Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'final fantasy'.



More search options

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Categories

  • Podcast
  • Gaming News
  • Community Content
  • Features
  • Extra Life News
  • Best Practices
  • Fundraising
  • Why I Extra Life
  • Contests

Forums

  • News & Information
    • Announcements
  • Extra Life Discussions
    • General Extra Life Discussion
    • Local Extra Lifers
    • Fundraising Ideas
    • Live Streaming Tips & Tricks
    • Official Extra Life Stream Team Discussion
    • Extra Life JSON Code Discussion & Sharing
    • Extra Life United
    • Extra Life Q & A
  • Official Extra Life Guilds
    • Guild information and Discussion
    • Canada
    • Northeastern US
    • Southeastern US
    • Midwestern US
    • Northwestern US
    • Southwestern US
  • Gaming Discussions
    • General Gaming Discussion
    • PC Gaming
    • Nintendo
    • Playstation
    • Xbox
    • Mobile
    • Retro
    • Board & Dice Games
    • Card Games
    • Pen & Paper
  • Other Stuff
    • Community Feedback
    • Off Topic

Calendars

  • Extra Life Community Calendar
  • Extra Life Stream Team
  • Akron Guild
  • Albany Guild
  • Albuquerque Guild
  • Anchorage Guild
  • Atlanta Guild
  • Austin Guild
  • Bakersfield Guild
  • Baltimore Guild
  • Birmingham Guild
  • Boston Guild
  • Burlington Guild
  • Buffalo Guild
  • Calgary, AB Guild
  • Morgantown Guild
  • Charlottesville Guild
  • Chicago Guild
  • Cincinnati Guild
  • Cleveland Guild
  • Columbia, MO Guild
  • Columbus, OH Guild
  • Dallas Guild
  • Dayton Guild
  • Denver Guild
  • Des Moines Guild
  • Detroit Guild
  • Edmonton, AB Guild
  • Fargo-Valley City Guild
  • Fresno Guild
  • Ft. Worth Guild
  • Gainesville-Tallahassee Guild
  • Grand Rapids Guild
  • Halifax, NS Guild
  • Hamilton, ON Guild
  • Hartford Guild
  • Hershey Guild
  • Hudson Valley Guild
  • Houston Guild
  • Indianapolis Guild
  • Jacksonville Guild
  • Kansas City Guild
  • Knoxville Guild
  • Lansing Guild
  • London, ON Guild
  • Los Angeles Guild
  • Milwaukee / Madison Guild
  • Minneapolis / Twin Cities Guild
  • Montreal / Quebec City Guild
  • Nashville Guild
  • Newark Guild
  • NYC & Long Island Guild
  • Oakland / San Francisco Guild
  • Omaha Guild
  • Orange County Guild
  • Orlando Guild
  • Ottawa, ON Guild
  • Philadelphia Guild
  • Phoenix Guild
  • Pittsburgh Guild
  • Portland, OR Guild
  • Portland, ME Guild
  • Raleigh-Durham Guild
  • Richmond Guild
  • Sacramento Guild
  • Salt Lake City Guild
  • San Antonio Guild
  • San Diego Guild
  • San Juan, PR Guild
  • Saskatchewan Guild
  • Seattle Guild
  • Spokane Guild
  • Springfield-Champaign, IL Guild
  • Springfield, MA Guild
  • St. Louis Guild
  • Tampa / St. Petersburg Guild
  • Toronto, ON Guild
  • Vancouver, BC Guild
  • Washington DC Guild
  • Winnipeg, MB Guild

Categories

  • Broadcasting Toolkit
  • Multimedia Kit
  • Extra Life Guild Tool Kit

Group


Hospital


Location


Why I "Extra Life"


Interests


Twitter


Instagram


Twitch


Mixer


Discord


Blizzard Battletag


Nintendo ID


PSN ID


Steam


Origin


Xbox Gamertag

Found 38 results

  1. Back in November of last year there were murmurs of a partnership between Square Enix and Machine Zone Inc. (now MZ) to create an MMO mobile game within the Final Fantasy XV universe. In March, there was a soft launch for players in New Zealand. At that point, we learned the title of the game: Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire. Without clear guidance from Square, fans were left a little confused about the game. For one thing, it looks like another team (possibly within the MZ family), Epic Action LLC, is working on the empire building game. Epic Action only has A New Empire in their Google Play and App Store catalog and it at least appears that a trademark for the company was filed for on March 31. And then there's that timeframe. March 31 and shortly after isn't really the prime time to announce new video games. All of that being said, the game appears to be legit with pre-registration open now. There does appear to be at least two official links to pre-register though... To cement the legitimacy of the game, a tweet from the Final Fantasy XV Twitter page was sent out on today. The "introduction" tweet is below and is accompanied by a link to the Twitter page for the game, and the official webpage for the game which is in Japanese. Square Enix did indeed retweet the message in question. Speaking of the game itself, its description in the mobile stores describes it as the "largest open-world MMO in the series." Also, "Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is a mobile adventure that lets you rewrite a favorite classic to fulfill your unique destiny." What do you think of A New Empire? How do you think Square Enix is handling its expansion of the FFXV universe? View full article
  2. Back in November of last year there were murmurs of a partnership between Square Enix and Machine Zone Inc. (now MZ) to create an MMO mobile game within the Final Fantasy XV universe. In March, there was a soft launch for players in New Zealand. At that point, we learned the title of the game: Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire. Without clear guidance from Square, fans were left a little confused about the game. For one thing, it looks like another team (possibly within the MZ family), Epic Action LLC, is working on the empire building game. Epic Action only has A New Empire in their Google Play and App Store catalog and it at least appears that a trademark for the company was filed for on March 31. And then there's that timeframe. March 31 and shortly after isn't really the prime time to announce new video games. All of that being said, the game appears to be legit with pre-registration open now. There does appear to be at least two official links to pre-register though... To cement the legitimacy of the game, a tweet from the Final Fantasy XV Twitter page was sent out on today. The "introduction" tweet is below and is accompanied by a link to the Twitter page for the game, and the official webpage for the game which is in Japanese. Square Enix did indeed retweet the message in question. Speaking of the game itself, its description in the mobile stores describes it as the "largest open-world MMO in the series." Also, "Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is a mobile adventure that lets you rewrite a favorite classic to fulfill your unique destiny." What do you think of A New Empire? How do you think Square Enix is handling its expansion of the FFXV universe?
  3. Noclip, a YouTube channel focusing on crowd-funded video game documentaries, has produced an in-depth series looking at the development history Final Fantasy XIV. This first of three installments gives a great look at the MMORPG's early history, particularly development on the 1.0 version of the game. Interviews with key designers speak about how Final Fantasy XI's design served as a blueprint, and how the development team responded to Final Fantasy XIV's initial backlash, leading to a new team coming in to completely overhaul the game into A Realm Reborn. In the past, Noclip has produced fascinating videos detailing the development of titles such as the new Doom, Rocket League, and The Witness. If you're interested in learning not just how games are made, but the personal stories behind the designers who craft them, the channel is well worth checking out. View full article
  4. Noclip, a YouTube channel focusing on crowd-funded video game documentaries, has produced an in-depth series looking at the development history Final Fantasy XIV. This first of three installments gives a great look at the MMORPG's early history, particularly development on the 1.0 version of the game. Interviews with key designers speak about how Final Fantasy XI's design served as a blueprint, and how the development team responded to Final Fantasy XIV's initial backlash, leading to a new team coming in to completely overhaul the game into A Realm Reborn. In the past, Noclip has produced fascinating videos detailing the development of titles such as the new Doom, Rocket League, and The Witness. If you're interested in learning not just how games are made, but the personal stories behind the designers who craft them, the channel is well worth checking out.
  5. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn received its latest expansion June 20 with the release of Stormblood. A journey and the warrior of light are the focal points in Stormblood story. New features include additional jobs such as the red mage and samurai, a level cap increase, new enemies, new areas to explore and more content additions. In true Square Enix fashion, there's no skimping on the epic high-fantasy vibes of the expansion's trailer. Reportedly, there were a plethora of issues for any players trying to play the game during the early access period that began on June 16. Gamers were stuck with long wait times to log into the game and still had issues while in the game. Early access will end this Friday, June 23. FFXIV: A Realm Reborn itself is a MMORPG that launched in August 2013 to Windows and PlayStation 3. Currently, it is available on PlayStation 4 and Mac. A Realm Reborn acts as a remake of the original FFXIV which was released in 2010 but was plagued with many issues. Are you playing FFXIV? Are you excited for Stormblood? View full article
  6. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn received its latest expansion June 20 with the release of Stormblood. A journey and the warrior of light are the focal points in Stormblood story. New features include additional jobs such as the red mage and samurai, a level cap increase, new enemies, new areas to explore and more content additions. In true Square Enix fashion, there's no skimping on the epic high-fantasy vibes of the expansion's trailer. Reportedly, there were a plethora of issues for any players trying to play the game during the early access period that began on June 16. Gamers were stuck with long wait times to log into the game and still had issues while in the game. Early access will end this Friday, June 23. FFXIV: A Realm Reborn itself is a MMORPG that launched in August 2013 to Windows and PlayStation 3. Currently, it is available on PlayStation 4 and Mac. A Realm Reborn acts as a remake of the original FFXIV which was released in 2010 but was plagued with many issues. Are you playing FFXIV? Are you excited for Stormblood?
  7. Square Enix unveiled the first full trailer for its next piece of Final Fantasy XV story DLC. Prompto follows in the steps of Gladiolus with his own episode that places the pistol-toting goofball under a far less jovial light. Episode Prompto follows the titular character as he uncovers the truth surrounding his origins. Combat focuses heavily on gunplay, with explosive over-the-shoulder-style firefights. Check out the trailer below, although players who have yet to play or complete Final Fantasy XV will see spoilers for one of the game's murkier subplots. Just a heads up. Episode Prompto becomes available for download June 27. For more on Final Fantasy XV, read about Square Enix's upcoming updates. View full article
  8. Square Enix unveiled the first full trailer for its next piece of Final Fantasy XV story DLC. Prompto follows in the steps of Gladiolus with his own episode that places the pistol-toting goofball under a far less jovial light. Episode Prompto follows the titular character as he uncovers the truth surrounding his origins. Combat focuses heavily on gunplay, with explosive over-the-shoulder-style firefights. Check out the trailer below, although players who have yet to play or complete Final Fantasy XV will see spoilers for one of the game's murkier subplots. Just a heads up. Episode Prompto becomes available for download June 27. For more on Final Fantasy XV, read about Square Enix's upcoming updates.
  9. Fans and critics of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children alike have commonly perceived it as lacking a compelling story, complex characters, and purposeful fight scenes. When I decided I wanted to understand why I still loved the film in 2013, I didn’t expect the answer I found. Parts one and two in this series debunked these major criticisms of the film by examining what story Advent Children tells and how it tells that story through action. This leaves the question, why did it take twelve years to notice that this film portrays the opposite of what everyone says about it? If these criticisms don’t have merit, or are at most over-exaggerated, how did they originate? The dominantly negative reviews about Advent Children appear to spawn from its subtle and unconventional storytelling combined with misconceptions that it doesn’t have a meaningful story to begin with. Advent Children frequently uses visual language, thematic imagery, and minimalist storytelling to convey its story and ideas. Movies communicate their stories visually through shot composition, lighting, costuming, video editing, and positioning of props and actors. These elements are called the film’s mise-en-scène. While films can also use verbal, written, and musical language to convey meaning, film theorists claim that as a visual medium, movies should tell their stories visually. Characters should speak less and do more. As a subscriber to this theory, Advent Children doesn’t always tell the audience what’s happening and what it means through dialog; it shows them through its mise-en-scène. Sometimes Advent Children’s scenes seem more representative of the film’s themes and ideas than of what is actually happening. For example, the final scene in the movie where we see Cloud surrounded by orphans, townspeople, and friends, both dead and alive, after crashing through the roof of a church is ridiculous even in the world of Advent Children. This scene, however, represents Cloud’s reunion with his friends, his family, and the world. He has found happiness and is ready to accept life over his memories and thoughts of death. In an earlier scene, Cloud also finds himself in an equally ridiculous scenario. Menacing orphans surround him while Kadaj taunts him. It doesn’t make sense that orphans pose a threat to a super human like Cloud, but they represent his separation from the world and heighten the tone of helplessness in the scene. By isolating himself, Cloud’s made enemies out of the people he cares about in addition to having to fight his actual enemies and demons. In general, Advent Children takes a minimalist approach to storytelling. It doesn’t repeat spoken information often. The film explains Jenova, Sephiroth, and materia only once, for example. It encourages viewing the film multiple times as opposed to spoon feeding an obvious tale that viewers can see once and completely understand. While the film shows us all the information we need to understand the story, it doesn’t always put it together. The characters don’t have extensive conversations to analyze the pieces and find meaning in the outcomes. These storytelling methods as used by Advent Children and other artworks rely to some degree on the viewer’s analytic skills and personal experiences, which has strengths and weaknesses. Advent Children gives the audience the respect and space to put its clues together themselves and incorporate their own experiences with Final Fantasy VII and real life into the film. This allows viewers to create their own powerful connections to the work either because it reminds them of personal experiences or because finding meaning in it takes effort and feels rewarding. Minimal storytelling, however, also opens the possibility that viewers will interpret the work in unintended ways. For example, audiences can interpret Advent Children’s narrative as meaningless nonsense. Viewers also may not be able to find intended meanings in the work because they don’t have the required experiences. Someone who’s never played Final Fantasy VII, for example, won’t see the similarity between Kadaj’s relationship with Cloud and Cloud’s relationship with Sephiroth. Someone unfamiliar with mental illness might not see it in Advent Children or might interpret Cloud’s character as clichéd. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t find meaning in the work through other experiences and clues from the film. Telling a story in this way can also make it impenetrable for casual viewers. Advent Children has plenty of action and fan service at it surface, but it takes work to see that it’s not just mindless entertainment. Advent Children also has some specific problems that make recognizing that it has meaning difficult. Its purely thematic imagery, for example, creates plot holes that can’t be filled so easily. The director’s cut Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete attempts to explain why the children and townspeople gather at the church at the end of the movie with an event even more ridiculous than the scene itself. Aerith, a dead woman, calls everyone on their cellphones, even the orphans, and tells them to go to the church… Similarly, Cloud’s apparent isolation in the final fight scene continues one of the film’s visual themes but doesn’t make sense in the story’s world, considering that his friends would never leave him to fight a worldwide threat on his own. Sometimes Advent Children withholds too much information as well. To a point, the director’s cut better explains Denzel and how he befriended Cloud, a character that struggles to display and accept affection. Viewers can easily miss this visual and minimalist storytelling, especially if they have preconceptions that the work doesn’t contain meaning. Unfortunately, Advent Children has an association with three types of movies known for poor storytelling: fan service films, photorealistic CGI, and video game movies. Reviewers say that Advent Children is obviously a “fan service film.” This term has two meanings, depending on the reviewer using it. First, these films tell a story that only fans will understand and appreciate. Second, fan service films have a bad story that exists only to show fans what they want to see, most often battles between characters from the base material. This labeling suggests that people who haven’t played Final Fantasy VII before shouldn’t even attempt to find meaning in Advent Children. At the same time, fans of the game claim that Advent Children can’t contain a good story because it sequels an already complete one. It doesn’t have any more story to tell. They also claim that it exists only to sell Final Fantasy VII merchandise such as the Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus video games, which came out at about the same time. Therefore, it’s meaningless fan service and merchandising. Critics don’t provide enough evidence that Advent Children is any of these things though, and it’s really not obvious. Some people, like myself, watch the film with little to no experience with Final Fantasy VII or even Final Fantasy and find it enjoyable and understandable. A majority of this review examines a story that has little to do with the game and exists entirely within the film. Fans have as much difficulty decoding the superficial geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth story as non-fans do, and anyone can understand the parallel story about a guy struggling with his past. In fact, many Final Fantasy VII fans complain that the movie doesn’t contain enough fan service. The film spends more time on Denzel and Kadaj, characters that don’t exist in the game, than it does on the game’s playable characters. Additionally, the short battle with Sephiroth ends rather suddenly for a film that supposedly exists solely to create an excuse for the fight to happen. The film also doesn’t add anything new to the Final Fantasy VII universe. It opens with the message, “To those who loved this world and knew friendly company therein: this Reunion is for you,” but it simultaneously provides evidence that it’s not for fans only. Advent Children seems more like a film that uses Final Fantasy VII as a medium to tell a story than a fan service film. It has elements that only fans can understand, but that doesn’t mean that everything else is incomprehensible. We don’t need Barret, Yuffie, and Cid’s backstory to understand that they’re Cloud’s friends and helped save the world two years ago, for example. The backstories clearly exist because these characters have distinguishing personalities. The movie simply chooses not to present the stories of its side characters and peripheral details like a lot of other movies choose to do. “Fan service” can also mean gratuitous sex and violence. Advent Children features a cast of male characters that fit the pretty, sexy man stereotype found in many Japanese anime and relentless, sword-swinging action. When an anime doesn’t have anything interesting to say, it can resort to large-breasted women and effeminate men with partially open jackets and large swords to find an audience. Movies with these elements, however, can still have great stories and ideas to share. Hollywood has many pretty faces, but we don’t condemn all its movies as bad simply because the actors aren’t hideous. Fight Club isn’t critically acclaimed because it features Brad Pitt and two hours of men punching each other in the face. It tells an excellent story with an interesting commentary about life. Advent Children’s creators made the characters aesthetically pleasing (Who wants to look at butt ugly artwork?) but not radically different from their basic designs in the game. The film has a story and messages applicable to real life told through the action, pretty men, and Final Fantasy VII elements at its surface. Reviewers have also classified Advent Children as photorealistic despite no one in the film looking like a real person. In the wake of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Polar Express, critics labeled Advent Children as yet another attempt at photorealism with a poor story. Unsurprisingly, critics complained that it didn’t look realistic enough. Characters don’t follow the real-world laws of physics, they don’t bleed, and the movie never tricks the audience into thinking that it’s live-action. No evidence suggests that Advent Children is or ever was meant to be photorealistic. The anime-influenced characters look too perfect and alien to be real. Like cutscenes in Final Fantasy games, Advent Children only presents the illusion of realism. The creators even state in The Making Of featurette that they didn’t want to make a photorealistic film. As co-director Takeshi Nozue says, “If it looked too real, then we might as well shoot it live.” Ignoring the laws of physics and not showing blood are stylistic and thematic choices that don’t affect the quality of the story. If we don’t expect Pixar films or video games to trick us into thinking that we’re watching real people, then we shouldn’t hold Advent Children to this standard either. Finally, critics make claims about Advent Children simply because of its association with a video game. Video game movies generally don’t have great stories, but they can break this stereotype. Reviewers describe Advent Children as one long cutscene, which suggests that it doesn’t contain enough information on its own to tell a story. Everything about its story, its themes, and its characters except a few details in this analysis comes from the movie. Other reviewers have called Advent Children a series of cutscenes. This description just applies a video game term, cutscenes, to the elements that make up all movies, scenes. This metaphor doesn’t contain any information about whether the movie is good or bad. Some argue that the film can’t engage the audience because it’s not a video game. Depending on the gamer, cutscenes in games are either a reward or an annoyance, and Advent Children shows an hour and a half of beautiful visuals without requiring the player/viewer to do anything. It’s true, movies don’t reward strategic button pressing. The reward lies in finding meaning in their visuals and audio. Advent Children defies all these descriptions and criticisms because it’s unlike anything ever created. Beowulf defines technology porn, a photorealistic spectacle brimming with graphic sex, gore, and violence. A series of cutscenes accurately describes .hack//G.U. Trilogy, a film obviously missing crucial explanation and character development that would usually occur during gameplay. Similarly, a long cutscene describes Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a film that doesn’t even explain what problem its characters must solve because it’s in the game. Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a film that contains a ridiculous plot that ties together apparently pointless fight scenes between characters from the game, is one type of fan service film. .hack//Beyond the World, a film that loses itself in .hack lore without explaining why it matters to the protagonist, demonstrates another. Elysium (2003) shows what terrible but brief dialog combined with a terrible story looks like. Want to know what Advent Children would sound like had it explained everything in excruciating detail? Watch Ark (2005). Kaena: The Prophecy makes a sincere but novice attempt at using a video game world to tell a story, what Advent Children near perfects. While Advent Children takes inspiration from Japanese anime and live-action films, it uses CGI to its full potential to tell a story in its own way. It doesn’t use cell shading to mimic hand-drawn 2D animation like Appleseed, nor does it try to mimic live-action like The Polar Express. It avoids the uncanny valley without severely deforming its heroes like A Christmas Carol does. It retains the illusion of realism and humanity even when the characters defy the laws of physics. It entertains without resorting to excessive sex or violence like Starship Troopers: Invasion or Sausage Party do. It’s an art film and drama disguised as an action movie. It tells a thoughtful and universal story through elements from a video game. It uses CGI’s strengths to create choreography, characters, environments, and camera work that would be extremely difficult to recreate in any other medium, but it doesn’t discard basic filmmaking and narrative techniques. It creates a visual spectacle but never forgets that first and foremost it must tell a story. In a fledgling art form that struggles to tell any kind of meaningful story outside of children’s entertainment, Advent Children is one of the most important CGI movies ever made. Even with its uniqueness, Advent Children can still be judged and analyzed as a movie. It contains a story with characters, conflicts, and themes. It has spectacular battles as an action movie should, but it also conveys a meaningful narrative through its mise-en-scène both inside and outside the action scenes. While it has flaws, they don’t immediately discredit the film as a pointless visual spectacle. Advent Children has never been treated as a work of art or even as a movie though. It’s viewed through the lens of fan service, visual spectacle, and video game bonus material. It’s judged as a bad movie because it doesn’t contain enough fan service, isn’t realistic enough, and is based on a video game. None of these complaints address whether Advent Children tells a thoughtful story that connects with viewers, uses filmmaking techniques effectively to convey meaning, or doesn’t do either. And that’s a shame. From what I’ve seen, Advent Children makes the best use of known filmmaking, storytelling, and animation techniques to tell a fantastic, mature, and human story through CGI out of all films in its class. That’s why people love this movie. That’s why it never fails to make me smile. I no longer ask, “Why do I like Advent Children?” Now I ask, “Why shouldn’t I like it?” I hope you’ll ask these questions, too. The film could mean something different to you as a Final Fantasy VII fan or as a person than it does to me. If you don’t like Advent Children, I hope you, too, will ask yourself why. Is it genuinely a terrible movie, or does it just defy the expectations of some Final Fantasy VII fans and moviegoers? And, of course, if you’ve never seen it, watch it. Playing the game first is optional. Advent Children isn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of criticism and analysis. It has so much to say, and filmmakers have so much to learn from it. What does Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children mean to you? View full article
  10. Fans and critics of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children alike have commonly perceived it as lacking a compelling story, complex characters, and purposeful fight scenes. When I decided I wanted to understand why I still loved the film in 2013, I didn’t expect the answer I found. Parts one and two in this series debunked these major criticisms of the film by examining what story Advent Children tells and how it tells that story through action. This leaves the question, why did it take twelve years to notice that this film portrays the opposite of what everyone says about it? If these criticisms don’t have merit, or are at most over-exaggerated, how did they originate? The dominantly negative reviews about Advent Children appear to spawn from its subtle and unconventional storytelling combined with misconceptions that it doesn’t have a meaningful story to begin with. Advent Children frequently uses visual language, thematic imagery, and minimalist storytelling to convey its story and ideas. Movies communicate their stories visually through shot composition, lighting, costuming, video editing, and positioning of props and actors. These elements are called the film’s mise-en-scène. While films can also use verbal, written, and musical language to convey meaning, film theorists claim that as a visual medium, movies should tell their stories visually. Characters should speak less and do more. As a subscriber to this theory, Advent Children doesn’t always tell the audience what’s happening and what it means through dialog; it shows them through its mise-en-scène. Sometimes Advent Children’s scenes seem more representative of the film’s themes and ideas than of what is actually happening. For example, the final scene in the movie where we see Cloud surrounded by orphans, townspeople, and friends, both dead and alive, after crashing through the roof of a church is ridiculous even in the world of Advent Children. This scene, however, represents Cloud’s reunion with his friends, his family, and the world. He has found happiness and is ready to accept life over his memories and thoughts of death. In an earlier scene, Cloud also finds himself in an equally ridiculous scenario. Menacing orphans surround him while Kadaj taunts him. It doesn’t make sense that orphans pose a threat to a super human like Cloud, but they represent his separation from the world and heighten the tone of helplessness in the scene. By isolating himself, Cloud’s made enemies out of the people he cares about in addition to having to fight his actual enemies and demons. In general, Advent Children takes a minimalist approach to storytelling. It doesn’t repeat spoken information often. The film explains Jenova, Sephiroth, and materia only once, for example. It encourages viewing the film multiple times as opposed to spoon feeding an obvious tale that viewers can see once and completely understand. While the film shows us all the information we need to understand the story, it doesn’t always put it together. The characters don’t have extensive conversations to analyze the pieces and find meaning in the outcomes. These storytelling methods as used by Advent Children and other artworks rely to some degree on the viewer’s analytic skills and personal experiences, which has strengths and weaknesses. Advent Children gives the audience the respect and space to put its clues together themselves and incorporate their own experiences with Final Fantasy VII and real life into the film. This allows viewers to create their own powerful connections to the work either because it reminds them of personal experiences or because finding meaning in it takes effort and feels rewarding. Minimal storytelling, however, also opens the possibility that viewers will interpret the work in unintended ways. For example, audiences can interpret Advent Children’s narrative as meaningless nonsense. Viewers also may not be able to find intended meanings in the work because they don’t have the required experiences. Someone who’s never played Final Fantasy VII, for example, won’t see the similarity between Kadaj’s relationship with Cloud and Cloud’s relationship with Sephiroth. Someone unfamiliar with mental illness might not see it in Advent Children or might interpret Cloud’s character as clichéd. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t find meaning in the work through other experiences and clues from the film. Telling a story in this way can also make it impenetrable for casual viewers. Advent Children has plenty of action and fan service at it surface, but it takes work to see that it’s not just mindless entertainment. Advent Children also has some specific problems that make recognizing that it has meaning difficult. Its purely thematic imagery, for example, creates plot holes that can’t be filled so easily. The director’s cut Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete attempts to explain why the children and townspeople gather at the church at the end of the movie with an event even more ridiculous than the scene itself. Aerith, a dead woman, calls everyone on their cellphones, even the orphans, and tells them to go to the church… Similarly, Cloud’s apparent isolation in the final fight scene continues one of the film’s visual themes but doesn’t make sense in the story’s world, considering that his friends would never leave him to fight a worldwide threat on his own. Sometimes Advent Children withholds too much information as well. To a point, the director’s cut better explains Denzel and how he befriended Cloud, a character that struggles to display and accept affection. Viewers can easily miss this visual and minimalist storytelling, especially if they have preconceptions that the work doesn’t contain meaning. Unfortunately, Advent Children has an association with three types of movies known for poor storytelling: fan service films, photorealistic CGI, and video game movies. Reviewers say that Advent Children is obviously a “fan service film.” This term has two meanings, depending on the reviewer using it. First, these films tell a story that only fans will understand and appreciate. Second, fan service films have a bad story that exists only to show fans what they want to see, most often battles between characters from the base material. This labeling suggests that people who haven’t played Final Fantasy VII before shouldn’t even attempt to find meaning in Advent Children. At the same time, fans of the game claim that Advent Children can’t contain a good story because it sequels an already complete one. It doesn’t have any more story to tell. They also claim that it exists only to sell Final Fantasy VII merchandise such as the Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus video games, which came out at about the same time. Therefore, it’s meaningless fan service and merchandising. Critics don’t provide enough evidence that Advent Children is any of these things though, and it’s really not obvious. Some people, like myself, watch the film with little to no experience with Final Fantasy VII or even Final Fantasy and find it enjoyable and understandable. A majority of this review examines a story that has little to do with the game and exists entirely within the film. Fans have as much difficulty decoding the superficial geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth story as non-fans do, and anyone can understand the parallel story about a guy struggling with his past. In fact, many Final Fantasy VII fans complain that the movie doesn’t contain enough fan service. The film spends more time on Denzel and Kadaj, characters that don’t exist in the game, than it does on the game’s playable characters. Additionally, the short battle with Sephiroth ends rather suddenly for a film that supposedly exists solely to create an excuse for the fight to happen. The film also doesn’t add anything new to the Final Fantasy VII universe. It opens with the message, “To those who loved this world and knew friendly company therein: this Reunion is for you,” but it simultaneously provides evidence that it’s not for fans only. Advent Children seems more like a film that uses Final Fantasy VII as a medium to tell a story than a fan service film. It has elements that only fans can understand, but that doesn’t mean that everything else is incomprehensible. We don’t need Barret, Yuffie, and Cid’s backstory to understand that they’re Cloud’s friends and helped save the world two years ago, for example. The backstories clearly exist because these characters have distinguishing personalities. The movie simply chooses not to present the stories of its side characters and peripheral details like a lot of other movies choose to do. “Fan service” can also mean gratuitous sex and violence. Advent Children features a cast of male characters that fit the pretty, sexy man stereotype found in many Japanese anime and relentless, sword-swinging action. When an anime doesn’t have anything interesting to say, it can resort to large-breasted women and effeminate men with partially open jackets and large swords to find an audience. Movies with these elements, however, can still have great stories and ideas to share. Hollywood has many pretty faces, but we don’t condemn all its movies as bad simply because the actors aren’t hideous. Fight Club isn’t critically acclaimed because it features Brad Pitt and two hours of men punching each other in the face. It tells an excellent story with an interesting commentary about life. Advent Children’s creators made the characters aesthetically pleasing (Who wants to look at butt ugly artwork?) but not radically different from their basic designs in the game. The film has a story and messages applicable to real life told through the action, pretty men, and Final Fantasy VII elements at its surface. Reviewers have also classified Advent Children as photorealistic despite no one in the film looking like a real person. In the wake of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Polar Express, critics labeled Advent Children as yet another attempt at photorealism with a poor story. Unsurprisingly, critics complained that it didn’t look realistic enough. Characters don’t follow the real-world laws of physics, they don’t bleed, and the movie never tricks the audience into thinking that it’s live-action. No evidence suggests that Advent Children is or ever was meant to be photorealistic. The anime-influenced characters look too perfect and alien to be real. Like cutscenes in Final Fantasy games, Advent Children only presents the illusion of realism. The creators even state in The Making Of featurette that they didn’t want to make a photorealistic film. As co-director Takeshi Nozue says, “If it looked too real, then we might as well shoot it live.” Ignoring the laws of physics and not showing blood are stylistic and thematic choices that don’t affect the quality of the story. If we don’t expect Pixar films or video games to trick us into thinking that we’re watching real people, then we shouldn’t hold Advent Children to this standard either. Finally, critics make claims about Advent Children simply because of its association with a video game. Video game movies generally don’t have great stories, but they can break this stereotype. Reviewers describe Advent Children as one long cutscene, which suggests that it doesn’t contain enough information on its own to tell a story. Everything about its story, its themes, and its characters except a few details in this analysis comes from the movie. Other reviewers have called Advent Children a series of cutscenes. This description just applies a video game term, cutscenes, to the elements that make up all movies, scenes. This metaphor doesn’t contain any information about whether the movie is good or bad. Some argue that the film can’t engage the audience because it’s not a video game. Depending on the gamer, cutscenes in games are either a reward or an annoyance, and Advent Children shows an hour and a half of beautiful visuals without requiring the player/viewer to do anything. It’s true, movies don’t reward strategic button pressing. The reward lies in finding meaning in their visuals and audio. Advent Children defies all these descriptions and criticisms because it’s unlike anything ever created. Beowulf defines technology porn, a photorealistic spectacle brimming with graphic sex, gore, and violence. A series of cutscenes accurately describes .hack//G.U. Trilogy, a film obviously missing crucial explanation and character development that would usually occur during gameplay. Similarly, a long cutscene describes Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a film that doesn’t even explain what problem its characters must solve because it’s in the game. Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a film that contains a ridiculous plot that ties together apparently pointless fight scenes between characters from the game, is one type of fan service film. .hack//Beyond the World, a film that loses itself in .hack lore without explaining why it matters to the protagonist, demonstrates another. Elysium (2003) shows what terrible but brief dialog combined with a terrible story looks like. Want to know what Advent Children would sound like had it explained everything in excruciating detail? Watch Ark (2005). Kaena: The Prophecy makes a sincere but novice attempt at using a video game world to tell a story, what Advent Children near perfects. While Advent Children takes inspiration from Japanese anime and live-action films, it uses CGI to its full potential to tell a story in its own way. It doesn’t use cell shading to mimic hand-drawn 2D animation like Appleseed, nor does it try to mimic live-action like The Polar Express. It avoids the uncanny valley without severely deforming its heroes like A Christmas Carol does. It retains the illusion of realism and humanity even when the characters defy the laws of physics. It entertains without resorting to excessive sex or violence like Starship Troopers: Invasion or Sausage Party do. It’s an art film and drama disguised as an action movie. It tells a thoughtful and universal story through elements from a video game. It uses CGI’s strengths to create choreography, characters, environments, and camera work that would be extremely difficult to recreate in any other medium, but it doesn’t discard basic filmmaking and narrative techniques. It creates a visual spectacle but never forgets that first and foremost it must tell a story. In a fledgling art form that struggles to tell any kind of meaningful story outside of children’s entertainment, Advent Children is one of the most important CGI movies ever made. Even with its uniqueness, Advent Children can still be judged and analyzed as a movie. It contains a story with characters, conflicts, and themes. It has spectacular battles as an action movie should, but it also conveys a meaningful narrative through its mise-en-scène both inside and outside the action scenes. While it has flaws, they don’t immediately discredit the film as a pointless visual spectacle. Advent Children has never been treated as a work of art or even as a movie though. It’s viewed through the lens of fan service, visual spectacle, and video game bonus material. It’s judged as a bad movie because it doesn’t contain enough fan service, isn’t realistic enough, and is based on a video game. None of these complaints address whether Advent Children tells a thoughtful story that connects with viewers, uses filmmaking techniques effectively to convey meaning, or doesn’t do either. And that’s a shame. From what I’ve seen, Advent Children makes the best use of known filmmaking, storytelling, and animation techniques to tell a fantastic, mature, and human story through CGI out of all films in its class. That’s why people love this movie. That’s why it never fails to make me smile. I no longer ask, “Why do I like Advent Children?” Now I ask, “Why shouldn’t I like it?” I hope you’ll ask these questions, too. The film could mean something different to you as a Final Fantasy VII fan or as a person than it does to me. If you don’t like Advent Children, I hope you, too, will ask yourself why. Is it genuinely a terrible movie, or does it just defy the expectations of some Final Fantasy VII fans and moviegoers? And, of course, if you’ve never seen it, watch it. Playing the game first is optional. Advent Children isn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of criticism and analysis. It has so much to say, and filmmakers have so much to learn from it. What does Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children mean to you?
  11. Since its release in 2005, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has attracted negative reviews about its story, characters, fight scenes, dialog, and fan service. For fans of the film like me, defending it seemed an unthinkable, if not impossible, task. This made it all the more surprising when I dared to look closer at these criticisms and found baseless claims and exaggerations instead. The previous article in this series refuted arguments that Advent Children doesn’t contain a strong story or compelling characters by outlining the story it tells, examining the protagonist Cloud and his relationships, and exploring some of the film’s many themes. Critics may be quick to point out that even if the film contains a story, deeply flawed storytelling obscures it. They say Advent Children contains an excessive amount of meaningless action scenes strung together with weak and brief dialog. In reality, its action scenes are as important to understanding the story and world as the characters’ efficient and purposeful conversations. Many critics of Advent Children claim that the film’s excessive fight scenes contain only action-packed fan service. These visually stunning scenes allegedly have nothing at stake, no indication that characters can die, no physical limitations, no change in energy from fight to fight, and no purpose in the story. To the contrary, the fight scenes build the world, advance the story, and develop the characters in parallel with the battle. The visuals not only look wonderful but also contain a wealth of information. Advent Children doesn’t use the physics that we know, but it still has rules that it defines and follows. What the characters can do and their limitations are established in the fight scenes. In the first battle of the movie, the antagonist Kadaj sends his brothers Loz and Yazoo to fight Cloud. The combatants introduce motorcycle battles, summoned monsters, and physics-defying action. Cloud gets his goggles shot off his face at point blank, but the scratch it leaves behind hints for the rest of the film that he isn’t invincible. The following fight between Loz and Cloud’s friend Tifa demonstrates the characters’ high jumping abilities and super human strength. While Tifa can take wooden benches to the face, electrocution is her weakness as is being punched with enough force to destroy a concrete pillar. Next, Cloud has a mystical weapon battle with Kadaj’s gang where we see the magical and destructive capabilities of materia. Cloud blocks bullets and magic with a sword, but he tires rather quickly. These first three scenes also establish that the bad guys pose a threat because Cloud and Tifa lose them all. The tide changes during the fight with the monster Bahamut, which introduces friendship as an element of combat. Cloud’s friends demonstrate their differing skills and how they compensate for one another’s weaknesses. Cait Sith is quite useless, riding on Red XIII’s back the entire fight, but he provides moral support and comic relief. Barret saves Cloud’s foster son Denzel, but he can’t high jump and periodically needs to be saved himself. Red XIII saves Cid from plowing face-first into a pillar. Cid saves Yuffie from an energy blast. Cloud saves Barret from falling debris. And all of them together with divine assistance from Aerith help Cloud defeat Bahamut, the first win of the movie. Cloud, Loz, and Yazoo’s motorcycle chase and the following sword fight between Cloud and Kadaj cement these rules in place by using every element that we’ve learned about from all previous battles: high jumping, motorcycle battles, materia, divine assistance, friendship power, etc. In the final battle, Cloud’s true enemy Sephiroth reveals that he has abilities that we’ve never seen before. He can fly and apparently manipulate the weather without materia. Cloud, however, is still bound by the rules. He tires easily, feels afraid and uncertain, and requires his friends’ assistance to survive. The film doesn’t define how characters die, but it does use other means to endanger them. Because the characters don’t often give the bad guys the chance to injure them, danger mainly comes from their reactions and emotions. Falling debris scare Barrett and Cloud. Cloud fears separation from his sword in battles, and geostigma pains him. His friends flee and exclaim from various threats during the battle with Bahamut. These human reactions, the humanity of Cloud’s personality and struggles at the center of the film, the fantastic action scenes, and the lack of information combine to leave us in suspense. How human are these characters? Withholding violent acts actually makes Sephiroth stabbing Cloud and Yazoo shooting him at the end of the film more shocking. Even when Cloud survives, the movie heavily implies that it was only because Aerith helped him. Advent Children’s action scenes are scenes, integral to advancing the plot and developing the characters. Loz, Kadaj, and Yazoo introduce themselves in the first fight scene by toying with Cloud, which shows their childish personalities. By the end, Cloud still doesn’t know what they want, but he knows that they pose a threat. Tifa’s battle with Loz begins with neither of them taking each other seriously, but by the end, Loz easily outmatches Tifa and kidnaps Barret’s daughter Marlene. The next battle features Cloud trying to save the city’s orphans, but it ends in miserable failure, confirming to him his uselessness. After regaining his confidence in the fight with Bahamut, Cloud attempts to show in his sword fight with Kadaj that he doesn’t need his friends while Kadaj attempts to prove that he doesn’t need Sephiroth. Each battle also heightens the stakes. In the first action scene of the film, Cloud must fight only to save himself. Tifa then fights Loz to save herself and Marlene. After that, Cloud fights Kadaj’s gang to save the city’s orphans. Cloud and his friends fight Bahamut to protect the entire city. Then, Cloud chases Kadaj to prevent him from using Jenova’s remains to resurrect Sephiroth, which could lead to the world’s destruction. Finally, Cloud fights Sephiroth, a god-like being, to save the world. The cinematic choices during fights make the choreography a spectacle, which is an important aspect of any action movie, but they also define the characters’ locations in space, show what they’re doing, and convey their feelings and thoughts. Compare the shots in Advent Children to a bad action movie full of shaky camera angles, two-second-long shots, and close ups (e.g. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV) where it’s difficult to tell what’s happening or why. Advent Children does use disorienting camera work, such as in Cloud’s battle with Sephiroth, but only to convey confusion and fear. Otherwise, it shows almost everything, including some imaginative choreography that compliments the characters and story. Combatants don’t shout cheesy catchphrases to announce what they feel or what they want to accomplish. They communicate this information almost entirely through visuals. The following are just a few examples. During Cloud’s attempt to rescue the orphans from Kadaj’s gang, Cloud shifts his attention from Loz and Yazoo to Kadaj, his true target. The camera zooms in on Kadaj’s face, and Cloud attacks. In the motorcycle chase later in the movie, Kadaj flees from Cloud with Jenova’s remains in hand. He takes the upper road when the super highway splits. Loz rides up alongside Cloud and attacks, preventing him from taking the same path. In the final fight scene, Sephiroth darkens the sky with a flick of his wrist; Cloud grimaces fearfully and grips his sword tighter. The characters seem to have conversations without saying anything at all. Only so much can be conveyed through facial expressions and body language, but they say more than: “I’m going to kill you!” “No, I’m going to kill you!” Advent Children explains what it can’t show with clever and to-the-point dialog that reviewers complain is terribly written. Sure, it has weaknesses, but overall, the dialog is some combination of real, efficient, informative, and thought provoking. The characters don’t sobbingly spew their backstory in a futile attempt to make us care, explain concepts that everyone in the scene already knows, inject catch phrases into everything they do, or announce what they will do instead of, you know, just doing it. Characters don’t have much chance to sound insincere because they rarely speak. And when they do converse, they do so purposefully. Make fun of “dilly-dally, shilly-shally” all you want; it’s part of a real conversation about a real-life problem said much more efficiently. The majority of the dialog in the film exists to explain Final Fantasy VII concepts, but it performs double duty by developing the characters at the same time. In a scene near the beginning of the movie, for example, Cloud and Rufus talk about the Shinra Power Company, geostigma, Jenova, and Sephiroth. The tone of the conversation simultaneously shows Cloud’s love-hate relationship with Shinra. Cloud treats Rufus coldly, constantly cutting him off and questioning him. He jabs at Rude and Reno, who seem like loveable goofs, and hesitates when Rufus suggests that Shinra wants to atone for its past sins. Some dialog simply provokes the audience to think about the film beyond its superficial action-oriented, Final Fantasy VII-enhanced plot. For example, Cloud’s friend Vincent asks, “Cloud, are you sure this is about fighting?” Sephiroth says, immediately before he disappears, “I will never be a memory.” And Cloud ends the film with, “I know. I’m not alone. Not anymore.” A film adorned in fan service almost requires lines like this if it wants to make the audience aware that it has anything important to say. The dialog stumbles most when it explains concepts and does nothing much else, but even then, it’s efficient. At one point, Kadaj obviously explains materia as if nobody in the scene knows already, but the film had to explain it at some point and doesn’t spend much time on it. Compare it to the director’s cut, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, where this scene turns into two minutes of equally cringe-worthy dialog featuring Kadaj and Loz explaining everything that they’re about to do and re-explain. The overview of Final Fantasy VII at the beginning of the film receives criticism for existing, not explaining enough, and containing awkward dialog. Overviews are necessary refreshers for newbies and veterans alike and difficult to write well in general, not a fault of Advent Children in particular. Like the rest of the film’s spoken information, it provides the bare minimum needed to understand the plot. Advent Children’s fight scenes look spectacular because they contain so much information about the story, characters, and world. The script intentionally keeps the dialog short to highlight where the story really shines in the film’s visuals and the characters’ actions. This explains how Advent Children tells its story, but it doesn’t explain why it took over a decade for anyone to recognize it. Why has no one ever discussed Advent Children’s use of visual language if it’s as excellent as I claim? Is this film so opaque? The final part of this series will examine the misconceptions surrounding Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children that stifled the conversation about its story and storytelling techniques before it even began. View full article
  12. Since its release in 2005, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has attracted negative reviews about its story, characters, fight scenes, dialog, and fan service. For fans of the film like me, defending it seemed an unthinkable, if not impossible, task. This made it all the more surprising when I dared to look closer at these criticisms and found baseless claims and exaggerations instead. The previous article in this series refuted arguments that Advent Children doesn’t contain a strong story or compelling characters by outlining the story it tells, examining the protagonist Cloud and his relationships, and exploring some of the film’s many themes. Critics may be quick to point out that even if the film contains a story, deeply flawed storytelling obscures it. They say Advent Children contains an excessive amount of meaningless action scenes strung together with weak and brief dialog. In reality, its action scenes are as important to understanding the story and world as the characters’ efficient and purposeful conversations. Many critics of Advent Children claim that the film’s excessive fight scenes contain only action-packed fan service. These visually stunning scenes allegedly have nothing at stake, no indication that characters can die, no physical limitations, no change in energy from fight to fight, and no purpose in the story. To the contrary, the fight scenes build the world, advance the story, and develop the characters in parallel with the battle. The visuals not only look wonderful but also contain a wealth of information. Advent Children doesn’t use the physics that we know, but it still has rules that it defines and follows. What the characters can do and their limitations are established in the fight scenes. In the first battle of the movie, the antagonist Kadaj sends his brothers Loz and Yazoo to fight Cloud. The combatants introduce motorcycle battles, summoned monsters, and physics-defying action. Cloud gets his goggles shot off his face at point blank, but the scratch it leaves behind hints for the rest of the film that he isn’t invincible. The following fight between Loz and Cloud’s friend Tifa demonstrates the characters’ high jumping abilities and super human strength. While Tifa can take wooden benches to the face, electrocution is her weakness as is being punched with enough force to destroy a concrete pillar. Next, Cloud has a mystical weapon battle with Kadaj’s gang where we see the magical and destructive capabilities of materia. Cloud blocks bullets and magic with a sword, but he tires rather quickly. These first three scenes also establish that the bad guys pose a threat because Cloud and Tifa lose them all. The tide changes during the fight with the monster Bahamut, which introduces friendship as an element of combat. Cloud’s friends demonstrate their differing skills and how they compensate for one another’s weaknesses. Cait Sith is quite useless, riding on Red XIII’s back the entire fight, but he provides moral support and comic relief. Barret saves Cloud’s foster son Denzel, but he can’t high jump and periodically needs to be saved himself. Red XIII saves Cid from plowing face-first into a pillar. Cid saves Yuffie from an energy blast. Cloud saves Barret from falling debris. And all of them together with divine assistance from Aerith help Cloud defeat Bahamut, the first win of the movie. Cloud, Loz, and Yazoo’s motorcycle chase and the following sword fight between Cloud and Kadaj cement these rules in place by using every element that we’ve learned about from all previous battles: high jumping, motorcycle battles, materia, divine assistance, friendship power, etc. In the final battle, Cloud’s true enemy Sephiroth reveals that he has abilities that we’ve never seen before. He can fly and apparently manipulate the weather without materia. Cloud, however, is still bound by the rules. He tires easily, feels afraid and uncertain, and requires his friends’ assistance to survive. The film doesn’t define how characters die, but it does use other means to endanger them. Because the characters don’t often give the bad guys the chance to injure them, danger mainly comes from their reactions and emotions. Falling debris scare Barrett and Cloud. Cloud fears separation from his sword in battles, and geostigma pains him. His friends flee and exclaim from various threats during the battle with Bahamut. These human reactions, the humanity of Cloud’s personality and struggles at the center of the film, the fantastic action scenes, and the lack of information combine to leave us in suspense. How human are these characters? Withholding violent acts actually makes Sephiroth stabbing Cloud and Yazoo shooting him at the end of the film more shocking. Even when Cloud survives, the movie heavily implies that it was only because Aerith helped him. Advent Children’s action scenes are scenes, integral to advancing the plot and developing the characters. Loz, Kadaj, and Yazoo introduce themselves in the first fight scene by toying with Cloud, which shows their childish personalities. By the end, Cloud still doesn’t know what they want, but he knows that they pose a threat. Tifa’s battle with Loz begins with neither of them taking each other seriously, but by the end, Loz easily outmatches Tifa and kidnaps Barret’s daughter Marlene. The next battle features Cloud trying to save the city’s orphans, but it ends in miserable failure, confirming to him his uselessness. After regaining his confidence in the fight with Bahamut, Cloud attempts to show in his sword fight with Kadaj that he doesn’t need his friends while Kadaj attempts to prove that he doesn’t need Sephiroth. Each battle also heightens the stakes. In the first action scene of the film, Cloud must fight only to save himself. Tifa then fights Loz to save herself and Marlene. After that, Cloud fights Kadaj’s gang to save the city’s orphans. Cloud and his friends fight Bahamut to protect the entire city. Then, Cloud chases Kadaj to prevent him from using Jenova’s remains to resurrect Sephiroth, which could lead to the world’s destruction. Finally, Cloud fights Sephiroth, a god-like being, to save the world. The cinematic choices during fights make the choreography a spectacle, which is an important aspect of any action movie, but they also define the characters’ locations in space, show what they’re doing, and convey their feelings and thoughts. Compare the shots in Advent Children to a bad action movie full of shaky camera angles, two-second-long shots, and close ups (e.g. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV) where it’s difficult to tell what’s happening or why. Advent Children does use disorienting camera work, such as in Cloud’s battle with Sephiroth, but only to convey confusion and fear. Otherwise, it shows almost everything, including some imaginative choreography that compliments the characters and story. Combatants don’t shout cheesy catchphrases to announce what they feel or what they want to accomplish. They communicate this information almost entirely through visuals. The following are just a few examples. During Cloud’s attempt to rescue the orphans from Kadaj’s gang, Cloud shifts his attention from Loz and Yazoo to Kadaj, his true target. The camera zooms in on Kadaj’s face, and Cloud attacks. In the motorcycle chase later in the movie, Kadaj flees from Cloud with Jenova’s remains in hand. He takes the upper road when the super highway splits. Loz rides up alongside Cloud and attacks, preventing him from taking the same path. In the final fight scene, Sephiroth darkens the sky with a flick of his wrist; Cloud grimaces fearfully and grips his sword tighter. The characters seem to have conversations without saying anything at all. Only so much can be conveyed through facial expressions and body language, but they say more than: “I’m going to kill you!” “No, I’m going to kill you!” Advent Children explains what it can’t show with clever and to-the-point dialog that reviewers complain is terribly written. Sure, it has weaknesses, but overall, the dialog is some combination of real, efficient, informative, and thought provoking. The characters don’t sobbingly spew their backstory in a futile attempt to make us care, explain concepts that everyone in the scene already knows, inject catch phrases into everything they do, or announce what they will do instead of, you know, just doing it. Characters don’t have much chance to sound insincere because they rarely speak. And when they do converse, they do so purposefully. Make fun of “dilly-dally, shilly-shally” all you want; it’s part of a real conversation about a real-life problem said much more efficiently. The majority of the dialog in the film exists to explain Final Fantasy VII concepts, but it performs double duty by developing the characters at the same time. In a scene near the beginning of the movie, for example, Cloud and Rufus talk about the Shinra Power Company, geostigma, Jenova, and Sephiroth. The tone of the conversation simultaneously shows Cloud’s love-hate relationship with Shinra. Cloud treats Rufus coldly, constantly cutting him off and questioning him. He jabs at Rude and Reno, who seem like loveable goofs, and hesitates when Rufus suggests that Shinra wants to atone for its past sins. Some dialog simply provokes the audience to think about the film beyond its superficial action-oriented, Final Fantasy VII-enhanced plot. For example, Cloud’s friend Vincent asks, “Cloud, are you sure this is about fighting?” Sephiroth says, immediately before he disappears, “I will never be a memory.” And Cloud ends the film with, “I know. I’m not alone. Not anymore.” A film adorned in fan service almost requires lines like this if it wants to make the audience aware that it has anything important to say. The dialog stumbles most when it explains concepts and does nothing much else, but even then, it’s efficient. At one point, Kadaj obviously explains materia as if nobody in the scene knows already, but the film had to explain it at some point and doesn’t spend much time on it. Compare it to the director’s cut, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, where this scene turns into two minutes of equally cringe-worthy dialog featuring Kadaj and Loz explaining everything that they’re about to do and re-explain. The overview of Final Fantasy VII at the beginning of the film receives criticism for existing, not explaining enough, and containing awkward dialog. Overviews are necessary refreshers for newbies and veterans alike and difficult to write well in general, not a fault of Advent Children in particular. Like the rest of the film’s spoken information, it provides the bare minimum needed to understand the plot. Advent Children’s fight scenes look spectacular because they contain so much information about the story, characters, and world. The script intentionally keeps the dialog short to highlight where the story really shines in the film’s visuals and the characters’ actions. This explains how Advent Children tells its story, but it doesn’t explain why it took over a decade for anyone to recognize it. Why has no one ever discussed Advent Children’s use of visual language if it’s as excellent as I claim? Is this film so opaque? The final part of this series will examine the misconceptions surrounding Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children that stifled the conversation about its story and storytelling techniques before it even began.
  13. 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
  14. 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.
  15. Square Enix announced at E3 2015 that the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII remake was finally going to become a reality over a decade after first showing footage of a remade Final Fantasy VII opening running on the PlayStation 3. Since then, more sceenshots and trailers have appeared along with details about how Square Enix would be releasing the game as an episodic series (not the way many would prefer to play FFVII, but at least the remake would finally exist). Now the director of the PlayStation 4 HD remaster of Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, has revealed that Square Enix might very well be expanding its remake efforts to another Final Fantasy title from the PlayStation One era, though that revelation comes with some predictable caveats. In an interview with The International Business Times - UK, Takashi Katano let some insider speculation slip, saying, "[Final Fantasy 12] is a PS2 title, and you look at the other titles in the series and technologically anything before the PS2 era is going to be quite difficult to do a modern remaster of to a suitable level of quality. That means [a future game] is far more likely to be a remake." That statement is hardly controversial - Square Enix has reimagined and remade the earliest Final Fantasy titles for mobile, PC, and Nintendo DS/3DS several times over the years. However, this news coming from a director of a major Square Enix project seems to imply that any upcoming remake would be a major, franchise undertaking, perhaps on par with their efforts to remake Final Fantasy VII. The question seems to be which Final Fantasy game would see such a complete overhaul? Final Fantasy V and VI, though originally released on the Super Nintendo, could be a contenders as both eventually made their way to the PlayStation and the current director of the Final Fantasy VII remake has expressed interest in remaking those two titles in particular. However, significant camps of support are present for Final Fantasy VIII and also Final Fantasy IX. Expanding on his statement, Katano explained that the process would be less about what any individuals within Square Enix would like to port and more about what their customers want, "I've personally been working at Square Enix for 20 years now and I've got a lot of memories from that time. I think the way that we look at it is not the game that [we] would like to remake it's really down to what the players, the fans, want to see. We really have to hear their voices on that, if they want to see a remake or a remaster of a certain game then that's more likely to be the one we go for." Anything beyond the Final Fantasy VII remake is likely still in only the very earliest stages of development, if at all, but it is certainly wonderful news to hear that the company is open to revisiting their classic line-up with more modern technology. View full article
  16. Square Enix announced at E3 2015 that the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII remake was finally going to become a reality over a decade after first showing footage of a remade Final Fantasy VII opening running on the PlayStation 3. Since then, more sceenshots and trailers have appeared along with details about how Square Enix would be releasing the game as an episodic series (not the way many would prefer to play FFVII, but at least the remake would finally exist). Now the director of the PlayStation 4 HD remaster of Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, has revealed that Square Enix might very well be expanding its remake efforts to another Final Fantasy title from the PlayStation One era, though that revelation comes with some predictable caveats. In an interview with The International Business Times - UK, Takashi Katano let some insider speculation slip, saying, "[Final Fantasy 12] is a PS2 title, and you look at the other titles in the series and technologically anything before the PS2 era is going to be quite difficult to do a modern remaster of to a suitable level of quality. That means [a future game] is far more likely to be a remake." That statement is hardly controversial - Square Enix has reimagined and remade the earliest Final Fantasy titles for mobile, PC, and Nintendo DS/3DS several times over the years. However, this news coming from a director of a major Square Enix project seems to imply that any upcoming remake would be a major, franchise undertaking, perhaps on par with their efforts to remake Final Fantasy VII. The question seems to be which Final Fantasy game would see such a complete overhaul? Final Fantasy V and VI, though originally released on the Super Nintendo, could be a contenders as both eventually made their way to the PlayStation and the current director of the Final Fantasy VII remake has expressed interest in remaking those two titles in particular. However, significant camps of support are present for Final Fantasy VIII and also Final Fantasy IX. Expanding on his statement, Katano explained that the process would be less about what any individuals within Square Enix would like to port and more about what their customers want, "I've personally been working at Square Enix for 20 years now and I've got a lot of memories from that time. I think the way that we look at it is not the game that [we] would like to remake it's really down to what the players, the fans, want to see. We really have to hear their voices on that, if they want to see a remake or a remaster of a certain game then that's more likely to be the one we go for." Anything beyond the Final Fantasy VII remake is likely still in only the very earliest stages of development, if at all, but it is certainly wonderful news to hear that the company is open to revisiting their classic line-up with more modern technology.
  17. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy and the founder of Mistwalker, released a trailer and several pieces of artwork via YouTube and Twitter last week of a canceled 2008 project called Cry On. The trailer shows a girl with a tiny stone creature running from an oncoming mass of darkness and red eyes. She hits a dead end and the creature transforms into a giant golem that helps her to escape before crumbling into ruin. The trailer doesn't show off any gameplay, but I certainly find the concept on display intriguing. As for the concept art, it is presumed to be for Cry On, but that has not been confirmed. Sakaguchi tweeted the images the same day the trailer was uploaded, but did not explicitly mention Cry On in the accompanying text.
  18. I have lost a lot of my enthusiasm for Final Fantasy in recent years, but then a certain trailer for Final Fantasy XV came and rekindled a spark of hope. It looks amazing. Though no release date has been officially announced for Final Fantasy XV, a demo will be packaged with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD when it releases next year. Besides awesome monster designs, gorgeous artistic design, and Final Fantasy guys with JRPG hair, what did we just see? If you look at the gameplay segments in the teaser, it looks like Final Fantasy XV might be attempting an open world action RPG. There is a segment where the camera pans around the car our presumably main characters are driving and it appears like both the camera and car might be under player control. We are shown multiple times in the teaser some sort of traversal mechanic involving a combination of sword-throwing and teleportation. We see combat that appears completely free from turn-based mechanics. Assuming that Final Fantasy XV remains a single-player experience, we also see AI that appears to react organically to various situations, like the near death of a party member or generally being useful in combat. Today is a good day to love RPGs.
  19. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, the high-definition remake of the highly acclaimed PSP exclusive original, will be making its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next year along with the demo for the first newly numbered Final Fantasy title in nearly four years. Currently slated for a March 17, 2015 release in North America, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD follows the adventures of a group of elite military cadets known as Class Zero as they become embroiled in a massive war. It is generally regarded as one of the best Final Fantasy titles in years, so it is great to see it being released on more platforms. However, for many Final Fantasy fans the remake of Type-0 is just an added bonus to the Final Fantasy XV demo with which it will be packaged.
  20. Jason Hayes, World of Warcraft's composer, leads a band called the Critical Hit, while the composer for the Final Fantasy series, Nobuo Uematsu, is a member of The Earthbound Papas. Both bands will be headlining the Orlando Nerd Fest 2014. The Critical Hit formed in 2013 and have been playing live shows for the past year. Today they unveiled their latest music video in which they give their own rendition of the classic Tetris theme. They also have videos showcasing their skills with the theme from Angry Birds and The Battle for New York from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Nobuo Uematsu's group, The Earthbound Papas, was formed shortly after his previous band, The Black Mages, disbanded in 2010. Their music tends to be refreshing takes on Final Fantasy soundtracks, though it was reported that The Earthbound Papas might be open to performing music from other video game series or original music. Orlando Nerd Fest will be held on August 9 in Orlando, Florida.
  21. Sometimes it can be hard for the average video game enthusiast to find interesting video game art to adorn the walls of their abode. Luckily, there are skilled artists in various corners of the internet willing to sell their work for a fair price. Etsy is one such corner. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Etsy is basically the arts and crafts hub of the internet. People make clothes, furniture, jewelry, art, etc. and put it up for sale on the site, usually at quite a reasonable price. Given the popularity of video games, it isn't at all surprising that a significant portion of the Etsy artists and craftspeople decide to put out products inspired by some of their favorite video game titles. As you scroll through these awesome artistic renderings, bear in mind that these represent a small fraction of the work available on the main site. Click on the images for a better look at the artwork, or visit the linked Etsy pages for more details. BioShock - Minimalist by CaptainsPrintShop - $20 BioShock - Watercolor by CaptainsPrintShop - $20 BioShock Infinite Poster from WestGraphics - $18 BioShock Infinite Elizabeth by WilliamHenryDesign - $20 Doom II Poster from Kitschaus - $30 Fallout - Minimalist by CaptainsPrintShop - $20 Final Fantasy Tactics Poster from Kitschaus - $30 Ico Poster from Kitschaus - $20 Journey Poster from Geeky Prints - Price ranges from $4.99 to $51.99 depending on print size Mass Effect Series by WilliamHenryDesign - $25 Mega Man Screen Printed Poster by InspirationxCreation - $19 Mega Man Buster Cannon by AndrewHeath - $10 Metal Gear Solid V - Snake by 2ToastDesign - $19.95 or $39.95 depending on size Minecraft - Life Goals by MrSuspenders - $39.95 PITFALL Atari 2600 Retro Vintage Classic by RobOsborne - $20 Pong-inspired 8-bit Poster by minimalpixels - $16.77 Portal - Hello by DirtyGreatPixelsUK - $16.77 or $33.54 depending on size Portal - The Cake Is A Lie by WestGraphics - Price ranges from $18 to $50 Secret of Mana Poster from Kitschaus - $20 Shadow of the Colossus by bigbadrobot - Price ranges from $17 to $38 depending on size Shadow of the Colossus from Kitschaus - $25 Smash Bros. Link vs. Mario by NukaColaFan - $11.99 Sonic the Hedgehog by VICTORYDELUXE - $6.99 Star Fox by NukaColaFan - $14.99 Street Fighter Character Sakura Alpha In Cubes by BITxBITxBIT - $30 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time from Kitschaus - $20 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker from Kitschaus - $35 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker by PoppyseedHeroes - Currently unavailable, but it still looks incredibly awesome! TRON poster from adamrabalais - $20 Yeah, I know this isn't a video game per say, but it's close enough in my book. XCOM Classic Ironman by MrSuspenders - $39.95 Let us know which ones were your favorites!
  22. The new Final Fantasy title, dubbed Final Fantasy Legends II, will be helmed by veteran game director Takashi Tokita. If that name rings a bell, you might recognize him for his prominent work designing and directing games like Chrono Trigger, Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy IV. You might be scratching your head trying to remember what happened to Final Fantasy Legends I. Rightfully so, as the first game in the Legends series of Final Fantasy games underwent a name change on its Western release, as Final Fantasy games sometimes do Legends I released under the name Final Fantasy Dimensions in the US. Final Fantasy Legends II has only been announced for Japanese audiences, but the likelihood of it becoming a worldwide release, similar to Final Fantasy Dimensions seems to be rather high at this point. In a somewhat strange move for a mobile game, fans in Japan can actually pre-order Legends II on the Square Enix website. Those who pre-order get two in-game items: the Tidus Phantom Stone and the Fraternity weapon. However, at this point no release date has been given or any gameplay shown. If you happen to be traveling to Japan, you might want to wait on pre-ordering until more information on the game comes out.
  23. The new Final Fantasy title, dubbed Final Fantasy Legends II, will be helmed by veteran game director Takashi Tokita. If that name rings a bell, you might recognize him for his prominent work designing and directing games like Chrono Trigger, Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy IV. You might be scratching your head trying to remember what happened to Final Fantasy Legends I. Rightfully so, as the first game in the Legends series of Final Fantasy games underwent a name change on its Western release, as Final Fantasy games sometimes do Legends I released under the name Final Fantasy Dimensions in the US. Final Fantasy Legends II has only been announced for Japanese audiences, but the likelihood of it becoming a worldwide release, similar to Final Fantasy Dimensions seems to be rather high at this point. In a somewhat strange move for a mobile game, fans in Japan can actually pre-order Legends II on the Square Enix website. Those who pre-order get two in-game items: the Tidus Phantom Stone and the Fraternity weapon. However, at this point no release date has been given or any gameplay shown. If you happen to be traveling to Japan, you might want to wait on pre-ordering until more information on the game comes out. View full article
  24. Sometime in the early 2000s, my mother purchased a 3D movie viewer and glasses for our TV and some 3D movies from eBay and other online retailers. Included was Elysium, a CGI film mailed without a case in a package that appeared to be addressed in Chinese. This movie, mistakenly believed to be 3D, ended up sitting in a box, unwatched until 2013. Shortly after I began critiquing odd, obscure, and adult-oriented CGI movies for fun, I happened to remember the foreign film my siblings, cousins, and I abandoned more than a decade earlier in favor of Frankenstein and Night of the Living Dead in 3D. Ever since, it has humored, shocked, and baffled me. The film shows signs of tampering with places where the audio cuts out and sloppy video editing. The English adaptation is extensively re-edited from the original film and, oddly, includes thirteen minutes of brand new footage. Redubs of the film from other countries are translations of the English script rather than the original and include a bizarre collection of special features on their DVDs. Most people would have discounted Elysium as a half-baked attempt at a giant robot anime gone terribly wrong, but instead, I set out to find how the movie came to be. While I wasn’t entirely successful, I did discover many strange things surrounding what has been referred to as the Final Fantasy of South Korea. Its proximity to the release of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) and video game-like graphics earned Elysium (2003) its comparison to Square Picture’s film, and it roughly follows the “heroes come together to save the world” storyline seen in many Final Fantasy games. Van, a bike racer and pizza delivery boy; Paul, a juvenile delinquent; Christopher, a fighter pilot; and Nyx, an alien from the planet Elysium, are chosen to pilot four giant armors and protect the Earth from evil. Together they must defeat Necros, the general of the Elysium army who started a war between the Elysium and humans to set his plans to gain power into motion. The first time I watched this film, however, its problems were more apparent than its story or its tenuous resemblance to Final Fantasy. It suffered from bad animation and special effects, poor writing, and most of all, frantic editing that made the story nearly incoherent. Robots and spaceships exploded like Death Stars. The attempts that characters made at displaying joy, horror, or terror with their plastic faces had more hilarious than successful results. The subtitling was sometimes comically bad, but even if it were flawless, the film had little room to explain itself. It was edited together so chaotically that it lost all sense of time and place. Transitions to move characters from one location to another were missing. Instead, characters traveled an impossible distance, like from a space ship to the middle of a city, in a single shot or disappeared mid-scene, making it seem like they could teleport. Some scenes, particularly battles, seemed to be composed of shots that had been placed in a random, nonsense order. The film often jumped between scenes to suggest that multiple events occurred at the same time or sequentially. Sometimes, however, the scenes placed together couldn’t reasonably happen at either of those times, and the film made no attempt to explain when they occurred or to even provide a transition between them to suggest time passing. This problem was so prevalent that anywhere from a few days to a few years could have passed in the course of the movie. Also on the DVD, I discovered, shockingly, a short “The Making Of” film. In it, the creators showed off their use of motion capture and their attention to continuity, which the film seemed to lack entirely. Someone at some point cared about and showed pride in this hacked together film. Who? What were they trying to achieve, and why did it fail so completely? I looked to the Internet for answers. Unfortunately, all that I found was a tiny Wikipedia article, an incomplete IMDB page, and a small number of reviews, half of which weren’t in English. The official website had become what appeared to be a website for a park. All that anyone seemed to know for certain was that the film was made in South Korea. Even simple plot summaries were wrong half the time. One website claimed that it was a wartime drama that took place in Budapest and was based on a true story. A reviewer claimed that Elysium (2013) was a remake of Elysium (2003), to which it bore no resemblance. Even the official IMDB page claimed that “the story is about the message, only love for humanity can save the earth.” I couldn’t see how anyone could pull that out of the series of images I watched. Even stranger, some user reviews praised Elysium for its superb animation and reasonable, well told story. Excuse me? Had we watched the same movie? As it turned out, we hadn’t. During my search, I found to my delight that the film had been redubbed in English. The only way the film could possibly be worse, and more hilarious, would be to give it a terrible English dub. Naturally, I absolutely had to have it. I bought one of the last remaining copies from the dark corners of Amazon. With actors who clearly didn’t care, obvious and badly improvised lines, and weird dialog that didn’t match the film, the redub was as amazing as expected. Crispin Freeman, a popular voice actor in English dubs of anime, who voices Kronos and Lycon in Elysium, was about the only actor who gave a consistently decent performance. Differences in the script, however, made the story more coherent. Primarily, an added narrator tied together starkly cut together scenes and provided a better sense of time passing. As I continued to watch the two dubs of the film in preparation to review Elysium though, I noticed something else. I was watching the English version of the movie when the protagonist Van made a tasteless joke about bulimia. I’d just watched the Korean version the previous day, but I couldn’t remember Van joking about bulimics in it. More than likely, he’d made a different joke, he spoke about something else, or the subtitles were indistinguishable. I wondered though, so I opened the Korean film and looked for the scene. To my surprise, the part of the scene where Van made the joke didn’t exist. Comparing the length of the two films, I realized that the English dub was thirteen minutes longer than the original film. I proceeded to go through both versions of Elysium and map out the differences between them. While they told basically the same story, they were edited together much differently. The scenes appeared in different orders, the English version had shots and entire scenes that the Korean version didn’t, and the Korean film also had shots that didn’t exist in the English film. While the English adaptation was still a mess, it was overall better paced and better put together than the Korean film. Going to my experience with English dubs of Japanese anime, I knew that sometimes adaptations were also re-edited to add or remove elements in the footage or reorder scenes and shots to tell a different story, but the English adaptation of Elysium contained seemingly brand new content that someone animated and rendered! By this point, I was seriously questioning the DVD that came without a case in that package addressed in Chinese all those years ago. I thought I had the original Korean film, but clearly, more footage existed. As I watched it again, I could see and hear where the scenes were abruptly cut off where they continued in the English version as if someone had butchered the film to make it shorter. If I didn’t have the original film, then what did I have? I again went back to my experience with Japanese anime, specifically bootlegs of anime. Perhaps I had some crazy Chinese import. These ethically questionable, if not illegal, purchases are usually cheap and have Chinese subtitles and poor English subtitles. My supposed Korean copy of Elysium fit this description. Why would bootleggers take the time to re-edit the film, and make it worse, though? They don’t even subtitle properly. I needed more copies of the movie if I wanted to answer these questions. Perhaps I had some early edit of Elysium that mistakenly released to the public, and somewhere out there the actual original Korean film, one even more complete than the English adaptation, existed… Or maybe whoever wanted to redub the movie in another language got a box of footage to edit together. The only DVD of the movie I could find that had a Korean audio option was the German DVD. It claimed to be of the same length as the English version. I also found a Polish adaptation that claimed to be of a different length than the Korean and English versions. I found a French DVD on eBay, too, but I’d already nearly emptied Amazon of its copies. I didn’t want to get too crazy with this terrible movie. The Polish DVD was perfect for any Elysium fan’s shelf and, simultaneously, the most bizarre DVD I’d ever seen. In its beautiful packaging were five Elysium trading cards, words that I never thought I would say let alone use to describe real objects. The DVD had well-designed, interesting menus and included character descriptions and the name of the armor each character pilots, information that wasn’t revealed in the movie. Contrary to its description online, it contained the English version of the film with Polish and English audio options. Things got weird starting with the Polish dub, which featured one guy repeating all the dialog in Polish over the English dub. The DVD also contained descriptions of about 186 random movies, from Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer to Kill Bill, and samples of all the songs from seven CDs that had nothing to do with Elysium. Most of the music was electronica. I could dig that. Anyway, the German DVD proved to be more relevant to my search, but it left me with more questions than answers. “Is the Korean on this DVD actually Korean?” was among them. The DVD, subtitled “Koreas Antwort auf Final Fantasy,” which Google translated to “Korea’s answer to Final Fantasy,” contained the English version of the film with German, English, and Korean audio options and German subtitles. The Korean audio, however, didn’t contain a full length version of the dub on my Korean DVD as I expected. The voice actors were different, and the script was obviously translated from the English dub. Most bothersome of all, the dialog didn’t sound like Korean. I wasn’t super familiar with Korean, but I knew that something was strange. At times, it sounded similar to Spanish and other times it sounded more like Chinese. I asked the Internet, but as of this writing, I still don’t have a definitive answer to what language it is. Early opinions concur; it isn’t Korean. Unlike the twenty plus games and movies that Japan’s Final Fantasy spawned, Korea’s Final Fantasy truly is a final fantasy. Thirteen years after its release, Elysium has been nearly forgotten, leaving strange artifacts behind. Among them is the original Korean film stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster, a “The Making Of” featurette showing the care that went into creating it, thirteen minutes of previously unseen footage that appeared in the English dub without explanation, and a German DVD with a “Koreanisch” audio option that doesn’t sound Korean. Someone saw enough potential in the original film to not only redub it but also extensively re-edit it. Similarly, someone saw enough potential in the mediocre English redub to translate it into other languages and package it in nicely crafted DVDs. These adaptations, however, buried the original film and left a trail questions, “What went wrong?” being the biggest among them. While these DVDs remain enigmatic mysteries, I continue on my search for answers. --- Any other Extra Lifers out there with some writing skills and a good idea? Read about how to become a community contributor and start submitting today!
  25. Sometime in the early 2000s, my mother purchased a 3D movie viewer and glasses for our TV and some 3D movies from eBay and other online retailers. Included was Elysium, a CGI film mailed without a case in a package that appeared to be addressed in Chinese. This movie, mistakenly believed to be 3D, ended up sitting in a box, unwatched until 2013. Shortly after I began critiquing odd, obscure, and adult-oriented CGI movies for fun, I happened to remember the foreign film my siblings, cousins, and I abandoned more than a decade earlier in favor of Frankenstein and Night of the Living Dead in 3D. Ever since, it has humored, shocked, and baffled me. The film shows signs of tampering with places where the audio cuts out and sloppy video editing. The English adaptation is extensively re-edited from the original film and, oddly, includes thirteen minutes of brand new footage. Redubs of the film from other countries are translations of the English script rather than the original and include a bizarre collection of special features on their DVDs. Most people would have discounted Elysium as a half-baked attempt at a giant robot anime gone terribly wrong, but instead, I set out to find how the movie came to be. While I wasn’t entirely successful, I did discover many strange things surrounding what has been referred to as the Final Fantasy of South Korea. Its proximity to the release of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) and video game-like graphics earned Elysium (2003) its comparison to Square Picture’s film, and it roughly follows the “heroes come together to save the world” storyline seen in many Final Fantasy games. Van, a bike racer and pizza delivery boy; Paul, a juvenile delinquent; Christopher, a fighter pilot; and Nyx, an alien from the planet Elysium, are chosen to pilot four giant armors and protect the Earth from evil. Together they must defeat Necros, the general of the Elysium army who started a war between the Elysium and humans to set his plans to gain power into motion. The first time I watched this film, however, its problems were more apparent than its story or its tenuous resemblance to Final Fantasy. It suffered from bad animation and special effects, poor writing, and most of all, frantic editing that made the story nearly incoherent. Robots and spaceships exploded like Death Stars. The attempts that characters made at displaying joy, horror, or terror with their plastic faces had more hilarious than successful results. The subtitling was sometimes comically bad, but even if it were flawless, the film had little room to explain itself. It was edited together so chaotically that it lost all sense of time and place. Transitions to move characters from one location to another were missing. Instead, characters traveled an impossible distance, like from a space ship to the middle of a city, in a single shot or disappeared mid-scene, making it seem like they could teleport. Some scenes, particularly battles, seemed to be composed of shots that had been placed in a random, nonsense order. The film often jumped between scenes to suggest that multiple events occurred at the same time or sequentially. Sometimes, however, the scenes placed together couldn’t reasonably happen at either of those times, and the film made no attempt to explain when they occurred or to even provide a transition between them to suggest time passing. This problem was so prevalent that anywhere from a few days to a few years could have passed in the course of the movie. Also on the DVD, I discovered, shockingly, a short “The Making Of” film. In it, the creators showed off their use of motion capture and their attention to continuity, which the film seemed to lack entirely. Someone at some point cared about and showed pride in this hacked together film. Who? What were they trying to achieve, and why did it fail so completely? I looked to the Internet for answers. Unfortunately, all that I found was a tiny Wikipedia article, an incomplete IMDB page, and a small number of reviews, half of which weren’t in English. The official website had become what appeared to be a website for a park. All that anyone seemed to know for certain was that the film was made in South Korea. Even simple plot summaries were wrong half the time. One website claimed that it was a wartime drama that took place in Budapest and was based on a true story. A reviewer claimed that Elysium (2013) was a remake of Elysium (2003), to which it bore no resemblance. Even the official IMDB page claimed that “the story is about the message, only love for humanity can save the earth.” I couldn’t see how anyone could pull that out of the series of images I watched. Even stranger, some user reviews praised Elysium for its superb animation and reasonable, well told story. Excuse me? Had we watched the same movie? As it turned out, we hadn’t. During my search, I found to my delight that the film had been redubbed in English. The only way the film could possibly be worse, and more hilarious, would be to give it a terrible English dub. Naturally, I absolutely had to have it. I bought one of the last remaining copies from the dark corners of Amazon. With actors who clearly didn’t care, obvious and badly improvised lines, and weird dialog that didn’t match the film, the redub was as amazing as expected. Crispin Freeman, a popular voice actor in English dubs of anime, who voices Kronos and Lycon in Elysium, was about the only actor who gave a consistently decent performance. Differences in the script, however, made the story more coherent. Primarily, an added narrator tied together starkly cut together scenes and provided a better sense of time passing. As I continued to watch the two dubs of the film in preparation to review Elysium though, I noticed something else. I was watching the English version of the movie when the protagonist Van made a tasteless joke about bulimia. I’d just watched the Korean version the previous day, but I couldn’t remember Van joking about bulimics in it. More than likely, he’d made a different joke, he spoke about something else, or the subtitles were indistinguishable. I wondered though, so I opened the Korean film and looked for the scene. To my surprise, the part of the scene where Van made the joke didn’t exist. Comparing the length of the two films, I realized that the English dub was thirteen minutes longer than the original film. I proceeded to go through both versions of Elysium and map out the differences between them. While they told basically the same story, they were edited together much differently. The scenes appeared in different orders, the English version had shots and entire scenes that the Korean version didn’t, and the Korean film also had shots that didn’t exist in the English film. While the English adaptation was still a mess, it was overall better paced and better put together than the Korean film. Going to my experience with English dubs of Japanese anime, I knew that sometimes adaptations were also re-edited to add or remove elements in the footage or reorder scenes and shots to tell a different story, but the English adaptation of Elysium contained seemingly brand new content that someone animated and rendered! By this point, I was seriously questioning the DVD that came without a case in that package addressed in Chinese all those years ago. I thought I had the original Korean film, but clearly, more footage existed. As I watched it again, I could see and hear where the scenes were abruptly cut off where they continued in the English version as if someone had butchered the film to make it shorter. If I didn’t have the original film, then what did I have? I again went back to my experience with Japanese anime, specifically bootlegs of anime. Perhaps I had some crazy Chinese import. These ethically questionable, if not illegal, purchases are usually cheap and have Chinese subtitles and poor English subtitles. My supposed Korean copy of Elysium fit this description. Why would bootleggers take the time to re-edit the film, and make it worse, though? They don’t even subtitle properly. I needed more copies of the movie if I wanted to answer these questions. Perhaps I had some early edit of Elysium that mistakenly released to the public, and somewhere out there the actual original Korean film, one even more complete than the English adaptation, existed… Or maybe whoever wanted to redub the movie in another language got a box of footage to edit together. The only DVD of the movie I could find that had a Korean audio option was the German DVD. It claimed to be of the same length as the English version. I also found a Polish adaptation that claimed to be of a different length than the Korean and English versions. I found a French DVD on eBay, too, but I’d already nearly emptied Amazon of its copies. I didn’t want to get too crazy with this terrible movie. The Polish DVD was perfect for any Elysium fan’s shelf and, simultaneously, the most bizarre DVD I’d ever seen. In its beautiful packaging were five Elysium trading cards, words that I never thought I would say let alone use to describe real objects. The DVD had well-designed, interesting menus and included character descriptions and the name of the armor each character pilots, information that wasn’t revealed in the movie. Contrary to its description online, it contained the English version of the film with Polish and English audio options. Things got weird starting with the Polish dub, which featured one guy repeating all the dialog in Polish over the English dub. The DVD also contained descriptions of about 186 random movies, from Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer to Kill Bill, and samples of all the songs from seven CDs that had nothing to do with Elysium. Most of the music was electronica. I could dig that. Anyway, the German DVD proved to be more relevant to my search, but it left me with more questions than answers. “Is the Korean on this DVD actually Korean?” was among them. The DVD, subtitled “Koreas Antwort auf Final Fantasy,” which Google translated to “Korea’s answer to Final Fantasy,” contained the English version of the film with German, English, and Korean audio options and German subtitles. The Korean audio, however, didn’t contain a full length version of the dub on my Korean DVD as I expected. The voice actors were different, and the script was obviously translated from the English dub. Most bothersome of all, the dialog didn’t sound like Korean. I wasn’t super familiar with Korean, but I knew that something was strange. At times, it sounded similar to Spanish and other times it sounded more like Chinese. I asked the Internet, but as of this writing, I still don’t have a definitive answer to what language it is. Early opinions concur; it isn’t Korean. Unlike the twenty plus games and movies that Japan’s Final Fantasy spawned, Korea’s Final Fantasy truly is a final fantasy. Thirteen years after its release, Elysium has been nearly forgotten, leaving strange artifacts behind. Among them is the original Korean film stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster, a “The Making Of” featurette showing the care that went into creating it, thirteen minutes of previously unseen footage that appeared in the English dub without explanation, and a German DVD with a “Koreanisch” audio option that doesn’t sound Korean. Someone saw enough potential in the original film to not only redub it but also extensively re-edit it. Similarly, someone saw enough potential in the mediocre English redub to translate it into other languages and package it in nicely crafted DVDs. These adaptations, however, buried the original film and left a trail questions, “What went wrong?” being the biggest among them. While these DVDs remain enigmatic mysteries, I continue on my search for answers. --- Any other Extra Lifers out there with some writing skills and a good idea? Read about how to become a community contributor and start submitting today! View full article