture from Marlene and his friends Tifa and Vincent, Cloud formally decides to make an effort to live and seek forgiveness. In response to his newfound determination, Aerith, who has become a god-like being in the afterlife, reveals to him the cure for geostigma, water infused with the Lifestream. The fight to stop Kadaj’s malevolent plot goes well until Cloud finds himself again alone and facing the worst of his past: Sephiroth. Thoughts of those he wishes to protect, however, empower him to finish the fight and save the world. In the end, surrounded by the people he’s saved, Cloud accepts the opportunity to heal his foster son’s geostigma himself. Yes, Advent Children is about a guy struggling to process his past and find his place in the present, but herein lies the major source of discontent about the film’s characters. Many people complain about the film’s focus on Cloud, his angst-ridden teenager personality, and the lack of development or presence of other characters from the game or otherwise. These complaints have some merit, but as is, Cloud’s surprisingly human character colors the entire film, its characters, its themes, and its battles. Cloud is a fascinating choice of protagonist particularly for a CGI action movie, a medium proliferated with seemingly invincible protagonists that can’t even be hindered by their own supposed weaknesses. Cloud is beyond physically strong as expected but otherwise incredibly flawed. He’s mentally scarred, physically ill, easily exhausted, and emotionally distraught. These problems constantly plague him in his fight to save himself and the world. Images from his past haunt him, pain and exhaustion collapses him, and fear alienates him. He saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. He can jump super high and wield swords as tall and wide as himself, but a gun shot and a stab wound threaten to kill him at the end of the movie. Forget about fighting the bad guys; he struggles to find the strength to fight. Cloud possesses inhuman abilities but retains human weaknesses. Cloud evokes real life mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. He saved the world and no one blames him for the people who died, but he still sees himself as a failure. Despite his physical strength, he doubts his fighting abilities. Like people with depression, Cloud rejects or fails to internalize his successes and good qualities. He lives in a world that doesn’t need soldiers anymore, but he operates a delivery service with a motorcycle that has built-in sword racks as if the fight two years ago never ended. Intrusive flashbacks of enemies he once fought and people he lost plague him. These symptoms seem like PTSD. Aerith watches over him as a god-like presence and persistent reassurance that everything will be okay. He’s surrounded by friends who adore him and want to help him. But Cloud remains afraid that someone else will die and uncertain in his abilities like someone with anxiety or OCD, who can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. He chooses loneliness and death at the start of the movie because he’s tired of hurting and doesn’t believe that anyone should care about him. Tifa and Marlene’s frustration with him mirrors the frustration and helplessness felt by loved ones of the mentally ill. Despite the fantastical world that Cloud lives in, he faces some of the most devastating and common of human problems. Cloud doesn’t just experience sadness and anxiety though. Like most people with or without mental illness, he experiences a range of emotions like embarrassment, happiness, frustration, cockiness, impatience, disgust, relief, and determination. Cloud feels and talks about sadness and anxiety most often, but emotes much more when he deals with enemies, particularly in the heat of battle. This makes sense. Enemies pose a physical threat that Cloud knows how to handle. To varying degrees of success, he can fight physical problems to escape his seemingly unsolvable inner torment. Sometimes fighting only makes him more scared, but when it works, he can feel something other than sadness and fear. Cloud snarls angrily when Loz taunts him. He smiles cockily when his friends let him deal with Kadaj alone. He squints in disgust when Reno mentions resurrecting Shinra. He grimaces with determination as he and Kadaj slide down a rocky hill, but when he slides to a stop and Kadaj pulls ahead, his face returns to a moody frown. The reaction shots in the film round out Cloud as a person. By melding its somewhat convoluted geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth plot with Cloud’s story, the film invites interpretation. For me, much of it is about mental illness, which I’ve dealt with most of my life. Kadaj and Cloud explore methods of coping with mental illness. In the beginning of the movie, Cloud chooses to hide his pain and isolate himself from others. Meanwhile, Kadaj, a child damaged and angry from love he never received, chooses to inflict his pain on others and seek companionship. Under the guise that he will heal them, Kadaj seeks out orphans infected with Jenova cells, the closest that he can get to his Mother. He instead indoctrinates them with his own hatred for the world. As the movie progresses, Cloud decides to face his pain in the hopes of healing and reunite with his friends. Kadaj allows his pain to control him and seeks isolation. While Cloud allows Aerith and his friends to heal and strengthen him, Kadaj rejects healing and embraces his pain, seeking solitude with Jenova’s dead remains. Eventually, he allows his hatred to consume him and becomes Sephiroth, a murderer as opposed to a mere torturer. Ultimately, Cloud chooses to live, and Kadaj chooses to die. For most of the movie, Cloud appears to always be alone while Kadaj bares the appearance that he always has company, but this doesn’t reflect their true states. In every scene, the audience sees Cloud listening to his friends over the phone, receiving divine assistance from Aerith, or accepting help and support from his allies. He feels alone, but he’s never really alone. It takes him most of the film to realize this himself. Meanwhile, Kadaj surrounds himself with children who obey his will, hostages who ultimately betray him, and dead alien remains. Despite all his talk about family, Kadaj wants to be his Mother’s only child and is essentially always alone with only himself for friendly company. Even when he’s with Loz and Yazoo, the three of them comprise the remnants of one person: Sephiroth. Only at the end of the film do we see Kadaj as alone as he is in reality. Other themes that run through the movie include life, the cycle of life and death, and reunion. For how many action scenes the film contains, it shows surprisingly little blood, gore, and death. All the side and main characters live except for Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. Even Sephiroth lives. The film doesn’t glamorize the deaths and injuries onscreen from a monster attack on the city or geostigma. It acknowledges that people die and get hurt, but focuses on showing that more people live as if to say, “Yes, bad things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.” Cloud’s survival at the end of the movie doesn’t mean that he solved all his problems. Sephiroth survives, symbolizing that the cycle of life and death, happiness and sadness will continue. For now, Cloud averted the crisis. Perhaps someday, another problem will drag him down, but it will get better again as long as life continues. Despite all the battles he fights, violence doesn’t heal Cloud; reuniting with people does. Violence damaged him, and it almost kills him at the end of the movie. The kind acts Cloud performs throughout the film lead him to a reunion with his family, his friends, the people of the world, and finally happiness. Cloud discovers Tifa after she loses a fight to Loz. Holding her reminds him of the family he left behind. When he takes Marlene home after she escapes Kadaj’s gang, he returns to his friends to fight alongside them. Cloud sits with Kadaj as he dies, and they both share a sense of relief with the city’s inhabitants when healing rain sent from Aerith falls from the sky. Finally, after Cloud heals Denzel, he glimpses Aerith, walking among the living once again. Seeing her restores his faith and happiness. Even someone as flawed and damaged as Cloud can survive, find strength, and feel happiness. Perhaps he’ll never be able to do this without his friends, but that’s okay. These messages may sound cheesy, but they can be important to say for those who suffer from mental illness and other adversities where seeing the good things in life is so difficult. I could go on and on about Denzel, family, the salvation of children, and the film’s occasionally bizarre imagery. Final Fantasy VII fans such as Glenn Morrow, Il Neige, and Jirard Khalil have analyzed the film to find meaning through their experiences with the game as well, but I’d better stop here because in an hour and a half, this movie speaks volumes. Despite what reviewers say, Advent Children clearly has a story with conflicts, characters, and themes that relate to real-world human experiences. While critics may suspect or even recognize that the film has these elements though, they continue that how the film tells this story is the problem. Its excessive fight scenes and short, badly-written dialog hints that novice filmmakers padded a short film with an hour of senseless but cool-looking fight scenes. Are the battles really pointless distractions though? Part two of this three-part series will reveal the genius behind Advent Children’s action-packed madness. View full article
  2. I always took it for granted that I couldn’t defend my illogical love for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I didn’t even complete a Final Fantasy game until after I saw Advent Children. I was an aspiring writer with a guilty pleasure; I enjoyed a movie that had a nonsense plot and weak characters. Half the Internet labeled me a fangirl, pining after meaningless action scenes, technology porn, effeminate men in black leather, and an emo protagonist. The other half of the Internet, however, loved the movie as much as I did, but no one could defend why, besides citing its obviously spectacular visuals, action, and music. Then, in 2013, I asked myself, “Why do I like Advent Children?” It had been my favorite movie for eight years. I’d just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media arts. Five years of studying filmmaking and films praised as the greatest ever made had failed to dislodge a video game-based, action movie from its prestigious place in my mind. In the wake of Avatar, Pixar movies, films receiving rave reviews, Advent Children remained. The nostalgia glasses, if they even existed, refused to fall off. After all this, I wondered why I should continue to accept that Advent Children didn’t mean anything. I began a journey of self-discovery to find the most action-packed, realistic, adult, and oddball movies CGI had to offer. Even before Advent Children, computer animation had fascinated me. As a kid, I watched A Bug’s Life repeatedly until I could recite every line. I loved pre-rendered video game cutscenes particularly from the Oddworld series. Surely, if I liked Advent Children only for the graphics, I should like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. If I liked its action and PG-13 rating, then I should like Beowulf. If I liked its originality, then I should like a CGI movie with an original story like Vexille. From the mainstream 9, The Polar Express, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to the lesser known Elysium, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and Kaena: The Prophecy to the cell-shaded Japanese imports Appleseed and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, I’ve watched them all, as many as I could find. While I found each of them beautiful in their own way, none of them affected me as profoundly as Advent Children had. I began tearing them apart to figure out how they worked or didn’t work. Each film taught me a little more about Advent Children until I finally understood it. Contrary to what almost every reviewer says, Advent Children contains a complete and masterfully told story; its greatest weakness and greatest strength lies in subtlety. As an action movie, Advent Children builds its world, develops its characters, and tells its story with action. Believe it or not, its stunning cinematography and fight scenes contain a wealth of information in addition to looking flashy. The film’s visuals and short but to-the-point dialog contain everything we need to know to understand the story and characters. As expected, this visual and minimalist storytelling requires the viewer’s attention. Fortunately, its beautiful artwork encourages multiple viewings to absorb the details. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Advent Children often result in critics prematurely discarding it and unfairly describing it. Non-fans of Final Fantasy VII discard it as incomprehensible on the assumption that the story exists in the game or not at all when it is really in the frame. Fans discard it without examining its merits because it sequels a story that didn’t need one or has too much or not enough fan service. A film based in the Final Fantasy VII universe must exist solely for fans. An action movie that defies physics must not have any rules. This film is a visual spectacle; therefore, it must not contain thoughtful content. Advent Children is just an unrealistic cartoon that shouldn’t be treated seriously. In truth, Advent Children defies the stereotypes of every label applied to it: fan service film, video game movie, photorealistic CGI, cartoon CGI, action movie, original science-fiction story, etc. The film is all of these things and none of them. It achieves something completely unique that has never been done so well by any other CGI movie. It tells a dark, thoughtful, and human story with computer graphics. Advent Children is a work of art disguised and discarded as fan service. At a glance, Advent Children appears to have spectacular action, emo characters, and no sensible plot, but closer examination reveals the film’s universal story and devastatingly human characters. Reviewers say that Advent Children’s convoluted, nonsense plot exists only to tie together its action scenes and that only Final Fantasy VII fans can understand it. While the story that defines Advent Children’s setting is somewhat complex and heavy with Final Fantasy VII concepts, the protagonist’s story isn’t, and the movie provides enough details that anyone can follow along. Two years ago, a super soldier named Sephiroth attempted to destroy the planet as revenge for the experiments that made him. The Shinra Power Company created him among a special group of warriors known as SOLDIER to defend itself against rebels who disagreed with their transformation of the planet’s life force, known as the Lifestream, into energy. To give them strength, Shinra infected its warriors with the cells of Jenova, an alien being that caused a catastrophe long ago. A group of rebels, the film’s protagonist Cloud among them, and the Lifestream itself managed to stop Sephiroth, but two years later, not all is well. A terminal illness called geostigma sweeps through the population, and three mysterious figures, Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, appear. Their leader Kadaj reveals that those with geostigma inherited Jenova’s power and will to destroy the planet just as Sephiroth did. Kadaj claims that they need cells from Jenova’s remains to fulfill this prophecy, and he believes that Shinra holds them in their possession. Since the destruction of Shira’s power plant, only its president Rufus and a handful of employees, Reno, Rude, Elena, and Tseung, remain. When Rufus refuses to cooperate, the search for Jenova, which Kadaj and his brothers call Mother, turns to a monument erected by Shinra. Using materia, spheres forged in the Lifestream that allow users to perform magic, Kadaj summons a monster called Bahamut to destroy the monument. After they search the rubble to no avail, Rufus reveals that he holds the remains in his personal possession. He finds the periodic cycle of attempts to destroy the planet amusing because they all inevitably fail. To taunt Kadaj, he tosses the remains away. Kadaj manages to save some of the cells and uses them to become Sephiroth reincarnate. This may sound like something only the most dedicated of Final Fantasy VII fans would care about, but like the convoluted plots of most Final Fantasy games, this alien story serves as the setting for a much more human tale. Despite fighting alongside those who saved the world two years ago, the protagonist Cloud can’t forget the people who died along the way, especially his mentor Zack and his friend Aerith. He made a promise to Zack that he would live out both their lives, and he wants to make up for his failure to protect Aerith. But now it seems that he will not be able to do either. After contracting geostigma, Cloud retreats from his friends and makeshift family, believing that he will die as a worthless person. He can’t even save his foster son Denzel, who has also contracted the disease. Yazoo and Loz interrupt Cloud’s plans for a quiet death when they attack him out of nowhere. Shinra also offers him an opportunity to help them deal with the three violent teenagers. Initially, Cloud refuses, remembering the company’s questionable business practices, but he’s eventually forced into the conflict when the trio kidnaps Denzel and his friend’s daughter Marlene. Cloud’s attempt to free them ends in failure, but Marlene manages to escape. After receiving a lecture from Marlene and his friends Tifa and Vincent, Cloud formally decides to make an effort to live and seek forgiveness. In response to his newfound determination, Aerith, who has become a god-like being in the afterlife, reveals to him the cure for geostigma, water infused with the Lifestream. The fight to stop Kadaj’s malevolent plot goes well until Cloud finds himself again alone and facing the worst of his past: Sephiroth. Thoughts of those he wishes to protect, however, empower him to finish the fight and save the world. In the end, surrounded by the people he’s saved, Cloud accepts the opportunity to heal his foster son’s geostigma himself. Yes, Advent Children is about a guy struggling to process his past and find his place in the present, but herein lies the major source of discontent about the film’s characters. Many people complain about the film’s focus on Cloud, his angst-ridden teenager personality, and the lack of development or presence of other characters from the game or otherwise. These complaints have some merit, but as is, Cloud’s surprisingly human character colors the entire film, its characters, its themes, and its battles. Cloud is a fascinating choice of protagonist particularly for a CGI action movie, a medium proliferated with seemingly invincible protagonists that can’t even be hindered by their own supposed weaknesses. Cloud is beyond physically strong as expected but otherwise incredibly flawed. He’s mentally scarred, physically ill, easily exhausted, and emotionally distraught. These problems constantly plague him in his fight to save himself and the world. Images from his past haunt him, pain and exhaustion collapses him, and fear alienates him. He saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. He can jump super high and wield swords as tall and wide as himself, but a gun shot and a stab wound threaten to kill him at the end of the movie. Forget about fighting the bad guys; he struggles to find the strength to fight. Cloud possesses inhuman abilities but retains human weaknesses. Cloud evokes real life mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. He saved the world and no one blames him for the people who died, but he still sees himself as a failure. Despite his physical strength, he doubts his fighting abilities. Like people with depression, Cloud rejects or fails to internalize his successes and good qualities. He lives in a world that doesn’t need soldiers anymore, but he operates a delivery service with a motorcycle that has built-in sword racks as if the fight two years ago never ended. Intrusive flashbacks of enemies he once fought and people he lost plague him. These symptoms seem like PTSD. Aerith watches over him as a god-like presence and persistent reassurance that everything will be okay. He’s surrounded by friends who adore him and want to help him. But Cloud remains afraid that someone else will die and uncertain in his abilities like someone with anxiety or OCD, who can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. He chooses loneliness and death at the start of the movie because he’s tired of hurting and doesn’t believe that anyone should care about him. Tifa and Marlene’s frustration with him mirrors the frustration and helplessness felt by loved ones of the mentally ill. Despite the fantastical world that Cloud lives in, he faces some of the most devastating and common of human problems. Cloud doesn’t just experience sadness and anxiety though. Like most people with or without mental illness, he experiences a range of emotions like embarrassment, happiness, frustration, cockiness, impatience, disgust, relief, and determination. Cloud feels and talks about sadness and anxiety most often, but emotes much more when he deals with enemies, particularly in the heat of battle. This makes sense. Enemies pose a physical threat that Cloud knows how to handle. To varying degrees of success, he can fight physical problems to escape his seemingly unsolvable inner torment. Sometimes fighting only makes him more scared, but when it works, he can feel something other than sadness and fear. Cloud snarls angrily when Loz taunts him. He smiles cockily when his friends let him deal with Kadaj alone. He squints in disgust when Reno mentions resurrecting Shinra. He grimaces with determination as he and Kadaj slide down a rocky hill, but when he slides to a stop and Kadaj pulls ahead, his face returns to a moody frown. The reaction shots in the film round out Cloud as a person. By melding its somewhat convoluted geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth plot with Cloud’s story, the film invites interpretation. For me, much of it is about mental illness, which I’ve dealt with most of my life. Kadaj and Cloud explore methods of coping with mental illness. In the beginning of the movie, Cloud chooses to hide his pain and isolate himself from others. Meanwhile, Kadaj, a child damaged and angry from love he never received, chooses to inflict his pain on others and seek companionship. Under the guise that he will heal them, Kadaj seeks out orphans infected with Jenova cells, the closest that he can get to his Mother. He instead indoctrinates them with his own hatred for the world. As the movie progresses, Cloud decides to face his pain in the hopes of healing and reunite with his friends. Kadaj allows his pain to control him and seeks isolation. While Cloud allows Aerith and his friends to heal and strengthen him, Kadaj rejects healing and embraces his pain, seeking solitude with Jenova’s dead remains. Eventually, he allows his hatred to consume him and becomes Sephiroth, a murderer as opposed to a mere torturer. Ultimately, Cloud chooses to live, and Kadaj chooses to die. For most of the movie, Cloud appears to always be alone while Kadaj bares the appearance that he always has company, but this doesn’t reflect their true states. In every scene, the audience sees Cloud listening to his friends over the phone, receiving divine assistance from Aerith, or accepting help and support from his allies. He feels alone, but he’s never really alone. It takes him most of the film to realize this himself. Meanwhile, Kadaj surrounds himself with children who obey his will, hostages who ultimately betray him, and dead alien remains. Despite all his talk about family, Kadaj wants to be his Mother’s only child and is essentially always alone with only himself for friendly company. Even when he’s with Loz and Yazoo, the three of them comprise the remnants of one person: Sephiroth. Only at the end of the film do we see Kadaj as alone as he is in reality. Other themes that run through the movie include life, the cycle of life and death, and reunion. For how many action scenes the film contains, it shows surprisingly little blood, gore, and death. All the side and main characters live except for Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. Even Sephiroth lives. The film doesn’t glamorize the deaths and injuries onscreen from a monster attack on the city or geostigma. It acknowledges that people die and get hurt, but focuses on showing that more people live as if to say, “Yes, bad things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.” Cloud’s survival at the end of the movie doesn’t mean that he solved all his problems. Sephiroth survives, symbolizing that the cycle of life and death, happiness and sadness will continue. For now, Cloud averted the crisis. Perhaps someday, another problem will drag him down, but it will get better again as long as life continues. Despite all the battles he fights, violence doesn’t heal Cloud; reuniting with people does. Violence damaged him, and it almost kills him at the end of the movie. The kind acts Cloud performs throughout the film lead him to a reunion with his family, his friends, the people of the world, and finally happiness. Cloud discovers Tifa after she loses a fight to Loz. Holding her reminds him of the family he left behind. When he takes Marlene home after she escapes Kadaj’s gang, he returns to his friends to fight alongside them. Cloud sits with Kadaj as he dies, and they both share a sense of relief with the city’s inhabitants when healing rain sent from Aerith falls from the sky. Finally, after Cloud heals Denzel, he glimpses Aerith, walking among the living once again. Seeing her restores his faith and happiness. Even someone as flawed and damaged as Cloud can survive, find strength, and feel happiness. Perhaps he’ll never be able to do this without his friends, but that’s okay. These messages may sound cheesy, but they can be important to say for those who suffer from mental illness and other adversities where seeing the good things in life is so difficult. I could go on and on about Denzel, family, the salvation of children, and the film’s occasionally bizarre imagery. Final Fantasy VII fans such as Glenn Morrow, Il Neige, and Jirard Khalil have analyzed the film to find meaning through their experiences with the game as well, but I’d better stop here because in an hour and a half, this movie speaks volumes. Despite what reviewers say, Advent Children clearly has a story with conflicts, characters, and themes that relate to real-world human experiences. While critics may suspect or even recognize that the film has these elements though, they continue that how the film tells this story is the problem. Its excessive fight scenes and short, badly-written dialog hints that novice filmmakers padded a short film with an hour of senseless but cool-looking fight scenes. Are the battles really pointless distractions though? Part two of this three-part series will reveal the genius behind Advent Children’s action-packed madness.
  3. I hadn't heard that theory before. Interesting! I'm actually in the middle of replaying FFVIII (just started disc 2). "It's not nonsense! It's a dream!" kind of sounds like a cop out, but I'm looking forward to seeing how well this theory meshes with the story nonetheless. Thanks!
  4. I was just talking to a friend about a Final Fantasy VIII remake. I really like FFVIII's art style and character designs and the game starts off with such promise, but there are things about its story that I find disappointing and frustrating. It frequently introduces these intense events and then doesn't seem to go anywhere with them. For example, the second disc might as well start with Squall saying, "Hey, guys. I was just stabbed through the chest and then brutally tortured for no apparent logical or narrative purpose. But I'm okay! Let's go run up and down a tower and fight monsters in a tedious filler mission for an hour!" It would be a really cool remake if they could somehow tighten up the narrative.
  5. Whenever I hear a review like, "I didn't like this thing because it wasn't realistic enough," it makes me think, "You're the reason why Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV was such a terrible movie." I don't know how you guys can stand reading reviews... Maybe I just have an aversion to it now after subjecting myself to countless Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children reviews (truly soul crushing *shudders*). In my experience reading reviews and user reviews of CGI movies, it's hard to find legitimate criticisms to discuss when the majority don't provide reasons or evidence for why they say the things they say. Everyone can shout their opinion into the abyss of the Internet, but as an outside viewer, I don't know if the reviewer has their opinion about the work because of something that's actually in it or because the reviewer lacks the ability to reflect on their feelings or because of some other reason. Maybe the point of most reviews is to give a quick, "You should/shouldn't play/watch this thing," on the assumption that the viewer has similar tastes to the reviewer rather than to provide a critical analysis, but they are still quite frustrating when you're trying to understand an alternative perspective on a game/movie and all you find is a bunch of empty praise or complaints.
  6. I bought the PC version on Steam a while ago, but I never got around to playing it, so I couldn't tell you what it's like. I think the PC version fixes a lot of the bugs that the Xbox version had, and the Advent Revising patch fixes visual anomalies with the cut scenes. It would be interesting to see what it's like without the glitches as much as I'd miss driving a tank through civilians stuck in a T-pose and watching them fall over as if they've been shot two seconds later and other shenanigans.
  7. You can just go back to your car and leave, and that's an actual ending!? XD Daniel didn't like Speaker for the Dead!? I found that whole Ender's Game-Speaker for the Dead-Xenocide-Children of the Mind series so interesting! I agree that the parallel series that started with Ender's Shadow wasn't as good though. I don't recall liking it as much... or much about it in general. Also, Advent Rising is a Best Game Period. Kidding. Probably not, but I had a ton of fun with it. It's glitchy as hell, but entertainingly so. Everything about the game is fun, strange, and hilarious. Dual wielding weapons (including rocket launchers), climbing on stuff, dodge jumping and leaping off of walls in slow motion, throwing aliens into the depths of space with super powers, launching vehicles into the air or an abyss--the gameplay is so fun and ridiculous. I really like the animations and art style as well. The protagonist's gazelle-like leaps, even among his colleagues, are particularly entertaining. I also think it's funny that, Gideon Wyeth, the protagonist, is an unlikely hero according the box, even though he's a dual-gun toting soldier important enough to participate in first contact with an alien race. What humble and unlikely beginnings for a hero! You both should play it. It's pretty great.
  8. My best friend and I must be the only ones who liked Constantine. We watched it multiple times... It filled our dark souls with LIIHIIGHT!
  9. That was a fascinating review of FFIX! It usually takes me 3+ months to beat a Final Fantasy game, and sometimes I lose the story along the way if I'm too inconsistent about playing it. I think that was the case with FFIX. As much as I love massive, complex, crazy stories, their length can be problematic when you're distracted and busy. :S I might have to revisit this... after I beat FFX (recently restarted after stopping in the middle of it a year ago when life happened DX).
  10. I can definitely see the Studio Ghibli influence. This game looks beautiful.
  11. In 2003, creative partners Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher released France’s first feature-length, computer-animated film Kaena: The Prophecy to average and mixed reviews. The two unknowns from the video game industry had still surpassed all obstacles and expectations even with their film’s lackluster reception. Their team of novices created a CGI film unlike any seen before by taking inspiration from video games rather than western 2D animation - a vision sparked by a chance meeting with Steven Spielberg. Its video game influences, however, didn't doom the film and its creators to their current obscurity. Trouble plagued Kaena's development, and its amateur team ultimately produced what critics called a world-heavy story told through ugly graphics. Regardless of the results, video games nudged Kaena into its unique place in the history of computer animated movies. Kaena: The Prophecy takes place on a dying world that evolved around a giant tree called Axis. When the tree’s life-giving sap begins drying up, its people refuse to accept that their so-called gods, sap creatures also struggling to survive on the opposite side of the planet, won’t help them. The protagonist Kaena sets out to save her people. She meets Opaz, the last member of an alien species known as the Vecarians, while on her quest. Through him, she discovers the origins of her planet and how to save it. The film’s history begins at Amazing Studio, founded by Eric Chahi and Frederic Savoir. At the time, Chahi was well known for Another World (AKA Out of this World), a cinematic platformer inspired by Prince of Persia. Chahi and Savoir founded Amazing Studio in 1992 to create their next ambitious platformer, Heart of Darkness. Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher served as additional team members in the studio with Delaporte creating backgrounds and game screens and Daher contributing to the game’s many pre-rendered cutscenes. Daher was a self-taught 3D animator and video game designer. Delaporte was a graffiti artist and painter until Starwatcher, a canceled film that was slated to be the first feature-length CGI movie, inspired him to become a 3D artist. A pre-rendered teaser for Heart of Darkness appeared at E3 1995 attracting the attention of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas among others. This teaser showed a sample of the game’s 35 minutes of pre-rendered, computer-animated cutscenes. It impressed Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founders of DreamWorks, so much that they invited the Amazing Studio team to DreamWorks’ offices in California to propose that they abandon the game and make a movie instead. Chahi and his team refused, wanting to stick with their original vision and complete the game even though development had dragged on for three years and would continue for another three. Not all of Chahi’s crew agreed though. Disappointed with their team’s decision, Daher and Delaporte left Amazing Studio the same year to begin their own video game project. The idea of creating a feature-length film with computer graphics intrigued Delaporte. At this time, the first film of its kind, Toy Story (1995), hadn’t been released. Delaporte and Daher hoped to create their own game like Heart of Darkness with a strong story and nice graphics to attract Hollywood’s attention again. For the next year, they worked without pay on a demo for Gaina, the game that would eventually become Kaena: The Prophecy. Delaporte created the story and world while Daher developed the game system. In 1997, Delaporte and Daher pitched Gaina to Denis Friedman, the project’s destined producer. Friedman also had a background in the video game industry. Starting in 1982, he worked as a game programmer for Atari until Jack Tramiel, the founder of the Commodore computer company, purchased it. During this transition, Friedman survived as one of 50 out of 3000 employees that weren’t laid off. From then until 1997, he moved between the United States and Europe as a game producer and general manager for Atari, Brøderbund Software, and Sony. Friedman then left his job as general director for Sony Computer Entertainment France to found Chaman Productions and pursue his interest in producing animation and franchises that spanned multiple mediums. When Friedman saw the demo for Gaina, he not only took it as Chaman’s first project but also proposed to produce a television movie based on it. Delaporte and Daher readily agreed. The two of them created a two minute cutscene to pitch the game and 52-minute movie based on it to 200 professionals at MIP TV. The demo received such praise that Friedman decided to expand the TV movie into a feature-length film. He set its budget at 18 million francs, about $4.9 million. The team also renamed the game and movie project from Gaina to Axis to better appeal to English speakers and a more global audience. Chaman was ready to assemble a crew to create Axis, the film that would become Kaena: The Prophecy, but this was a major feat to accomplish in Europe at the time. Unlike the American film industry, Europe didn’t have established animation studios like Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks. Computer animation experts were also uncommon in France. Despite these difficulties, assistant director Virginie Guilminot accepted the challenge of building a crew of 3D artists from across Europe. With ages ranging from 20 to 30 years old, people with more talent, versatility, and motivation than experience ultimately made up the motley crew. Artists from the video game industry formed the team’s core, and beginner graphic designers and professionals from the audiovisual industry joined them. Delaporte originally filled the role of writer and artistic director, but after several months of confusion he realized that he would need to step up as the film’s director if he wanted it to reflect his vision. Friedman gave him permission to direct provided that he worked with a co-director. This would be Pascal Pinion, a traditional animator and storyboard artist for various American, British, and French television shows and films including Doug and the computer animated series Insektors. Patrick Bonneau took the role of animation director. In favor of finding a job in France, Bonneau had just ended a six year contract at George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Music where he contributed to films like Men in Black and Star Wars: Episode I. Starting with a team of 10, film production on Axis formally began in 1997. Over the next three years, Delaporte and the team wrote and polished the script to ensure that it targeted its intended audience and completed pre-production on the film. The script went through twelve versions in a year and a half. Japanese anime such as Akira greatly influenced Delaporte, who found it amazing that animated films could target adult audiences. Most western animated films at the time didn’t do this. Delaporte, 25 when he started writing Axis, determined that he would create a film that he as a young adult wanted to watch. Axis’ success would rely on an audience segment of 15 to 25-year-olds that larger studios in the animation industry had mostly ignored. Importantly, this segment also consumed the largest amount of video games and comics. Delaporte and the team targeted that demographic, creating a Lara Croft-like protagonist with an exaggerated feminine form and scanty clothing. The themes of the film also focused on the transition from childhood to adulthood, a relatable concept for teenagers. While the film originated in France, Delaporte and Friedman wanted to produce it in English. The team felt that Axis’ universal coming-of-age theme would be best portrayed in a more globally known language than French. The assembled cast included Kirsten Dunst, who played Kiki in the English dub of Kiki’s Delivery Service, as Kaena and Richard Harris, the original Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, as Opaz. On a side note, Kaena: The Prophecy, as Richard Harris’ last film, is dedicated in his memory. The production phase and animation began in 2000, and the inexperienced crew quickly realized their weaknesses. Their 3D character models had too many polygons to render in a reasonable time, requiring that the crew remodel all of them. Most prominently, however, Friedman grossly underestimated the film’s original budget. Because they didn’t have the money to invest in custom-made tools and plugins for special effects and animations, the team relied on commercially available software, often using them unconventionally to attain the desired results. The team used software meant for fabric, for example, to create hair. This would later make Kaena: The Prophecy the first computer-animated film of this scale to use only out-of-the-box software and hardware. The team also didn’t have the luxury to update the film as technology improved throughout its development like larger production houses commonly did. Its ambition made the novice studio the laughing stock of the industry, but that only made its team more determined to succeed. In the wake of the failures of other adult-oriented animated films, including Titan AE and the box office bomb Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, no one believed Axis would pay off. Its original science fiction story and unconventional art style, mixing Japanese anime-like artwork, European imagery, video game-reminiscent characters, and sepia tone realism, also made Axis a risky venture. Combine these factors with a crew that spent as much time botching and redoing as they did making the film, the studio looked both incompetent and naïve. Chaman Productions forged on, however, even beginning production on the accompanying Axis video game for the PlayStation 2. Twenty members of Chaman co-developed it with an additional team of five from Namco in Japan. Friedman also discussed tentative plans for releasing the game on the GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Xbox and future plans for more Axis games and movies with Gamespot in 2001. Later that year, the project went through its final name change. The Axis video game became Kaena, and the film became Kaena: The Prophecy. At the height of the movie’s production, the team swelled to 70 people, which included members of Canadian studios who would animate 70% of the movie. At the midpoint of the property’s production in January 2002, Friedman promised that Kaena would appear in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival as Shrek had. Two months later, disaster struck. Chaman Productions, weighed down by an unrelated multiplayer online game project that it was also producing, filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy took the team completely by surprise, its unexpected nature rendering it even more devastating. Delaporte, Daher, and Friedman dreamed of Chaman becoming the European DreamWorks and looked forward to continuing to work together. Those dreams were over. The next chapter of Kaena: The Prophecy’s development began at Xilam, the studio that would complete the production of both the film and companion game. Xilam, founded by Marc du Pontavice, was one of Europe’s leading animation companies best known for Space Goofs and Oggy and the Cockroaches. It was about to start production on Stupid Invaders, a computer-animated movie based on Space Goofs, when Pontavice heard that Chaman filed for bankruptcy. Pontavice found Kaena fascinating, its story inspired, beautiful, and dense with an intelligently constructed universe. The half complete film, however, suffered from an underdeveloped studio with no experience in animation. As co-founder of Gaumont TV, founder of Gaumont Multimedia, and founder of Xilam Animation, Pontavice had extensive experience in computer graphic, cartoon, feature film, and video game production, but completing the project would still challenge him. The budget for the film and game lacked an estimated 5.3 to 6.1 million euros, about $9.5 to $11 million, the film’s investors threatened to cut their losses, and the crew felt similarly disillusioned. Over twelve companies inspected the Kaena property, but only Pontavice had the resources and experience to make an offer to take over the project. Xilam bought the game and movie for a mere 150,000 euros, roughly $270,000, each. For the first three months, Pontavice directed the crew to create a new demo that would attract new investments and reinvigorate the team. Once he’d obtained adequate funding and improved morale, Pontavice reconstructed the full 70-person team and continued production in full force. Kaena: The Prophecy arrived in France in June 2003, and the game released the following year. Despite its French origins, the film proved easy to export and sold in more than 40 territories. The film cost a total of 14.5 million euros, about $26 million, making it the most expensive animated feature ever produced in France at that time. It won as the first computer-animated, feature-length film in France, but the Spanish movie The Enchanted Forest (2001) beat it as the first such European film. Xilam also finished the Kaena video game in-house. Namco published it on the PlayStation 2 in April 2004 but, bizarrely, only ever released it in Japan. From the time Delaporte and Daher began working on their initial game demo to the PlayStation 2 game’s release, the project spanned nine years. Since their release, the film and the game have mostly been forgotten, and the creators have moved on to new projects. The Kaena action-adventure game featured beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds akin to PlayStation-era Final Fantasy games, but its poor controls and limited release made it easy to overlook. The film had a slightly better reception, receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination, but the recognition was not enough to keep it out of obscurity. After the film’s release, with the crew eager to use all the experience they’d gained, Delaporte began work on a sequel. He didn’t get far before the project quickly and quietly ended. Since then, he has turned his focus to producing live-action and commercials. Information on Daher is elusive, but he appears to be an animator for commercials. Denis Friedman founded a new company called Denis Friedman Productions. Over the past few years, he successfully Kickstarted and created the pilot episode of his latest project Urbance, a hybrid 2D-3D animated series targeting 16 to 25-year-olds. Marc du Pontavice continues to produce mostly 2D- and 3D-animated series for children under Xilam. Video games influenced Kaena’s development from its inception, but they shouldn’t be blamed for France’s first CGI movie’s poor reception. The novice video game artists that created Kaena: The Prophecy sought to capture the hearts of teenage and young adult gamers with a rich world, a mature story, and realistic but stylized artwork. Video games inspired, among all of Kaena’s other accomplishments, one of the first movies to explore the distinctive storytelling properties of feature-length CGI films. The creators dared to make a film for a mature audience with a unique story and an art style unlike any seen before or since. In an industry that to this day rarely ventures outside children’s and family comedies, they dared to make a film in a genre that no one has yet mastered in CGI film. While the fact that its creators were ambitious novices working in a young art form may have doomed Kaena to mediocrity from the start, it took people who didn’t know better to try what more entrenched experts would never do. Kaena prophesized that CGI films didn’t have to be translations of 2D cartoons into 3D or live-action into photorealistic graphics; the fledgling art form had as many great stories to tell in novel ways as any other medium. The challenge remained figuring out how to use it effectively to tell them. Video games inspired the Kaena experiment and have since inspired some of the most flawed, unique, bizarre, and amazing movies CGI has to offer. Imagine the films to come when just the right games motivate just the right teams to fulfill the prophecy that Kaena foretold. View full article
  12. In 2003, creative partners Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher released France’s first feature-length, computer-animated film Kaena: The Prophecy to average and mixed reviews. The two unknowns from the video game industry had still surpassed all obstacles and expectations even with their film’s lackluster reception. Their team of novices created a CGI film unlike any seen before by taking inspiration from video games rather than western 2D animation - a vision sparked by a chance meeting with Steven Spielberg. Its video game influences, however, didn't doom the film and its creators to their current obscurity. Trouble plagued Kaena's development, and its amateur team ultimately produced what critics called a world-heavy story told through ugly graphics. Regardless of the results, video games nudged Kaena into its unique place in the history of computer animated movies. Kaena: The Prophecy takes place on a dying world that evolved around a giant tree called Axis. When the tree’s life-giving sap begins drying up, its people refuse to accept that their so-called gods, sap creatures also struggling to survive on the opposite side of the planet, won’t help them. The protagonist Kaena sets out to save her people. She meets Opaz, the last member of an alien species known as the Vecarians, while on her quest. Through him, she discovers the origins of her planet and how to save it. The film’s history begins at Amazing Studio, founded by Eric Chahi and Frederic Savoir. At the time, Chahi was well known for Another World (AKA Out of this World), a cinematic platformer inspired by Prince of Persia. Chahi and Savoir founded Amazing Studio in 1992 to create their next ambitious platformer, Heart of Darkness. Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher served as additional team members in the studio with Delaporte creating backgrounds and game screens and Daher contributing to the game’s many pre-rendered cutscenes. Daher was a self-taught 3D animator and video game designer. Delaporte was a graffiti artist and painter until Starwatcher, a canceled film that was slated to be the first feature-length CGI movie, inspired him to become a 3D artist. A pre-rendered teaser for Heart of Darkness appeared at E3 1995 attracting the attention of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas among others. This teaser showed a sample of the game’s 35 minutes of pre-rendered, computer-animated cutscenes. It impressed Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founders of DreamWorks, so much that they invited the Amazing Studio team to DreamWorks’ offices in California to propose that they abandon the game and make a movie instead. Chahi and his team refused, wanting to stick with their original vision and complete the game even though development had dragged on for three years and would continue for another three. Not all of Chahi’s crew agreed though. Disappointed with their team’s decision, Daher and Delaporte left Amazing Studio the same year to begin their own video game project. The idea of creating a feature-length film with computer graphics intrigued Delaporte. At this time, the first film of its kind, Toy Story (1995), hadn’t been released. Delaporte and Daher hoped to create their own game like Heart of Darkness with a strong story and nice graphics to attract Hollywood’s attention again. For the next year, they worked without pay on a demo for Gaina, the game that would eventually become Kaena: The Prophecy. Delaporte created the story and world while Daher developed the game system. In 1997, Delaporte and Daher pitched Gaina to Denis Friedman, the project’s destined producer. Friedman also had a background in the video game industry. Starting in 1982, he worked as a game programmer for Atari until Jack Tramiel, the founder of the Commodore computer company, purchased it. During this transition, Friedman survived as one of 50 out of 3000 employees that weren’t laid off. From then until 1997, he moved between the United States and Europe as a game producer and general manager for Atari, Brøderbund Software, and Sony. Friedman then left his job as general director for Sony Computer Entertainment France to found Chaman Productions and pursue his interest in producing animation and franchises that spanned multiple mediums. When Friedman saw the demo for Gaina, he not only took it as Chaman’s first project but also proposed to produce a television movie based on it. Delaporte and Daher readily agreed. The two of them created a two minute cutscene to pitch the game and 52-minute movie based on it to 200 professionals at MIP TV. The demo received such praise that Friedman decided to expand the TV movie into a feature-length film. He set its budget at 18 million francs, about $4.9 million. The team also renamed the game and movie project from Gaina to Axis to better appeal to English speakers and a more global audience. Chaman was ready to assemble a crew to create Axis, the film that would become Kaena: The Prophecy, but this was a major feat to accomplish in Europe at the time. Unlike the American film industry, Europe didn’t have established animation studios like Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks. Computer animation experts were also uncommon in France. Despite these difficulties, assistant director Virginie Guilminot accepted the challenge of building a crew of 3D artists from across Europe. With ages ranging from 20 to 30 years old, people with more talent, versatility, and motivation than experience ultimately made up the motley crew. Artists from the video game industry formed the team’s core, and beginner graphic designers and professionals from the audiovisual industry joined them. Delaporte originally filled the role of writer and artistic director, but after several months of confusion he realized that he would need to step up as the film’s director if he wanted it to reflect his vision. Friedman gave him permission to direct provided that he worked with a co-director. This would be Pascal Pinion, a traditional animator and storyboard artist for various American, British, and French television shows and films including Doug and the computer animated series Insektors. Patrick Bonneau took the role of animation director. In favor of finding a job in France, Bonneau had just ended a six year contract at George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Music where he contributed to films like Men in Black and Star Wars: Episode I. Starting with a team of 10, film production on Axis formally began in 1997. Over the next three years, Delaporte and the team wrote and polished the script to ensure that it targeted its intended audience and completed pre-production on the film. The script went through twelve versions in a year and a half. Japanese anime such as Akira greatly influenced Delaporte, who found it amazing that animated films could target adult audiences. Most western animated films at the time didn’t do this. Delaporte, 25 when he started writing Axis, determined that he would create a film that he as a young adult wanted to watch. Axis’ success would rely on an audience segment of 15 to 25-year-olds that larger studios in the animation industry had mostly ignored. Importantly, this segment also consumed the largest amount of video games and comics. Delaporte and the team targeted that demographic, creating a Lara Croft-like protagonist with an exaggerated feminine form and scanty clothing. The themes of the film also focused on the transition from childhood to adulthood, a relatable concept for teenagers. While the film originated in France, Delaporte and Friedman wanted to produce it in English. The team felt that Axis’ universal coming-of-age theme would be best portrayed in a more globally known language than French. The assembled cast included Kirsten Dunst, who played Kiki in the English dub of Kiki’s Delivery Service, as Kaena and Richard Harris, the original Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, as Opaz. On a side note, Kaena: The Prophecy, as Richard Harris’ last film, is dedicated in his memory. The production phase and animation began in 2000, and the inexperienced crew quickly realized their weaknesses. Their 3D character models had too many polygons to render in a reasonable time, requiring that the crew remodel all of them. Most prominently, however, Friedman grossly underestimated the film’s original budget. Because they didn’t have the money to invest in custom-made tools and plugins for special effects and animations, the team relied on commercially available software, often using them unconventionally to attain the desired results. The team used software meant for fabric, for example, to create hair. This would later make Kaena: The Prophecy the first computer-animated film of this scale to use only out-of-the-box software and hardware. The team also didn’t have the luxury to update the film as technology improved throughout its development like larger production houses commonly did. Its ambition made the novice studio the laughing stock of the industry, but that only made its team more determined to succeed. In the wake of the failures of other adult-oriented animated films, including Titan AE and the box office bomb Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, no one believed Axis would pay off. Its original science fiction story and unconventional art style, mixing Japanese anime-like artwork, European imagery, video game-reminiscent characters, and sepia tone realism, also made Axis a risky venture. Combine these factors with a crew that spent as much time botching and redoing as they did making the film, the studio looked both incompetent and naïve. Chaman Productions forged on, however, even beginning production on the accompanying Axis video game for the PlayStation 2. Twenty members of Chaman co-developed it with an additional team of five from Namco in Japan. Friedman also discussed tentative plans for releasing the game on the GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Xbox and future plans for more Axis games and movies with Gamespot in 2001. Later that year, the project went through its final name change. The Axis video game became Kaena, and the film became Kaena: The Prophecy. At the height of the movie’s production, the team swelled to 70 people, which included members of Canadian studios who would animate 70% of the movie. At the midpoint of the property’s production in January 2002, Friedman promised that Kaena would appear in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival as Shrek had. Two months later, disaster struck. Chaman Productions, weighed down by an unrelated multiplayer online game project that it was also producing, filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy took the team completely by surprise, its unexpected nature rendering it even more devastating. Delaporte, Daher, and Friedman dreamed of Chaman becoming the European DreamWorks and looked forward to continuing to work together. Those dreams were over. The next chapter of Kaena: The Prophecy’s development began at Xilam, the studio that would complete the production of both the film and companion game. Xilam, founded by Marc du Pontavice, was one of Europe’s leading animation companies best known for Space Goofs and Oggy and the Cockroaches. It was about to start production on Stupid Invaders, a computer-animated movie based on Space Goofs, when Pontavice heard that Chaman filed for bankruptcy. Pontavice found Kaena fascinating, its story inspired, beautiful, and dense with an intelligently constructed universe. The half complete film, however, suffered from an underdeveloped studio with no experience in animation. As co-founder of Gaumont TV, founder of Gaumont Multimedia, and founder of Xilam Animation, Pontavice had extensive experience in computer graphic, cartoon, feature film, and video game production, but completing the project would still challenge him. The budget for the film and game lacked an estimated 5.3 to 6.1 million euros, about $9.5 to $11 million, the film’s investors threatened to cut their losses, and the crew felt similarly disillusioned. Over twelve companies inspected the Kaena property, but only Pontavice had the resources and experience to make an offer to take over the project. Xilam bought the game and movie for a mere 150,000 euros, roughly $270,000, each. For the first three months, Pontavice directed the crew to create a new demo that would attract new investments and reinvigorate the team. Once he’d obtained adequate funding and improved morale, Pontavice reconstructed the full 70-person team and continued production in full force. Kaena: The Prophecy arrived in France in June 2003, and the game released the following year. Despite its French origins, the film proved easy to export and sold in more than 40 territories. The film cost a total of 14.5 million euros, about $26 million, making it the most expensive animated feature ever produced in France at that time. It won as the first computer-animated, feature-length film in France, but the Spanish movie The Enchanted Forest (2001) beat it as the first such European film. Xilam also finished the Kaena video game in-house. Namco published it on the PlayStation 2 in April 2004 but, bizarrely, only ever released it in Japan. From the time Delaporte and Daher began working on their initial game demo to the PlayStation 2 game’s release, the project spanned nine years. Since their release, the film and the game have mostly been forgotten, and the creators have moved on to new projects. The Kaena action-adventure game featured beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds akin to PlayStation-era Final Fantasy games, but its poor controls and limited release made it easy to overlook. The film had a slightly better reception, receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination, but the recognition was not enough to keep it out of obscurity. After the film’s release, with the crew eager to use all the experience they’d gained, Delaporte began work on a sequel. He didn’t get far before the project quickly and quietly ended. Since then, he has turned his focus to producing live-action and commercials. Information on Daher is elusive, but he appears to be an animator for commercials. Denis Friedman founded a new company called Denis Friedman Productions. Over the past few years, he successfully Kickstarted and created the pilot episode of his latest project Urbance, a hybrid 2D-3D animated series targeting 16 to 25-year-olds. Marc du Pontavice continues to produce mostly 2D- and 3D-animated series for children under Xilam. Video games influenced Kaena’s development from its inception, but they shouldn’t be blamed for France’s first CGI movie’s poor reception. The novice video game artists that created Kaena: The Prophecy sought to capture the hearts of teenage and young adult gamers with a rich world, a mature story, and realistic but stylized artwork. Video games inspired, among all of Kaena’s other accomplishments, one of the first movies to explore the distinctive storytelling properties of feature-length CGI films. The creators dared to make a film for a mature audience with a unique story and an art style unlike any seen before or since. In an industry that to this day rarely ventures outside children’s and family comedies, they dared to make a film in a genre that no one has yet mastered in CGI film. While the fact that its creators were ambitious novices working in a young art form may have doomed Kaena to mediocrity from the start, it took people who didn’t know better to try what more entrenched experts would never do. Kaena prophesized that CGI films didn’t have to be translations of 2D cartoons into 3D or live-action into photorealistic graphics; the fledgling art form had as many great stories to tell in novel ways as any other medium. The challenge remained figuring out how to use it effectively to tell them. Video games inspired the Kaena experiment and have since inspired some of the most flawed, unique, bizarre, and amazing movies CGI has to offer. Imagine the films to come when just the right games motivate just the right teams to fulfill the prophecy that Kaena foretold.
  13. Awww. I love RPG Maker. It was my go-to in middle school and high school. I spent a ridiculous amount of time building an RPG based around my favorite things. There were a lot of Invader Zim and electronic music references as I recall... Anyway, I'm checking out Star Stealing Prince. I was just looking for a new game to play.
  14. I was about to say, "First-person platformer? I didn't even know that was a thing!" but then I remembered Portal. That kind of counts as a first-person platformer/puzzler, right? I don't hear that term often though. Also, the marshmallow story was hilarious. XD