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Found 10 results

  1. Mewtwo returns to the spotlight in an upcoming reimagined take on the original Pokémon film, Pokémon: The Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. Released in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in North America to immense commercial success, its $30 million budget bringing in over $160 million. This spurred the creation of an ongoing film franchise of which the upcoming remake will be the 22nd. Pokémon: The Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back tells the story of Mewtwo, a clone of the legendary Pokémon Mew. Armed with immensely powerful psychic abilities, the creature is used by Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket, to absolutely obliterate anyone who stands in the evil organization's way. That is, until Mewtwo goes rogue and decides to take over the world. He lures trainers from all across the land to participate in a Pokémon tournament. Of course, it's all a ruse to use cloning technology to create his own army of powerful Pokémon. Ash Ketchum, the long-time protagonist of the Pokémon anime series finds himself and his friends caught up in Mewtwo's schemes and takes it upon himself to stop the Pokémon's ambitions. We don't know a whole lot about the upcoming remake, Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution, though the trailer posted today on the official Pokémon YouTube channel gives a feel for what the CG of the film will look like. Many fans have been comparing the cleaner, smoother look of the animations against the upcoming Detective Pikachu film's darker and more grounded visual approach to Pokémon. So far, there doesn't seem to be a consensus as to whether this is a better or worse direction to take CG Pokémon. With both Detective Pikachu and Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution releasing in 2019, we're about to have a year full of Pokémon. Thankfully, the two films won't be competing against one another as Detective Pikachu releases on May 10, 2019 and Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution will be hitting theaters in July. However, it will certainly be interesting to see how audiences respond to two very different visual approaches to the traditionally 2D anime series. I won't lie; this certainly scratches a nostalgia itch I didn't know I had. There was a lot of potential for the original Pokémon film that got muddled in its North American adaptation with cut scenes and altered dialogue that made Mewtwo more clearly into a villain than the morally ambiguous antagonist presented in the Japanese release. Also, the original film only had a runtime of 75 minutes due to the Pikachu short that showed before it in theaters. It's more than likely that Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution will expand on that story and better able to deliver on the original vision of the film than the version North American audiences received in 1999. Color me cautiously optimistic. Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution will release on July 12, 2019. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  2. Mewtwo returns to the spotlight in an upcoming reimagined take on the original Pokémon film, Pokémon: The Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. Released in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in North America to immense commercial success, its $30 million budget bringing in over $160 million. This spurred the creation of an ongoing film franchise of which the upcoming remake will be the 22nd. Pokémon: The Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back tells the story of Mewtwo, a clone of the legendary Pokémon Mew. Armed with immensely powerful psychic abilities, the creature is used by Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket, to absolutely obliterate anyone who stands in the evil organization's way. That is, until Mewtwo goes rogue and decides to take over the world. He lures trainers from all across the land to participate in a Pokémon tournament. Of course, it's all a ruse to use cloning technology to create his own army of powerful Pokémon. Ash Ketchum, the long-time protagonist of the Pokémon anime series finds himself and his friends caught up in Mewtwo's schemes and takes it upon himself to stop the Pokémon's ambitions. We don't know a whole lot about the upcoming remake, Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution, though the trailer posted today on the official Pokémon YouTube channel gives a feel for what the CG of the film will look like. Many fans have been comparing the cleaner, smoother look of the animations against the upcoming Detective Pikachu film's darker and more grounded visual approach to Pokémon. So far, there doesn't seem to be a consensus as to whether this is a better or worse direction to take CG Pokémon. With both Detective Pikachu and Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution releasing in 2019, we're about to have a year full of Pokémon. Thankfully, the two films won't be competing against one another as Detective Pikachu releases on May 10, 2019 and Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution will be hitting theaters in July. However, it will certainly be interesting to see how audiences respond to two very different visual approaches to the traditionally 2D anime series. I won't lie; this certainly scratches a nostalgia itch I didn't know I had. There was a lot of potential for the original Pokémon film that got muddled in its North American adaptation with cut scenes and altered dialogue that made Mewtwo more clearly into a villain than the morally ambiguous antagonist presented in the Japanese release. Also, the original film only had a runtime of 75 minutes due to the Pikachu short that showed before it in theaters. It's more than likely that Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution will expand on that story and better able to deliver on the original vision of the film than the version North American audiences received in 1999. Color me cautiously optimistic. Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution will release on July 12, 2019. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  3. 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!
  4. 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
  5. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a movie that parallels the Final Fantasy XV game, promised to bring photorealistic visuals and an understandable Final Fantasy story to fans of the games and newcomers alike. In the film, the kingdom of Lucis has waged war with the enemy empire Niflheim for many years. Regis, King of Lucis, possesses the Divine Crystal and the Ring of the Lucii, powerful magical objects that Niflheim wants. To protect them, Lucis raised an impenetrable wall around the crown city of Insomnia, using the power of the crystal. Despite Lucis’ great magic and the king’s mighty warriors known as the Kingsglaive, Niflheim seems poised to win the war with its unsurpassed military force. Unexpectedly, Niflheim proposes a peace treaty that specifies Regis relinquish all territories outside Insomnia and marry his son Prince Noctis to Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. Twelve years previously, Tenebrae, a former ally of Lucis, fell under Niflheim rule when Regis abandoned it to save himself and Noctis. Regis decides to accept Niflheim’s treaty, but sends his son away to a safe location outside Insomnia, creating enemies among his own people and the Kingsglaive. Despite its superficially sufficient story, beautiful visuals, and action-packed fight scenes, many critics describe Kingsglaive as a gorgeous mess. Many complain about the difficulty of following its convoluted and political plot. Others point out its weak characters: helpless and useless females, a throwaway protagonist, and stereotypical kings attempting to outmaneuver one another. Still others equate it to a long video game cut scene or trailer. Criticisms about its weird lip syncing, mixed voice acting, and poorly written dialog abound. As for me, I feel a sense of déjà vu. The description sounds awfully familiar: a Final Fantasy movie promising to bring photorealistic graphics and an accessible story to a new audience only to produce a lukewarm story disguised with impressive visuals. It bears a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I even recognize the complaints critics have in that I don’t think they reveal the source of Kingsglaive’s problems. I’ve argued before that Spirits Within contains a fatal flaw in the obstacles that the protagonist faces in the pursuit of her goal to save her life and the world. Kingsglaive similarly has a flaw with its conflicts. This time, however, the problem is that conflicts are almost non-existent. In most stories, characters have problems to solve. Simple stories often have one major, overarching conflict that the characters must resolve and many smaller obstacles that hinder them along the way. Conflicts not only add excitement and purpose, but also help define the world and its characters. Of course, obstacles work best when the characters have a good reason to overcome them no matter what. For example, a major conflict could be that a hero must free her village from a king’s tyrannical rule. In order to do this, she decides to kill the king and take his throne. The obstacles in her way include traveling to the king’s crown city, sneaking in through his walls, breaking into his castle, and fighting through his guards. She also has a clumsy, obnoxious wizard for a sidekick, who she tolerates because of his useful magical powers. Failure means her death and the destruction of her village. High stakes, big obstacles, and a variety of conflicts usually make stories exciting and engaging. The heroes of Kingsglaive seem to fight for “the future” against characters who fight for “their homes.” These vague ideals rarely conflict with one another though nor do significant obstacles arise from other sources. Most of the main characters can’t fail to achieve their goals, and the consequences for failure are never defined and logically don’t seem that bad. Consequently, pointless violence, duty, and death fills the film, but one person could have given meaning to everything. Prince Noctis produces everyone’s problems and gives everyone purpose, but alas, he doesn’t appear in the film to bring this to light. No amount of action-packed fight scenes fill the void of meaninglessness that Noctis’ absence creates. As is, Kingsglaive suggests that the conflict between King Regis and his people comes from differences in beliefs as to what the kingdom should protect: the people’s “homelands” or the “future.” The film doesn’t define what these terms mean, but in general, “fighting for home” seems to refer to a desire for a just king who keeps his people safe. “Fighting for the future” seems equivalent to protecting Noctis so he can fulfill his destiny as the future king and world’s savior. While many of the characters fall into one camp or the other, each character seems to define what they fight for and how they will fight for it in a different way. King Regis fights for the future, which involves protecting both Lunafreya and Noctis. To make up for the fall of Tenebrae, he wants to free Luna from Niflheim’s grasp and reunite her with her beloved Noctis. Luna also protects the future, but she believes that she must stay away from Noctis to keep him safe and that her survival doesn’t matter. The protagonist, a member of the Kingsglaive named Nyx, fights for the future by serving King Regis. After Regis gives away his hometown Galahd to Niflheim, Nyx’s friend and former Kingsglaive Libertus fights to overthrow Regis. The antagonist General Glauca appears to fight for both empires to keep his hometown safe. Ultimately, he sides with Niflheim to overthrow Regis in exchange for his home’s freedom. On closer inspection, however, little stands in the way of the characters and their goals. Sometimes comically weak obstacles stumble them, sometimes the consequences of catastrophic events go unnoticed, and sometimes nothing can stop the characters from succeeding. Luna and Regis’ goals appear to be in conflict with one another, but really, nothing can stop Luna from keeping Noctis safe by staying away from him. In the beginning of the movie, she briefly goes along with Regis’ plan to escort her to a safe location to rendezvous with Noctis, but when his plan fails almost immediately, she staunchly refuses to indulge in Regis’ next plot to bring them together. Regis agrees easily, and because Noctis is already safely outside Insomnia, Luna can literally do nothing and still succeed. Regis can’t reach his goal to protect Noctis and Luna so easily. Many superficial obstacles keep Luna in constant peril, but the horrific sacrifices that Regis makes to save her go entirely unnoticed when they really should produce significant moral dilemmas. Soon after Luna arrives at Regis’ castle, General Glauca kidnaps her and locks her on an airship with a surprise octopus monster on board. Nyx, the first to discover her absence, rushes through easily-parted guards and verbal threats to warn Regis. Regis permits him to deploy the Glaives to save her. Without the Kingsglaive’s captain, also mysteriously absent, Nyx commands his teammates himself. While on their mission, the peace treaty signing ceremony proceeds in Insomnia, but ends with Niflheim attacking the castle and the city. At the same time, Nyx discovers that he led his team into a trap. Amid all the excitement of Nyx fighting a giant octopus, killing traitorous Kingsglaive members, and maneuvering Luna out of two crashing airships while she threatens to kill herself by jumping out of them, the movie fails to emphasize the responsibility Nyx, Regis, and Luna bare for killing the Kingsglaive and destroying Insomnia. With Regis’ permission, Nyx led the Kingsglaive into a trap that killed almost all of them and left the king and the crystal open to attack to a save a woman with questionable importance. As a result, Regis dies, Insomnia’s wall falls, and Niflheim steals the crystal. This leads to the destruction of Insomnia and hundreds of thousands of its civilians. Nyx has little reason to believe that Luna is more important than any of this or that Insomnia’s destruction was inevitable, but he feels no remorse for the role he played and barely questions his loyalty to Regis. By sending the Kingsglaive to save Luna, Regis sacrificed his citizens to save a woman who seems content to remain a prisoner. His internal struggle, if he even has one, never shows. Luna doesn’t value her own life, and yet Regis sacrificing his most powerful warriors, himself, and his citizens for her doesn’t horrify her. These terrible acts of violence don’t make anyone examine their steadfast beliefs when they really should. Nyx, already a nearly unstoppable super protagonist, has such a fluid definition of “the future” and how he protects it that nothing can stand in his way. When King Regis gives Galahd, Nyx’s hometown, away as part of the peace treaty, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis and Insomnia are safe. When Insomnia’s magical wall falls, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis lives. When Niflheim steals the crystal, King Regis dies, Insomnia falls, and Nyx faces certain death, he still doesn’t care because at least Luna lives and she possesses the Ring of the Lucii. Even if General Glauca took the ring or killed Luna, Nyx probably still wouldn’t care because at least Noctis lives and doesn’t seem to be in danger. Like Luna, Nyx doesn’t have to do anything to save an already safe future. Not even Nyx’s friend Libertus can give him a significant personal or physical conflict. Libertus betrays Lucis to join the rebellion, presumably an organization that wishes to overthrow Regis and replace him with a more people-oriented government. The rebellion doesn’t do anything though. In one scene, Libertus gives them some unspecified information. The next scene related to the rebellion features their leader getting shot in the streets by Niflheim’s army. The film suggests that the rebellion and Libertus help the empire somehow, but Niflheim conquers Insomnia by themselves. Plus, General Glauca, who doubles as captain of the Kingsglaive, already works for Niflheim and likely knows all the information possessed by Libertus and the rebellion. Not even the radio broadcast that Nyx listens to while driving Luna out of the city says what the rebellion did. Nyx pounds the steering wheel angrily at the discovery of Libertus’ betrayal, but when they meet next, Nyx forgives him immediately. Kingsglaive also never defines what makes its obstacles problematic or why the characters must overcome them. Regis, Luna, and Nyx all seem to want to keep Noctis, the future, safe, but he’s outside Insomnia where Regis says it’s safe. Technically, nothing is stopping Niflheim from hunting Noctis down and killing him, but no one threatens to do this. Niflheim doesn’t even seem to care that he’s not in the city even though they specified in the treaty that he marry Luna. We also don’t know Noctis. If he’s anything like his father or ancestors though, he has super powers and doesn’t care about anyone except his next of kin. Why should we want another tyrant to rule the people of Lucis? The film implies that Niflheim is so evil that they can’t be allowed to rule, but honestly, Lucis seems pretty horrible, too. It’s not automatically bad when one kingdom loses power against the military might of another. Would it really be much different or worse if Niflheim ruled? The Kings of Lucis, as revealed by wearing the Ring of the Lucii, seem even more uncaring about their own people than Regis does. The old magic that defends Insomnia even includes destroying the city and killing its citizens. Unlike Lucis, which forces its people to fight a losing war to protect a crystal, a ring, and the next heir to the throne, Niflheim gives people territories in exchange for their help and treats the survivors of Tenebrae decently. A lot of people seem to agree that Niflheim coming into power wouldn’t be so bad. Speaking of the ring, why is it important? Part of the conflict in the final fight scene deals with Nyx and Luna trying to keep the Ring of the Lucii safe from General Glauca. Surrendering it seems to symbolize Lucis’ defeat, but Regis himself doesn’t seem to place much importance in it. Before he dies, he begs Nyx to keep Luna safe. Then, he gives her the ring almost as an afterthought. It doesn’t seem that powerful either. Regis and Nyx use the ring to fight General Glauca. Regis dies, and Nyx barely defeats Glauca before he dies himself. In fact, everyone who uses the ring besides Regis either dies or receives a grievous injury from its power. In death, Regis determines who the ring serves with his fellow prior kings, so of course, a Niflheim ruler will never wield it. Really. Why is it important? Another conflict in the final fight scene as well as most of the conflict throughout the movie deals with keeping Luna safe for equally unspecified reasons. Why is Luna important? Luna suggests that she has some dutiful destiny related to Noctis, but she also says that her life doesn’t matter. Saving Luna just seems like Regis’ vain attempt to make up for letting her home burn while he ran away with his son. Regis kills thousands of people to save Luna and Noctis though, which seems less like making up for the past and more like making an even bigger mistake. This isn’t flattering, considering that Luna’s mother died last time he did this. Luna clearly loves Noctis, and under different circumstances that’d be reason enough for them to be together, but again, we don’t know Noctis. All signs indicate that he’s terrible. Many conflicts in the movie seem like an attempt to create problems that don’t exist and make characters do things when they have nothing to do. The future that half the characters seem so desperate to save, Noctis, seems safe already. Simply placing Noctis in the film, and thus in danger, creates a big problem that can color the characters and the story. For example, Kingsglaive could tell the following tale with Noctis in it, ignoring the events that occur in the game and other media: On his way out of the city, Noctis hears from a traitorous Glaive that Luna didn’t safely escape Tenebrae to meet him and is on her way to Insomnia. Noctis doesn’t understand his father’s blind faith in his destiny nor does he agree with his decision to abandon Luna and Tenebrae twelve years ago. He decides to stay in the city to see Luna to safety himself and meet Niflheim’s terms for peace despite his father’s wishes. He reasons that surely his life doesn’t matter to Niflheim. If they want anything else, it would be the ring and the Crystal, and they can have them as long as the war ends. Unable to convince Noctis that he doesn’t understand and needs to leave, Regis assigns Nyx to be Noctis’ bodyguard. Noctis continues to defy his father by picking Luna up from her Niflheim escort himself (in a sports car of course) with Nyx. The rebellion within Insomnia makes a minor attempt on Noctis’ and Luna’s lives, but they make it back to the castle safely. Unimpressed with Noctis’ show of bravery, Luna reprimands him for remaining in the city and endangering himself. She refuses his affection when Noctis reiterates that he won’t leave and abandon her or his people. On the day of the signing ceremony, traitorous Kingsglaive serving Niflheim kidnap Luna and blame the rebellion, making sure that Noctis and Nyx know about it first. Noctis demands that his father send the Kingsglaive to rescue her, but Regis refuses, wanting to keep the Glaives close to protect his son. In frustration, Noctis runs off to save Luna himself, leaving Regis no choice but to send the Glaives after him. In turn, he leaves himself, the crystal, and the ring vulnerable to attack. He proceeds with the signing ceremony as planned, prepared to sacrifice everything for his son’s safety. Meanwhile, Noctis, Nyx, and the Glaives fight a giant octopus that they find on a ship that looks suspiciously like a Niflheim aircraft to rescue Luna. Members of the Kingsglaive turn on Noctis, and when he and Nyx reach Luna, she warns them of a trap. Noctis realizes that Niflheim tricked him specifically to try to kill him. His father was right, and his hope for peace is naive. The situation gets even worse when Luna, Noctis, and Nyx see Insomnia’s wall falling, enemy ships closing in on the city, and the crystal stolen. They rush back to the castle in time to witness Regis’ death. General Glauca pursues them next to finish the job of crushing Lucis’ last hope. Nyx distracts him while Luna and Noctis escape. Along the way, they are separated. Looking over the ruins of Insomnia, Noctis vows to avenge his father and his people, reclaim his throne, and find Luna. While he still doesn’t understand his own importance, he must ensure that his father’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain. The events of Final Fantasy XV begin. This retelling basically follows Kingsglaive’s existing story, but creates more conflict by adding Prince Noctis. The presence of the prince heightens the potential costs of failure, and the characters’ actions have a greater sense of purpose. Niflheim can destroy or capture every hope that Lucis has, the ring, the crystal, Luna, and Noctis. Lucis could lose all hope for the future instead of some unspecified amount of it. Nyx’s actions and extravagant battles directly relate to protecting Noctis, a character that we can see and understand as opposed to an abstract concept. For fun, the rebellion adds more obstacles and distracts Noctis from his true enemies. To create even more conflicts that help define the characters and the world, Noctis has differing beliefs from his father and Luna. He’s also easier to relate to because he doesn’t fully understand his destiny and all these magical objects either. The greatest losses and violent acts show Noctis his mistakes and motivate him to correct them, which gives them more meaning. They also highlight Niflheim’s cruelty. On Noctis’ insistence, Lucis acts in accordance with Niflheim’s treaty and still the empire destroys Insomnia and attempts to kill Noctis and Luna. The existing story highlights Regis’ cruelty when he defies the peace treaty from the start, sacrifices his people, and doesn’t seem to care. Fifteen years after The Spirits Within, Final Fantasy looks better than ever, but the quality of its storytelling remains about the same. It could have been different though, if only Noctis had stayed. Even if he only plays a minor role, Noctis’ very presence creates a problem that the characters must solve at all costs. He’s the object of his people’s hatred, the son that his father protected over his allies and kingdom. He’s the hope that Niflheim wants to destroy and Regis, Nyx, and Luna must protect. Without him, the characters can only fight over objects and people that may or may not be important and make horrendous sacrifices in pursuit of a nebulous future that may or may not already be safe and may or may not be good. For all of Kingsglaive’s action-packed fight scenes, no one has a battle worth fighting. --- 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!
  6. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a movie that parallels the Final Fantasy XV game, promised to bring photorealistic visuals and an understandable Final Fantasy story to fans of the games and newcomers alike. In the film, the kingdom of Lucis has waged war with the enemy empire Niflheim for many years. Regis, King of Lucis, possesses the Divine Crystal and the Ring of the Lucii, powerful magical objects that Niflheim wants. To protect them, Lucis raised an impenetrable wall around the crown city of Insomnia, using the power of the crystal. Despite Lucis’ great magic and the king’s mighty warriors known as the Kingsglaive, Niflheim seems poised to win the war with its unsurpassed military force. Unexpectedly, Niflheim proposes a peace treaty that specifies Regis relinquish all territories outside Insomnia and marry his son Prince Noctis to Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. Twelve years previously, Tenebrae, a former ally of Lucis, fell under Niflheim rule when Regis abandoned it to save himself and Noctis. Regis decides to accept Niflheim’s treaty, but sends his son away to a safe location outside Insomnia, creating enemies among his own people and the Kingsglaive. Despite its superficially sufficient story, beautiful visuals, and action-packed fight scenes, many critics describe Kingsglaive as a gorgeous mess. Many complain about the difficulty of following its convoluted and political plot. Others point out its weak characters: helpless and useless females, a throwaway protagonist, and stereotypical kings attempting to outmaneuver one another. Still others equate it to a long video game cut scene or trailer. Criticisms about its weird lip syncing, mixed voice acting, and poorly written dialog abound. As for me, I feel a sense of déjà vu. The description sounds awfully familiar: a Final Fantasy movie promising to bring photorealistic graphics and an accessible story to a new audience only to produce a lukewarm story disguised with impressive visuals. It bears a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I even recognize the complaints critics have in that I don’t think they reveal the source of Kingsglaive’s problems. I’ve argued before that Spirits Within contains a fatal flaw in the obstacles that the protagonist faces in the pursuit of her goal to save her life and the world. Kingsglaive similarly has a flaw with its conflicts. This time, however, the problem is that conflicts are almost non-existent. In most stories, characters have problems to solve. Simple stories often have one major, overarching conflict that the characters must resolve and many smaller obstacles that hinder them along the way. Conflicts not only add excitement and purpose, but also help define the world and its characters. Of course, obstacles work best when the characters have a good reason to overcome them no matter what. For example, a major conflict could be that a hero must free her village from a king’s tyrannical rule. In order to do this, she decides to kill the king and take his throne. The obstacles in her way include traveling to the king’s crown city, sneaking in through his walls, breaking into his castle, and fighting through his guards. She also has a clumsy, obnoxious wizard for a sidekick, who she tolerates because of his useful magical powers. Failure means her death and the destruction of her village. High stakes, big obstacles, and a variety of conflicts usually make stories exciting and engaging. The heroes of Kingsglaive seem to fight for “the future” against characters who fight for “their homes.” These vague ideals rarely conflict with one another though nor do significant obstacles arise from other sources. Most of the main characters can’t fail to achieve their goals, and the consequences for failure are never defined and logically don’t seem that bad. Consequently, pointless violence, duty, and death fills the film, but one person could have given meaning to everything. Prince Noctis produces everyone’s problems and gives everyone purpose, but alas, he doesn’t appear in the film to bring this to light. No amount of action-packed fight scenes fill the void of meaninglessness that Noctis’ absence creates. As is, Kingsglaive suggests that the conflict between King Regis and his people comes from differences in beliefs as to what the kingdom should protect: the people’s “homelands” or the “future.” The film doesn’t define what these terms mean, but in general, “fighting for home” seems to refer to a desire for a just king who keeps his people safe. “Fighting for the future” seems equivalent to protecting Noctis so he can fulfill his destiny as the future king and world’s savior. While many of the characters fall into one camp or the other, each character seems to define what they fight for and how they will fight for it in a different way. King Regis fights for the future, which involves protecting both Lunafreya and Noctis. To make up for the fall of Tenebrae, he wants to free Luna from Niflheim’s grasp and reunite her with her beloved Noctis. Luna also protects the future, but she believes that she must stay away from Noctis to keep him safe and that her survival doesn’t matter. The protagonist, a member of the Kingsglaive named Nyx, fights for the future by serving King Regis. After Regis gives away his hometown Galahd to Niflheim, Nyx’s friend and former Kingsglaive Libertus fights to overthrow Regis. The antagonist General Glauca appears to fight for both empires to keep his hometown safe. Ultimately, he sides with Niflheim to overthrow Regis in exchange for his home’s freedom. On closer inspection, however, little stands in the way of the characters and their goals. Sometimes comically weak obstacles stumble them, sometimes the consequences of catastrophic events go unnoticed, and sometimes nothing can stop the characters from succeeding. Luna and Regis’ goals appear to be in conflict with one another, but really, nothing can stop Luna from keeping Noctis safe by staying away from him. In the beginning of the movie, she briefly goes along with Regis’ plan to escort her to a safe location to rendezvous with Noctis, but when his plan fails almost immediately, she staunchly refuses to indulge in Regis’ next plot to bring them together. Regis agrees easily, and because Noctis is already safely outside Insomnia, Luna can literally do nothing and still succeed. Regis can’t reach his goal to protect Noctis and Luna so easily. Many superficial obstacles keep Luna in constant peril, but the horrific sacrifices that Regis makes to save her go entirely unnoticed when they really should produce significant moral dilemmas. Soon after Luna arrives at Regis’ castle, General Glauca kidnaps her and locks her on an airship with a surprise octopus monster on board. Nyx, the first to discover her absence, rushes through easily-parted guards and verbal threats to warn Regis. Regis permits him to deploy the Glaives to save her. Without the Kingsglaive’s captain, also mysteriously absent, Nyx commands his teammates himself. While on their mission, the peace treaty signing ceremony proceeds in Insomnia, but ends with Niflheim attacking the castle and the city. At the same time, Nyx discovers that he led his team into a trap. Amid all the excitement of Nyx fighting a giant octopus, killing traitorous Kingsglaive members, and maneuvering Luna out of two crashing airships while she threatens to kill herself by jumping out of them, the movie fails to emphasize the responsibility Nyx, Regis, and Luna bare for killing the Kingsglaive and destroying Insomnia. With Regis’ permission, Nyx led the Kingsglaive into a trap that killed almost all of them and left the king and the crystal open to attack to a save a woman with questionable importance. As a result, Regis dies, Insomnia’s wall falls, and Niflheim steals the crystal. This leads to the destruction of Insomnia and hundreds of thousands of its civilians. Nyx has little reason to believe that Luna is more important than any of this or that Insomnia’s destruction was inevitable, but he feels no remorse for the role he played and barely questions his loyalty to Regis. By sending the Kingsglaive to save Luna, Regis sacrificed his citizens to save a woman who seems content to remain a prisoner. His internal struggle, if he even has one, never shows. Luna doesn’t value her own life, and yet Regis sacrificing his most powerful warriors, himself, and his citizens for her doesn’t horrify her. These terrible acts of violence don’t make anyone examine their steadfast beliefs when they really should. Nyx, already a nearly unstoppable super protagonist, has such a fluid definition of “the future” and how he protects it that nothing can stand in his way. When King Regis gives Galahd, Nyx’s hometown, away as part of the peace treaty, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis and Insomnia are safe. When Insomnia’s magical wall falls, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis lives. When Niflheim steals the crystal, King Regis dies, Insomnia falls, and Nyx faces certain death, he still doesn’t care because at least Luna lives and she possesses the Ring of the Lucii. Even if General Glauca took the ring or killed Luna, Nyx probably still wouldn’t care because at least Noctis lives and doesn’t seem to be in danger. Like Luna, Nyx doesn’t have to do anything to save an already safe future. Not even Nyx’s friend Libertus can give him a significant personal or physical conflict. Libertus betrays Lucis to join the rebellion, presumably an organization that wishes to overthrow Regis and replace him with a more people-oriented government. The rebellion doesn’t do anything though. In one scene, Libertus gives them some unspecified information. The next scene related to the rebellion features their leader getting shot in the streets by Niflheim’s army. The film suggests that the rebellion and Libertus help the empire somehow, but Niflheim conquers Insomnia by themselves. Plus, General Glauca, who doubles as captain of the Kingsglaive, already works for Niflheim and likely knows all the information possessed by Libertus and the rebellion. Not even the radio broadcast that Nyx listens to while driving Luna out of the city says what the rebellion did. Nyx pounds the steering wheel angrily at the discovery of Libertus’ betrayal, but when they meet next, Nyx forgives him immediately. Kingsglaive also never defines what makes its obstacles problematic or why the characters must overcome them. Regis, Luna, and Nyx all seem to want to keep Noctis, the future, safe, but he’s outside Insomnia where Regis says it’s safe. Technically, nothing is stopping Niflheim from hunting Noctis down and killing him, but no one threatens to do this. Niflheim doesn’t even seem to care that he’s not in the city even though they specified in the treaty that he marry Luna. We also don’t know Noctis. If he’s anything like his father or ancestors though, he has super powers and doesn’t care about anyone except his next of kin. Why should we want another tyrant to rule the people of Lucis? The film implies that Niflheim is so evil that they can’t be allowed to rule, but honestly, Lucis seems pretty horrible, too. It’s not automatically bad when one kingdom loses power against the military might of another. Would it really be much different or worse if Niflheim ruled? The Kings of Lucis, as revealed by wearing the Ring of the Lucii, seem even more uncaring about their own people than Regis does. The old magic that defends Insomnia even includes destroying the city and killing its citizens. Unlike Lucis, which forces its people to fight a losing war to protect a crystal, a ring, and the next heir to the throne, Niflheim gives people territories in exchange for their help and treats the survivors of Tenebrae decently. A lot of people seem to agree that Niflheim coming into power wouldn’t be so bad. Speaking of the ring, why is it important? Part of the conflict in the final fight scene deals with Nyx and Luna trying to keep the Ring of the Lucii safe from General Glauca. Surrendering it seems to symbolize Lucis’ defeat, but Regis himself doesn’t seem to place much importance in it. Before he dies, he begs Nyx to keep Luna safe. Then, he gives her the ring almost as an afterthought. It doesn’t seem that powerful either. Regis and Nyx use the ring to fight General Glauca. Regis dies, and Nyx barely defeats Glauca before he dies himself. In fact, everyone who uses the ring besides Regis either dies or receives a grievous injury from its power. In death, Regis determines who the ring serves with his fellow prior kings, so of course, a Niflheim ruler will never wield it. Really. Why is it important? Another conflict in the final fight scene as well as most of the conflict throughout the movie deals with keeping Luna safe for equally unspecified reasons. Why is Luna important? Luna suggests that she has some dutiful destiny related to Noctis, but she also says that her life doesn’t matter. Saving Luna just seems like Regis’ vain attempt to make up for letting her home burn while he ran away with his son. Regis kills thousands of people to save Luna and Noctis though, which seems less like making up for the past and more like making an even bigger mistake. This isn’t flattering, considering that Luna’s mother died last time he did this. Luna clearly loves Noctis, and under different circumstances that’d be reason enough for them to be together, but again, we don’t know Noctis. All signs indicate that he’s terrible. Many conflicts in the movie seem like an attempt to create problems that don’t exist and make characters do things when they have nothing to do. The future that half the characters seem so desperate to save, Noctis, seems safe already. Simply placing Noctis in the film, and thus in danger, creates a big problem that can color the characters and the story. For example, Kingsglaive could tell the following tale with Noctis in it, ignoring the events that occur in the game and other media: On his way out of the city, Noctis hears from a traitorous Glaive that Luna didn’t safely escape Tenebrae to meet him and is on her way to Insomnia. Noctis doesn’t understand his father’s blind faith in his destiny nor does he agree with his decision to abandon Luna and Tenebrae twelve years ago. He decides to stay in the city to see Luna to safety himself and meet Niflheim’s terms for peace despite his father’s wishes. He reasons that surely his life doesn’t matter to Niflheim. If they want anything else, it would be the ring and the Crystal, and they can have them as long as the war ends. Unable to convince Noctis that he doesn’t understand and needs to leave, Regis assigns Nyx to be Noctis’ bodyguard. Noctis continues to defy his father by picking Luna up from her Niflheim escort himself (in a sports car of course) with Nyx. The rebellion within Insomnia makes a minor attempt on Noctis’ and Luna’s lives, but they make it back to the castle safely. Unimpressed with Noctis’ show of bravery, Luna reprimands him for remaining in the city and endangering himself. She refuses his affection when Noctis reiterates that he won’t leave and abandon her or his people. On the day of the signing ceremony, traitorous Kingsglaive serving Niflheim kidnap Luna and blame the rebellion, making sure that Noctis and Nyx know about it first. Noctis demands that his father send the Kingsglaive to rescue her, but Regis refuses, wanting to keep the Glaives close to protect his son. In frustration, Noctis runs off to save Luna himself, leaving Regis no choice but to send the Glaives after him. In turn, he leaves himself, the crystal, and the ring vulnerable to attack. He proceeds with the signing ceremony as planned, prepared to sacrifice everything for his son’s safety. Meanwhile, Noctis, Nyx, and the Glaives fight a giant octopus that they find on a ship that looks suspiciously like a Niflheim aircraft to rescue Luna. Members of the Kingsglaive turn on Noctis, and when he and Nyx reach Luna, she warns them of a trap. Noctis realizes that Niflheim tricked him specifically to try to kill him. His father was right, and his hope for peace is naive. The situation gets even worse when Luna, Noctis, and Nyx see Insomnia’s wall falling, enemy ships closing in on the city, and the crystal stolen. They rush back to the castle in time to witness Regis’ death. General Glauca pursues them next to finish the job of crushing Lucis’ last hope. Nyx distracts him while Luna and Noctis escape. Along the way, they are separated. Looking over the ruins of Insomnia, Noctis vows to avenge his father and his people, reclaim his throne, and find Luna. While he still doesn’t understand his own importance, he must ensure that his father’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain. The events of Final Fantasy XV begin. This retelling basically follows Kingsglaive’s existing story, but creates more conflict by adding Prince Noctis. The presence of the prince heightens the potential costs of failure, and the characters’ actions have a greater sense of purpose. Niflheim can destroy or capture every hope that Lucis has, the ring, the crystal, Luna, and Noctis. Lucis could lose all hope for the future instead of some unspecified amount of it. Nyx’s actions and extravagant battles directly relate to protecting Noctis, a character that we can see and understand as opposed to an abstract concept. For fun, the rebellion adds more obstacles and distracts Noctis from his true enemies. To create even more conflicts that help define the characters and the world, Noctis has differing beliefs from his father and Luna. He’s also easier to relate to because he doesn’t fully understand his destiny and all these magical objects either. The greatest losses and violent acts show Noctis his mistakes and motivate him to correct them, which gives them more meaning. They also highlight Niflheim’s cruelty. On Noctis’ insistence, Lucis acts in accordance with Niflheim’s treaty and still the empire destroys Insomnia and attempts to kill Noctis and Luna. The existing story highlights Regis’ cruelty when he defies the peace treaty from the start, sacrifices his people, and doesn’t seem to care. Fifteen years after The Spirits Within, Final Fantasy looks better than ever, but the quality of its storytelling remains about the same. It could have been different though, if only Noctis had stayed. Even if he only plays a minor role, Noctis’ very presence creates a problem that the characters must solve at all costs. He’s the object of his people’s hatred, the son that his father protected over his allies and kingdom. He’s the hope that Niflheim wants to destroy and Regis, Nyx, and Luna must protect. Without him, the characters can only fight over objects and people that may or may not be important and make horrendous sacrifices in pursuit of a nebulous future that may or may not already be safe and may or may not be good. For all of Kingsglaive’s action-packed fight scenes, no one has a battle worth fighting. --- 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
  7. 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?
  8. 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
  9. As someone who reviews CGI movies in her spare time, I frequently watch movies based on games I’ve never played. .hack//G.U. Trilogy, for example, is an adaptation of the three .hack//G.U. video games for PlayStation 2: Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption. Unlike other video game-based movies such as Tekken: Blood Vengeance and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, however, I found Trilogy mostly just frustrating and overwhelming to watch. Every few minutes, from the beginning to the very last scene, the film displays emotionally intense events that have little context or explanation and resolves them by introducing more confusing elements. Centering on Haseo, a player of the fictitious MMORPG The World, Trilogy takes place in the same universe as .hack//Sign and .hack//Beyond the World, but with a different set of characters. Because it relies on the viewer’s knowledge of the games and previous entries in the franchise, including the direct prequel anime series .hack//Roots, some would say that Trilogy was made for fans and doesn’t need to explain itself. Examining Roots and Let’s Plays of the games, however, only makes the movie more infuriating. The film’s loyalty to the games and disregard for explanation and focus turns the .hack//G.U. story into an irritating series of inciting incidents. In terms of narrative structure, an inciting incident establishes the central problem. Without this event, the story would never begin. In The Matrix, for example, the inciting incident occurs when Morpheus decides that Thomas Anderson is the One they’ve been looking for. The rest of the movie shows Morpheus’ struggle to convince Thomas, also known as Neo, of this and to reveal his hidden abilities. In mysteries such as Sherlock Holmes, often the discovery of a dead body incites the protagonist to find the killer. The problem created by the inciting incident helps guide the story and motivate the characters. .hack//G.U. Trilogy tells the story of Haseo, a player of the futuristic MMORPG known as The World. After a mysterious character known as Tri-Edge kills Haseo’s friend Shino in the game, she falls comatose in the real world, and Haseo swears vengeance. During his quest to level up and hunt for Tri-Edge, he attracts the attention of G.U. (which has several meanings). This organization monitors AIDA, a mysterious phenomenon that infects programs and players, causes players to fall comatose in the real world, and wreaks havoc in The World. G.U. believes that Haseo is an Epitaph User, a player with a hidden special ability to fight AIDA. Atoli, a player who uses the same character model as Shino did, also interrupts Haseo’s obsessive quest when she encourages him to stop thinking about the past and to live in the present. At the same time, Ovan, a friend who disappeared shortly before Tri-Edge killed Shino, returns to ensure that Haseo carries out his revenge for Ovan’s own purposes. Shino’s murder in The World and resulting comatose state outside of the game would seem to be the inciting incident that motivates Haseo’s quest to save her and confront their mutual friend Ovan for causing her strange coma. Like the .hack entries that preceded it, however, Trilogy refuses to face this conflict directly, instead cluttering the story with unimportant details and events. While the games and the anime somewhat get away with it, an hour and a half long movie that condenses 60+ hours of gameplay can’t afford to waste time on clutter. The resulting film not only proceeds through seemingly random and dramatic events with no apparent connection to the main conflict at a hectic pace, but also accentuates the plot holes, irrelevant details, and weak characters in the games. The games introduced Atoli to help Haseo overcome his unhealthy obsessions, but Trilogy instead renders her as a weak and needy supporting character who derails the pacing with an elaborate explanation of the cliché backstory she had in the games. The film includes, but fails to adequately explain, several other elements from the games, including the characters’ special powers and even the locations the action takes place in, which further distracts from the story and adds to its chaotic pace. The movie tops off the confusion by introducing a new character to resolve the story, which avoids explaining the characters who are actually important to the conflict and who the audience already doesn’t understand. In the games and the movie, Atoli teaches Haseo acceptance and forgiveness, but in the movie particularly, she also confuses his character and distracts from his goals. Six months after Shino’s in-game death, Haseo has driven himself mad with his quest for revenge. To find information on Tri-Edge’s whereabouts, he has resorted to killing anyone who may be associated with Shino’s killer or even player killing. He plays The World only to gain strength and defeat Tri-Edge. He treats everyone else with contempt and disinterest. Given that Haseo spends most of the movie screaming, laughing manically, shaking, and physically transforming into a monster, a character like Atoli can help the audience relate to him. Unfortunately, Haseo’s friendship with Atoli is forced and unbelievable. As a high school student in the real world, Atoli has been rejected by her peers as a useless annoyance. She escapes to The World to find something better and happens to run into Haseo when he mistakes her for Shino. To prove her usefulness, she resolves to help him for no reason other than he looks sad. Haseo gives her absolutely no encouragement. In the two scenes between Haseo and Atoli in the first half of the movie, Haseo ignores her, blows her off, or shouts at her. Somehow Atoli doesn’t get the hint from this abusive stranger, and other characters even state that they seem to like each other even though little visual evidence supports this claim. Haseo’s attitude changes for no reason in the middle of the movie when, desperate to gain his affection after he yells at her, Atoli disappears to search for Tri-Edge herself. When Haseo finds her, he seems genuinely concerned for her even though he’s still shown no great interest in anyone or anything other than Shino, Ovan, and Tri-Edge until this point. Atoli further distracts from an important plot point in Haseo’s quest when she hijacks fifteen minutes of screen time to explain her backstory in a ridiculous and disruptive way. For the first half of the movie, Haseo believes that he must defeat Tri-Edge in order to save Shino. He actually does defeat Tri-Edge… immediately before The World transforms from an MMORPG into an abstract interactive art piece representing Atoli’s brain. “Wait!” Haseo shouts as Tri-Edge disintegrates. “Tell me how to return Shino to the way she was!” Wordlessly, Tri-Edge explodes into a thousand pieces and disappears. Haseo’s one hope for saving Shino is gone. The battle that he trained for months to win has gained him nothing. Out of clues, he curses… indifferently. Then, he turns to Atoli and continues a sentimental conversation they started before the fight began as if nothing happened. Seconds later, AIDA pops out of a set of nearby lockers and attacks Atoli. This attack sends her consciousness into an abstract representation of her own psychological state, voices of abusive classmates and all. To save her, Haseo must travel into her brain and convince her that he genuinely cares about her. He succeeds as part of a ridiculous, mid-movie, romantic music video… WHAT!? Not only does this sequence fail to convey any useful information, but it really couldn’t convince anyone that they have a healthy or sensible relationship. Atoli plays a similar role in the three PlayStation 2 games, but her friendship with Haseo has more time to develop naturally. In-game, Haseo begins as an angry, single-minded, and cold but secretly caring person rather than an insane one. While initially he finds Atoli annoying for what she believes, he tolerates her because of her usefulness as a healing support character. These factors make it easier to believe that Haseo eventually becomes friends with her even though initially she still has no business getting involved with him. Later, Atoli runs off to find Tri-Edge when she discovers that she looks like Shino and accuses Haseo of keeping her around only to look at her. She wants Haseo to see her as Atoli, not Shino, and praise her for helping him. By this point, Haseo considers her a friend, but hasn’t expressed it, and chases her to explain himself. The battle with Tri-Edge still cuts awkwardly into their conversation and ends with equally bizarre indifference from Haseo, but at least he has a reason for being sentimental. While Haseo must still travel into Atoli’s brain in the second game to save her from her somewhat cliché, tragic school girl backstory, the player has more and better reasons to sympathize with her. This event also doesn’t disrupt the flow of the story. Epitaphs also appear in the movie as overcomplicated clutter. In the games, which told a much grander tale, Epitaphs served as an important part of the combat system. Haseo, Shino, and Ovan, among a select few others, have an emotional connection to an Epitaph in The World. This gives them the ability to summon their Epitaph, a monster-like being that can fight AIDA with an ability known as “data drain.” In the movie, Epitaph Users receive a much simpler explanation: they are the only characters capable of fighting AIDA. Epitaphs and their user’s special abilities receive no explanation. The film doesn’t appear to need Epitaphs to tell its story, which justifies this simple explanation. It easily avoids using terms such as “data drain” without losing the audience’s ability to believe that Epitaph Users can defeat AIDA. Also, some battles that were originally Epitaph-centric in the games, such as Haseo’s fight with Atoli or his fight with Ovan, feature simpler combat between the characters and achieve the same effect. Finally, Haseo, Atoli, and Ovan all display special abilities that they use to fight AIDA without having to display their Epitaphs. Despite the abridged explanation, however, Epitaphs and Epitaph Users remain important to the combat and crucial to understanding the movie. Ultimately, they only add to the film’s chaos. While some fight scenes seem to acknowledge that they can’t assume the audience knows anything about Epitaphs, other fight scenes feature full-blown Epitaph battles with jarring Epitaph summonings. Imagine a movie about a fantasy RPG where half an hour into it one of the characters screams “Skeith!” without being prompted and finds himself in space with a giant monster. If this hypothetical movie has a clear setting and logical flow of actions until this point, such an event would seem random. In Trilogy’s case, an event like this comes off as yet another crazy and unexplained thing that happens. The movie doesn’t define Epitaph Users well enough to outline their abilities or limitations. Obviously, Epitaph Users summon Epitaphs, but Haseo, Ovan, and Atoli also have other strange abilities. For example, Haseo’s appearance changes with his sanity, starting from human-looking and ending as a three-tailed monster with claws. He also demonstrates the ability to fly and “fuse” with Atoli’s character. When upset, Atoli transforms into a monster. Ovan shows that he can fuse with AIDA and reset the entire game. Is that part of being an Epitaph User? Can all Epitaph Users do that? Can all players do that? What else can they do? What can’t they do? Without set limitations, it seems that they can do any random thing. Trilogy also fails to adequately explain the setting, which was also a problem, if less evident, in the games. About two-thirds of the movie take place in spaces that don’t resemble anything in an MMORPG. This includes a giant, white room that contains a single set of lockers; another giant, white room that contains books, a chair, and a little girl; and an infinitely high room of floating squares. What do these places represent in an online fantasy game? Battles between Epitaphs in the games and the movie also take place in voids of colors or darkness. The film makes no attempt to explain any of these spaces. The games explain the locations where Epitaph battles take place as alternate dimensions, but in a video game, what does that even mean? The games still make more sense than the movie, however, because in between levels that take place in these strange locations, players return to the normal RPG world and regain their sense of place. On the other hand, characters in Trilogy often move from one void to the next. The confusing elements and distractions continue until the end of the movie when the story resolves itself by introducing a new character who seems to exist for the sole purpose of motivating Ovan. In the final scenes, Ovan reveals that he killed Shino to anger Haseo into unlocking his true powers. He needs Haseo to be strong enough to kill him and save his sister Aina, another comatose victim of AIDA. Ovan accidently put her into a coma when AIDA infected and fused with him, causing him to attack her when he lost control. After explaining himself, Ovan kills Atoli to give Haseo the last push he needs to show his full rage and potential. In the final fight scene, Haseo kills Ovan and saves Shino, Atoli, and Aina. Haseo can’t accept Ovan’s betrayal and knows that Shino and Aina wouldn’t be happy without him though. He decides to travel to the depths of The World to retrieve Ovan. These events take place over most of the third game, but viewers unfamiliar with the games will likely find this convoluted narrative to be as ridiculous and difficult to follow as it sounds during the half hour the movie spends on it. Aina introduces an interesting idea, but even so, remains an unnecessary addition to the story. After Haseo kills Ovan, banishing him to the depths of The World, he wonders why Ovan would sacrifice himself for Shino and Aina when someone so close to them is now gone. At the end of the movie, Haseo reveals he and Shino are only somewhat distant friends. He also doesn’t know Aina. The audience, too, knows very little about Shino and Aina. Literally, the only person who really cares about them is Ovan. Perhaps this helps motivate Haseo’s decision to save him despite the six months of anguish Ovan made him endure. Aina doesn’t need to exist to show this idea though. The same purpose could be fulfilled with just Shino, if Ovan accidently killed her after he was infected with AIDA. This alternative telling still comments on the characters who really matter without introducing some random girl. The remnants from the games that don’t need to be in the movie, such as Atoli’s freak out, Epitaphs, the strange settings, and Aina, overall take away from the short hour and a half the movie has to explain the bare story of .hack//G.U. This is unfortunate because Haseo, Ovan, and Shino have the most interesting and human relationships in the movie. In the one scene between them in the first half of the film, Ovan reveals the humanity beneath Haseo’s tough exterior far better than Atoli ever does. Haseo hasn’t seen Ovan in six months. Ever since his mysterious disappearance, the guild Ovan founded fell apart, leaving Shino and Haseo distraught; Shino went into a coma; and Haseo went mad. In the midst of demanding why Ovan left him and Shino when they needed him most, Haseo looks at his hands as if horrified by what he’s become. It would seem that Haseo’s love for Shino has driven him to madness, but in a twist at the end of the movie, if he ever had such affection for her, he doesn’t show it. He even suggests that Shino treasures Ovan more than Haseo. Shino thanks Haseo for saving her but also keeps her distance. It appears that love didn’t drive his obsession, as one would expect. Loyalty to his friends did. All previous entries in the .hack//G.U. franchise also surround the story of these characters in distraction and fluff. The prequel anime series .hack//Roots spends some time explaining how Haseo, Shino, and Ovan became friends, how Shino died, and Haseo’s descent into madness. Half of the episodes, however, contain no content except for a large cast of supporting characters worrying about Haseo and not knowing what to do with themselves. The final episode ends on a cliffhanger with Haseo making an astonishing recovery immediately before the content in the first game begins. The games’ complicated tale features eight Epitaph Users, a large cast of memorable side characters, a plethora of tedious and enlightening side quests, and a main storyline that often revolves around fighting in tournaments. Despite the dozens of hours of gameplay, however, the games spend little time on Shino, Ovan, and Haseo’s relationship or the events that inspired Haseo’s quest to gain strength and defeat Tri-Edge in the first place. Even though all this extra content has memorable moments, the stories of the characters at the center of the series are left somewhat buried, unsatisfying and incomplete. .hack//G.U. Trilogy had the opportunity to tell Ovan, Haseo, and Shino’s story in a complete and concise way but failed even more spectacularly than the anime or the games did. Atoli should help Haseo accept, forgive, and grow up, but instead, the movie highlights what makes her a weak, needy, and clichéd character in the video games. Epitaphs served as part of the games’ combat system, but they only clutter and confuse the story when it can be told just as easily without them. Like Epitaphs, the strange, unexplained settings and Aina also overly complicate the story and hide its most interesting elements. By failing to focus on the central conflict, Trilogy loses the ideas that make the .hack//G.U. story great and clutters itself with so much irrelevant content that it resembles a series of random, traumatic, and inciting incidents. --- 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
  10. As someone who reviews CGI movies in her spare time, I frequently watch movies based on games I’ve never played. .hack//G.U. Trilogy, for example, is an adaptation of the three .hack//G.U. video games for PlayStation 2: Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption. Unlike other video game-based movies such as Tekken: Blood Vengeance and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, however, I found Trilogy mostly just frustrating and overwhelming to watch. Every few minutes, from the beginning to the very last scene, the film displays emotionally intense events that have little context or explanation and resolves them by introducing more confusing elements. Centering on Haseo, a player of the fictitious MMORPG The World, Trilogy takes place in the same universe as .hack//Sign and .hack//Beyond the World, but with a different set of characters. Because it relies on the viewer’s knowledge of the games and previous entries in the franchise, including the direct prequel anime series .hack//Roots, some would say that Trilogy was made for fans and doesn’t need to explain itself. Examining Roots and Let’s Plays of the games, however, only makes the movie more infuriating. The film’s loyalty to the games and disregard for explanation and focus turns the .hack//G.U. story into an irritating series of inciting incidents. In terms of narrative structure, an inciting incident establishes the central problem. Without this event, the story would never begin. In The Matrix, for example, the inciting incident occurs when Morpheus decides that Thomas Anderson is the One they’ve been looking for. The rest of the movie shows Morpheus’ struggle to convince Thomas, also known as Neo, of this and to reveal his hidden abilities. In mysteries such as Sherlock Holmes, often the discovery of a dead body incites the protagonist to find the killer. The problem created by the inciting incident helps guide the story and motivate the characters. .hack//G.U. Trilogy tells the story of Haseo, a player of the futuristic MMORPG known as The World. After a mysterious character known as Tri-Edge kills Haseo’s friend Shino in the game, she falls comatose in the real world, and Haseo swears vengeance. During his quest to level up and hunt for Tri-Edge, he attracts the attention of G.U. (which has several meanings). This organization monitors AIDA, a mysterious phenomenon that infects programs and players, causes players to fall comatose in the real world, and wreaks havoc in The World. G.U. believes that Haseo is an Epitaph User, a player with a hidden special ability to fight AIDA. Atoli, a player who uses the same character model as Shino did, also interrupts Haseo’s obsessive quest when she encourages him to stop thinking about the past and to live in the present. At the same time, Ovan, a friend who disappeared shortly before Tri-Edge killed Shino, returns to ensure that Haseo carries out his revenge for Ovan’s own purposes. Shino’s murder in The World and resulting comatose state outside of the game would seem to be the inciting incident that motivates Haseo’s quest to save her and confront their mutual friend Ovan for causing her strange coma. Like the .hack entries that preceded it, however, Trilogy refuses to face this conflict directly, instead cluttering the story with unimportant details and events. While the games and the anime somewhat get away with it, an hour and a half long movie that condenses 60+ hours of gameplay can’t afford to waste time on clutter. The resulting film not only proceeds through seemingly random and dramatic events with no apparent connection to the main conflict at a hectic pace, but also accentuates the plot holes, irrelevant details, and weak characters in the games. The games introduced Atoli to help Haseo overcome his unhealthy obsessions, but Trilogy instead renders her as a weak and needy supporting character who derails the pacing with an elaborate explanation of the cliché backstory she had in the games. The film includes, but fails to adequately explain, several other elements from the games, including the characters’ special powers and even the locations the action takes place in, which further distracts from the story and adds to its chaotic pace. The movie tops off the confusion by introducing a new character to resolve the story, which avoids explaining the characters who are actually important to the conflict and who the audience already doesn’t understand. In the games and the movie, Atoli teaches Haseo acceptance and forgiveness, but in the movie particularly, she also confuses his character and distracts from his goals. Six months after Shino’s in-game death, Haseo has driven himself mad with his quest for revenge. To find information on Tri-Edge’s whereabouts, he has resorted to killing anyone who may be associated with Shino’s killer or even player killing. He plays The World only to gain strength and defeat Tri-Edge. He treats everyone else with contempt and disinterest. Given that Haseo spends most of the movie screaming, laughing manically, shaking, and physically transforming into a monster, a character like Atoli can help the audience relate to him. Unfortunately, Haseo’s friendship with Atoli is forced and unbelievable. As a high school student in the real world, Atoli has been rejected by her peers as a useless annoyance. She escapes to The World to find something better and happens to run into Haseo when he mistakes her for Shino. To prove her usefulness, she resolves to help him for no reason other than he looks sad. Haseo gives her absolutely no encouragement. In the two scenes between Haseo and Atoli in the first half of the movie, Haseo ignores her, blows her off, or shouts at her. Somehow Atoli doesn’t get the hint from this abusive stranger, and other characters even state that they seem to like each other even though little visual evidence supports this claim. Haseo’s attitude changes for no reason in the middle of the movie when, desperate to gain his affection after he yells at her, Atoli disappears to search for Tri-Edge herself. When Haseo finds her, he seems genuinely concerned for her even though he’s still shown no great interest in anyone or anything other than Shino, Ovan, and Tri-Edge until this point. Atoli further distracts from an important plot point in Haseo’s quest when she hijacks fifteen minutes of screen time to explain her backstory in a ridiculous and disruptive way. For the first half of the movie, Haseo believes that he must defeat Tri-Edge in order to save Shino. He actually does defeat Tri-Edge… immediately before The World transforms from an MMORPG into an abstract interactive art piece representing Atoli’s brain. “Wait!” Haseo shouts as Tri-Edge disintegrates. “Tell me how to return Shino to the way she was!” Wordlessly, Tri-Edge explodes into a thousand pieces and disappears. Haseo’s one hope for saving Shino is gone. The battle that he trained for months to win has gained him nothing. Out of clues, he curses… indifferently. Then, he turns to Atoli and continues a sentimental conversation they started before the fight began as if nothing happened. Seconds later, AIDA pops out of a set of nearby lockers and attacks Atoli. This attack sends her consciousness into an abstract representation of her own psychological state, voices of abusive classmates and all. To save her, Haseo must travel into her brain and convince her that he genuinely cares about her. He succeeds as part of a ridiculous, mid-movie, romantic music video… WHAT!? Not only does this sequence fail to convey any useful information, but it really couldn’t convince anyone that they have a healthy or sensible relationship. Atoli plays a similar role in the three PlayStation 2 games, but her friendship with Haseo has more time to develop naturally. In-game, Haseo begins as an angry, single-minded, and cold but secretly caring person rather than an insane one. While initially he finds Atoli annoying for what she believes, he tolerates her because of her usefulness as a healing support character. These factors make it easier to believe that Haseo eventually becomes friends with her even though initially she still has no business getting involved with him. Later, Atoli runs off to find Tri-Edge when she discovers that she looks like Shino and accuses Haseo of keeping her around only to look at her. She wants Haseo to see her as Atoli, not Shino, and praise her for helping him. By this point, Haseo considers her a friend, but hasn’t expressed it, and chases her to explain himself. The battle with Tri-Edge still cuts awkwardly into their conversation and ends with equally bizarre indifference from Haseo, but at least he has a reason for being sentimental. While Haseo must still travel into Atoli’s brain in the second game to save her from her somewhat cliché, tragic school girl backstory, the player has more and better reasons to sympathize with her. This event also doesn’t disrupt the flow of the story. Epitaphs also appear in the movie as overcomplicated clutter. In the games, which told a much grander tale, Epitaphs served as an important part of the combat system. Haseo, Shino, and Ovan, among a select few others, have an emotional connection to an Epitaph in The World. This gives them the ability to summon their Epitaph, a monster-like being that can fight AIDA with an ability known as “data drain.” In the movie, Epitaph Users receive a much simpler explanation: they are the only characters capable of fighting AIDA. Epitaphs and their user’s special abilities receive no explanation. The film doesn’t appear to need Epitaphs to tell its story, which justifies this simple explanation. It easily avoids using terms such as “data drain” without losing the audience’s ability to believe that Epitaph Users can defeat AIDA. Also, some battles that were originally Epitaph-centric in the games, such as Haseo’s fight with Atoli or his fight with Ovan, feature simpler combat between the characters and achieve the same effect. Finally, Haseo, Atoli, and Ovan all display special abilities that they use to fight AIDA without having to display their Epitaphs. Despite the abridged explanation, however, Epitaphs and Epitaph Users remain important to the combat and crucial to understanding the movie. Ultimately, they only add to the film’s chaos. While some fight scenes seem to acknowledge that they can’t assume the audience knows anything about Epitaphs, other fight scenes feature full-blown Epitaph battles with jarring Epitaph summonings. Imagine a movie about a fantasy RPG where half an hour into it one of the characters screams “Skeith!” without being prompted and finds himself in space with a giant monster. If this hypothetical movie has a clear setting and logical flow of actions until this point, such an event would seem random. In Trilogy’s case, an event like this comes off as yet another crazy and unexplained thing that happens. The movie doesn’t define Epitaph Users well enough to outline their abilities or limitations. Obviously, Epitaph Users summon Epitaphs, but Haseo, Ovan, and Atoli also have other strange abilities. For example, Haseo’s appearance changes with his sanity, starting from human-looking and ending as a three-tailed monster with claws. He also demonstrates the ability to fly and “fuse” with Atoli’s character. When upset, Atoli transforms into a monster. Ovan shows that he can fuse with AIDA and reset the entire game. Is that part of being an Epitaph User? Can all Epitaph Users do that? Can all players do that? What else can they do? What can’t they do? Without set limitations, it seems that they can do any random thing. Trilogy also fails to adequately explain the setting, which was also a problem, if less evident, in the games. About two-thirds of the movie take place in spaces that don’t resemble anything in an MMORPG. This includes a giant, white room that contains a single set of lockers; another giant, white room that contains books, a chair, and a little girl; and an infinitely high room of floating squares. What do these places represent in an online fantasy game? Battles between Epitaphs in the games and the movie also take place in voids of colors or darkness. The film makes no attempt to explain any of these spaces. The games explain the locations where Epitaph battles take place as alternate dimensions, but in a video game, what does that even mean? The games still make more sense than the movie, however, because in between levels that take place in these strange locations, players return to the normal RPG world and regain their sense of place. On the other hand, characters in Trilogy often move from one void to the next. The confusing elements and distractions continue until the end of the movie when the story resolves itself by introducing a new character who seems to exist for the sole purpose of motivating Ovan. In the final scenes, Ovan reveals that he killed Shino to anger Haseo into unlocking his true powers. He needs Haseo to be strong enough to kill him and save his sister Aina, another comatose victim of AIDA. Ovan accidently put her into a coma when AIDA infected and fused with him, causing him to attack her when he lost control. After explaining himself, Ovan kills Atoli to give Haseo the last push he needs to show his full rage and potential. In the final fight scene, Haseo kills Ovan and saves Shino, Atoli, and Aina. Haseo can’t accept Ovan’s betrayal and knows that Shino and Aina wouldn’t be happy without him though. He decides to travel to the depths of The World to retrieve Ovan. These events take place over most of the third game, but viewers unfamiliar with the games will likely find this convoluted narrative to be as ridiculous and difficult to follow as it sounds during the half hour the movie spends on it. Aina introduces an interesting idea, but even so, remains an unnecessary addition to the story. After Haseo kills Ovan, banishing him to the depths of The World, he wonders why Ovan would sacrifice himself for Shino and Aina when someone so close to them is now gone. At the end of the movie, Haseo reveals he and Shino are only somewhat distant friends. He also doesn’t know Aina. The audience, too, knows very little about Shino and Aina. Literally, the only person who really cares about them is Ovan. Perhaps this helps motivate Haseo’s decision to save him despite the six months of anguish Ovan made him endure. Aina doesn’t need to exist to show this idea though. The same purpose could be fulfilled with just Shino, if Ovan accidently killed her after he was infected with AIDA. This alternative telling still comments on the characters who really matter without introducing some random girl. The remnants from the games that don’t need to be in the movie, such as Atoli’s freak out, Epitaphs, the strange settings, and Aina, overall take away from the short hour and a half the movie has to explain the bare story of .hack//G.U. This is unfortunate because Haseo, Ovan, and Shino have the most interesting and human relationships in the movie. In the one scene between them in the first half of the film, Ovan reveals the humanity beneath Haseo’s tough exterior far better than Atoli ever does. Haseo hasn’t seen Ovan in six months. Ever since his mysterious disappearance, the guild Ovan founded fell apart, leaving Shino and Haseo distraught; Shino went into a coma; and Haseo went mad. In the midst of demanding why Ovan left him and Shino when they needed him most, Haseo looks at his hands as if horrified by what he’s become. It would seem that Haseo’s love for Shino has driven him to madness, but in a twist at the end of the movie, if he ever had such affection for her, he doesn’t show it. He even suggests that Shino treasures Ovan more than Haseo. Shino thanks Haseo for saving her but also keeps her distance. It appears that love didn’t drive his obsession, as one would expect. Loyalty to his friends did. All previous entries in the .hack//G.U. franchise also surround the story of these characters in distraction and fluff. The prequel anime series .hack//Roots spends some time explaining how Haseo, Shino, and Ovan became friends, how Shino died, and Haseo’s descent into madness. Half of the episodes, however, contain no content except for a large cast of supporting characters worrying about Haseo and not knowing what to do with themselves. The final episode ends on a cliffhanger with Haseo making an astonishing recovery immediately before the content in the first game begins. The games’ complicated tale features eight Epitaph Users, a large cast of memorable side characters, a plethora of tedious and enlightening side quests, and a main storyline that often revolves around fighting in tournaments. Despite the dozens of hours of gameplay, however, the games spend little time on Shino, Ovan, and Haseo’s relationship or the events that inspired Haseo’s quest to gain strength and defeat Tri-Edge in the first place. Even though all this extra content has memorable moments, the stories of the characters at the center of the series are left somewhat buried, unsatisfying and incomplete. .hack//G.U. Trilogy had the opportunity to tell Ovan, Haseo, and Shino’s story in a complete and concise way but failed even more spectacularly than the anime or the games did. Atoli should help Haseo accept, forgive, and grow up, but instead, the movie highlights what makes her a weak, needy, and clichéd character in the video games. Epitaphs served as part of the games’ combat system, but they only clutter and confuse the story when it can be told just as easily without them. Like Epitaphs, the strange, unexplained settings and Aina also overly complicate the story and hide its most interesting elements. By failing to focus on the central conflict, Trilogy loses the ideas that make the .hack//G.U. story great and clutters itself with so much irrelevant content that it resembles a series of random, traumatic, and inciting incidents. --- 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!
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