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Found 4 results

  1. 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?
  2. 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
  3. I always took it for granted that I couldn’t defend my illogical love for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I didn’t even complete a Final Fantasy game until after I saw Advent Children. I was an aspiring writer with a guilty pleasure; I enjoyed a movie that had a nonsense plot and weak characters. Half the Internet labeled me a fangirl, pining after meaningless action scenes, technology porn, effeminate men in black leather, and an emo protagonist. The other half of the Internet, however, loved the movie as much as I did, but no one could defend why, besides citing its obviously spectacular visuals, action, and music. Then, in 2013, I asked myself, “Why do I like Advent Children?” It had been my favorite movie for eight years. I’d just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media arts. Five years of studying filmmaking and films praised as the greatest ever made had failed to dislodge a video game-based, action movie from its prestigious place in my mind. In the wake of Avatar, Pixar movies, films receiving rave reviews, Advent Children remained. The nostalgia glasses, if they even existed, refused to fall off. After all this, I wondered why I should continue to accept that Advent Children didn’t mean anything. I began a journey of self-discovery to find the most action-packed, realistic, adult, and oddball movies CGI had to offer. Even before Advent Children, computer animation had fascinated me. As a kid, I watched A Bug’s Life repeatedly until I could recite every line. I loved pre-rendered video game cutscenes particularly from the Oddworld series. Surely, if I liked Advent Children only for the graphics, I should like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. If I liked its action and PG-13 rating, then I should like Beowulf. If I liked its originality, then I should like a CGI movie with an original story like Vexille. From the mainstream 9, The Polar Express, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to the lesser known Elysium, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and Kaena: The Prophecy to the cell-shaded Japanese imports Appleseed and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, I’ve watched them all, as many as I could find. While I found each of them beautiful in their own way, none of them affected me as profoundly as Advent Children had. I began tearing them apart to figure out how they worked or didn’t work. Each film taught me a little more about Advent Children until I finally understood it. Contrary to what almost every reviewer says, Advent Children contains a complete and masterfully told story; its greatest weakness and greatest strength lies in subtlety. As an action movie, Advent Children builds its world, develops its characters, and tells its story with action. Believe it or not, its stunning cinematography and fight scenes contain a wealth of information in addition to looking flashy. The film’s visuals and short but to-the-point dialog contain everything we need to know to understand the story and characters. As expected, this visual and minimalist storytelling requires the viewer’s attention. Fortunately, its beautiful artwork encourages multiple viewings to absorb the details. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Advent Children often result in critics prematurely discarding it and unfairly describing it. Non-fans of Final Fantasy VII discard it as incomprehensible on the assumption that the story exists in the game or not at all when it is really in the frame. Fans discard it without examining its merits because it sequels a story that didn’t need one or has too much or not enough fan service. A film based in the Final Fantasy VII universe must exist solely for fans. An action movie that defies physics must not have any rules. This film is a visual spectacle; therefore, it must not contain thoughtful content. Advent Children is just an unrealistic cartoon that shouldn’t be treated seriously. In truth, Advent Children defies the stereotypes of every label applied to it: fan service film, video game movie, photorealistic CGI, cartoon CGI, action movie, original science-fiction story, etc. The film is all of these things and none of them. It achieves something completely unique that has never been done so well by any other CGI movie. It tells a dark, thoughtful, and human story with computer graphics. Advent Children is a work of art disguised and discarded as fan service. At a glance, Advent Children appears to have spectacular action, emo characters, and no sensible plot, but closer examination reveals the film’s universal story and devastatingly human characters. Reviewers say that Advent Children’s convoluted, nonsense plot exists only to tie together its action scenes and that only Final Fantasy VII fans can understand it. While the story that defines Advent Children’s setting is somewhat complex and heavy with Final Fantasy VII concepts, the protagonist’s story isn’t, and the movie provides enough details that anyone can follow along. Two years ago, a super soldier named Sephiroth attempted to destroy the planet as revenge for the experiments that made him. The Shinra Power Company created him among a special group of warriors known as SOLDIER to defend itself against rebels who disagreed with their transformation of the planet’s life force, known as the Lifestream, into energy. To give them strength, Shinra infected its warriors with the cells of Jenova, an alien being that caused a catastrophe long ago. A group of rebels, the film’s protagonist Cloud among them, and the Lifestream itself managed to stop Sephiroth, but two years later, not all is well. A terminal illness called geostigma sweeps through the population, and three mysterious figures, Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, appear. Their leader Kadaj reveals that those with geostigma inherited Jenova’s power and will to destroy the planet just as Sephiroth did. Kadaj claims that they need cells from Jenova’s remains to fulfill this prophecy, and he believes that Shinra holds them in their possession. Since the destruction of Shira’s power plant, only its president Rufus and a handful of employees, Reno, Rude, Elena, and Tseung, remain. When Rufus refuses to cooperate, the search for Jenova, which Kadaj and his brothers call Mother, turns to a monument erected by Shinra. Using materia, spheres forged in the Lifestream that allow users to perform magic, Kadaj summons a monster called Bahamut to destroy the monument. After they search the rubble to no avail, Rufus reveals that he holds the remains in his personal possession. He finds the periodic cycle of attempts to destroy the planet amusing because they all inevitably fail. To taunt Kadaj, he tosses the remains away. Kadaj manages to save some of the cells and uses them to become Sephiroth reincarnate. This may sound like something only the most dedicated of Final Fantasy VII fans would care about, but like the convoluted plots of most Final Fantasy games, this alien story serves as the setting for a much more human tale. Despite fighting alongside those who saved the world two years ago, the protagonist Cloud can’t forget the people who died along the way, especially his mentor Zack and his friend Aerith. He made a promise to Zack that he would live out both their lives, and he wants to make up for his failure to protect Aerith. But now it seems that he will not be able to do either. After contracting geostigma, Cloud retreats from his friends and makeshift family, believing that he will die as a worthless person. He can’t even save his foster son Denzel, who has also contracted the disease. Yazoo and Loz interrupt Cloud’s plans for a quiet death when they attack him out of nowhere. Shinra also offers him an opportunity to help them deal with the three violent teenagers. Initially, Cloud refuses, remembering the company’s questionable business practices, but he’s eventually forced into the conflict when the trio kidnaps Denzel and his friend’s daughter Marlene. Cloud’s attempt to free them ends in failure, but Marlene manages to escape. After receiving a lecture from Marlene and his friends Tifa and Vincent, Cloud formally decides to make an effort to live and seek forgiveness. In response to his newfound determination, Aerith, who has become a god-like being in the afterlife, reveals to him the cure for geostigma, water infused with the Lifestream. The fight to stop Kadaj’s malevolent plot goes well until Cloud finds himself again alone and facing the worst of his past: Sephiroth. Thoughts of those he wishes to protect, however, empower him to finish the fight and save the world. In the end, surrounded by the people he’s saved, Cloud accepts the opportunity to heal his foster son’s geostigma himself. Yes, Advent Children is about a guy struggling to process his past and find his place in the present, but herein lies the major source of discontent about the film’s characters. Many people complain about the film’s focus on Cloud, his angst-ridden teenager personality, and the lack of development or presence of other characters from the game or otherwise. These complaints have some merit, but as is, Cloud’s surprisingly human character colors the entire film, its characters, its themes, and its battles. Cloud is a fascinating choice of protagonist particularly for a CGI action movie, a medium proliferated with seemingly invincible protagonists that can’t even be hindered by their own supposed weaknesses. Cloud is beyond physically strong as expected but otherwise incredibly flawed. He’s mentally scarred, physically ill, easily exhausted, and emotionally distraught. These problems constantly plague him in his fight to save himself and the world. Images from his past haunt him, pain and exhaustion collapses him, and fear alienates him. He saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. He can jump super high and wield swords as tall and wide as himself, but a gun shot and a stab wound threaten to kill him at the end of the movie. Forget about fighting the bad guys; he struggles to find the strength to fight. Cloud possesses inhuman abilities but retains human weaknesses. Cloud evokes real life mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. He saved the world and no one blames him for the people who died, but he still sees himself as a failure. Despite his physical strength, he doubts his fighting abilities. Like people with depression, Cloud rejects or fails to internalize his successes and good qualities. He lives in a world that doesn’t need soldiers anymore, but he operates a delivery service with a motorcycle that has built-in sword racks as if the fight two years ago never ended. Intrusive flashbacks of enemies he once fought and people he lost plague him. These symptoms seem like PTSD. Aerith watches over him as a god-like presence and persistent reassurance that everything will be okay. He’s surrounded by friends who adore him and want to help him. But Cloud remains afraid that someone else will die and uncertain in his abilities like someone with anxiety or OCD, who can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. He chooses loneliness and death at the start of the movie because he’s tired of hurting and doesn’t believe that anyone should care about him. Tifa and Marlene’s frustration with him mirrors the frustration and helplessness felt by loved ones of the mentally ill. Despite the fantastical world that Cloud lives in, he faces some of the most devastating and common of human problems. Cloud doesn’t just experience sadness and anxiety though. Like most people with or without mental illness, he experiences a range of emotions like embarrassment, happiness, frustration, cockiness, impatience, disgust, relief, and determination. Cloud feels and talks about sadness and anxiety most often, but emotes much more when he deals with enemies, particularly in the heat of battle. This makes sense. Enemies pose a physical threat that Cloud knows how to handle. To varying degrees of success, he can fight physical problems to escape his seemingly unsolvable inner torment. Sometimes fighting only makes him more scared, but when it works, he can feel something other than sadness and fear. Cloud snarls angrily when Loz taunts him. He smiles cockily when his friends let him deal with Kadaj alone. He squints in disgust when Reno mentions resurrecting Shinra. He grimaces with determination as he and Kadaj slide down a rocky hill, but when he slides to a stop and Kadaj pulls ahead, his face returns to a moody frown. The reaction shots in the film round out Cloud as a person. By melding its somewhat convoluted geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth plot with Cloud’s story, the film invites interpretation. For me, much of it is about mental illness, which I’ve dealt with most of my life. Kadaj and Cloud explore methods of coping with mental illness. In the beginning of the movie, Cloud chooses to hide his pain and isolate himself from others. Meanwhile, Kadaj, a child damaged and angry from love he never received, chooses to inflict his pain on others and seek companionship. Under the guise that he will heal them, Kadaj seeks out orphans infected with Jenova cells, the closest that he can get to his Mother. He instead indoctrinates them with his own hatred for the world. As the movie progresses, Cloud decides to face his pain in the hopes of healing and reunite with his friends. Kadaj allows his pain to control him and seeks isolation. While Cloud allows Aerith and his friends to heal and strengthen him, Kadaj rejects healing and embraces his pain, seeking solitude with Jenova’s dead remains. Eventually, he allows his hatred to consume him and becomes Sephiroth, a murderer as opposed to a mere torturer. Ultimately, Cloud chooses to live, and Kadaj chooses to die. For most of the movie, Cloud appears to always be alone while Kadaj bares the appearance that he always has company, but this doesn’t reflect their true states. In every scene, the audience sees Cloud listening to his friends over the phone, receiving divine assistance from Aerith, or accepting help and support from his allies. He feels alone, but he’s never really alone. It takes him most of the film to realize this himself. Meanwhile, Kadaj surrounds himself with children who obey his will, hostages who ultimately betray him, and dead alien remains. Despite all his talk about family, Kadaj wants to be his Mother’s only child and is essentially always alone with only himself for friendly company. Even when he’s with Loz and Yazoo, the three of them comprise the remnants of one person: Sephiroth. Only at the end of the film do we see Kadaj as alone as he is in reality. Other themes that run through the movie include life, the cycle of life and death, and reunion. For how many action scenes the film contains, it shows surprisingly little blood, gore, and death. All the side and main characters live except for Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. Even Sephiroth lives. The film doesn’t glamorize the deaths and injuries onscreen from a monster attack on the city or geostigma. It acknowledges that people die and get hurt, but focuses on showing that more people live as if to say, “Yes, bad things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.” Cloud’s survival at the end of the movie doesn’t mean that he solved all his problems. Sephiroth survives, symbolizing that the cycle of life and death, happiness and sadness will continue. For now, Cloud averted the crisis. Perhaps someday, another problem will drag him down, but it will get better again as long as life continues. Despite all the battles he fights, violence doesn’t heal Cloud; reuniting with people does. Violence damaged him, and it almost kills him at the end of the movie. The kind acts Cloud performs throughout the film lead him to a reunion with his family, his friends, the people of the world, and finally happiness. Cloud discovers Tifa after she loses a fight to Loz. Holding her reminds him of the family he left behind. When he takes Marlene home after she escapes Kadaj’s gang, he returns to his friends to fight alongside them. Cloud sits with Kadaj as he dies, and they both share a sense of relief with the city’s inhabitants when healing rain sent from Aerith falls from the sky. Finally, after Cloud heals Denzel, he glimpses Aerith, walking among the living once again. Seeing her restores his faith and happiness. Even someone as flawed and damaged as Cloud can survive, find strength, and feel happiness. Perhaps he’ll never be able to do this without his friends, but that’s okay. These messages may sound cheesy, but they can be important to say for those who suffer from mental illness and other adversities where seeing the good things in life is so difficult. I could go on and on about Denzel, family, the salvation of children, and the film’s occasionally bizarre imagery. Final Fantasy VII fans such as Glenn Morrow, Il Neige, and Jirard Khalil have analyzed the film to find meaning through their experiences with the game as well, but I’d better stop here because in an hour and a half, this movie speaks volumes. Despite what reviewers say, Advent Children clearly has a story with conflicts, characters, and themes that relate to real-world human experiences. While critics may suspect or even recognize that the film has these elements though, they continue that how the film tells this story is the problem. Its excessive fight scenes and short, badly-written dialog hints that novice filmmakers padded a short film with an hour of senseless but cool-looking fight scenes. Are the battles really pointless distractions though? Part two of this three-part series will reveal the genius behind Advent Children’s action-packed madness.
  4. I always took it for granted that I couldn’t defend my illogical love for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I didn’t even complete a Final Fantasy game until after I saw Advent Children. I was an aspiring writer with a guilty pleasure; I enjoyed a movie that had a nonsense plot and weak characters. Half the Internet labeled me a fangirl, pining after meaningless action scenes, technology porn, effeminate men in black leather, and an emo protagonist. The other half of the Internet, however, loved the movie as much as I did, but no one could defend why, besides citing its obviously spectacular visuals, action, and music. Then, in 2013, I asked myself, “Why do I like Advent Children?” It had been my favorite movie for eight years. I’d just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media arts. Five years of studying filmmaking and films praised as the greatest ever made had failed to dislodge a video game-based, action movie from its prestigious place in my mind. In the wake of Avatar, Pixar movies, films receiving rave reviews, Advent Children remained. The nostalgia glasses, if they even existed, refused to fall off. After all this, I wondered why I should continue to accept that Advent Children didn’t mean anything. I began a journey of self-discovery to find the most action-packed, realistic, adult, and oddball movies CGI had to offer. Even before Advent Children, computer animation had fascinated me. As a kid, I watched A Bug’s Life repeatedly until I could recite every line. I loved pre-rendered video game cutscenes particularly from the Oddworld series. Surely, if I liked Advent Children only for the graphics, I should like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. If I liked its action and PG-13 rating, then I should like Beowulf. If I liked its originality, then I should like a CGI movie with an original story like Vexille. From the mainstream 9, The Polar Express, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to the lesser known Elysium, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and Kaena: The Prophecy to the cell-shaded Japanese imports Appleseed and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, I’ve watched them all, as many as I could find. While I found each of them beautiful in their own way, none of them affected me as profoundly as Advent Children had. I began tearing them apart to figure out how they worked or didn’t work. Each film taught me a little more about Advent Children until I finally understood it. Contrary to what almost every reviewer says, Advent Children contains a complete and masterfully told story; its greatest weakness and greatest strength lies in subtlety. As an action movie, Advent Children builds its world, develops its characters, and tells its story with action. Believe it or not, its stunning cinematography and fight scenes contain a wealth of information in addition to looking flashy. The film’s visuals and short but to-the-point dialog contain everything we need to know to understand the story and characters. As expected, this visual and minimalist storytelling requires the viewer’s attention. Fortunately, its beautiful artwork encourages multiple viewings to absorb the details. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Advent Children often result in critics prematurely discarding it and unfairly describing it. Non-fans of Final Fantasy VII discard it as incomprehensible on the assumption that the story exists in the game or not at all when it is really in the frame. Fans discard it without examining its merits because it sequels a story that didn’t need one or has too much or not enough fan service. A film based in the Final Fantasy VII universe must exist solely for fans. An action movie that defies physics must not have any rules. This film is a visual spectacle; therefore, it must not contain thoughtful content. Advent Children is just an unrealistic cartoon that shouldn’t be treated seriously. In truth, Advent Children defies the stereotypes of every label applied to it: fan service film, video game movie, photorealistic CGI, cartoon CGI, action movie, original science-fiction story, etc. The film is all of these things and none of them. It achieves something completely unique that has never been done so well by any other CGI movie. It tells a dark, thoughtful, and human story with computer graphics. Advent Children is a work of art disguised and discarded as fan service. At a glance, Advent Children appears to have spectacular action, emo characters, and no sensible plot, but closer examination reveals the film’s universal story and devastatingly human characters. Reviewers say that Advent Children’s convoluted, nonsense plot exists only to tie together its action scenes and that only Final Fantasy VII fans can understand it. While the story that defines Advent Children’s setting is somewhat complex and heavy with Final Fantasy VII concepts, the protagonist’s story isn’t, and the movie provides enough details that anyone can follow along. Two years ago, a super soldier named Sephiroth attempted to destroy the planet as revenge for the experiments that made him. The Shinra Power Company created him among a special group of warriors known as SOLDIER to defend itself against rebels who disagreed with their transformation of the planet’s life force, known as the Lifestream, into energy. To give them strength, Shinra infected its warriors with the cells of Jenova, an alien being that caused a catastrophe long ago. A group of rebels, the film’s protagonist Cloud among them, and the Lifestream itself managed to stop Sephiroth, but two years later, not all is well. A terminal illness called geostigma sweeps through the population, and three mysterious figures, Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, appear. Their leader Kadaj reveals that those with geostigma inherited Jenova’s power and will to destroy the planet just as Sephiroth did. Kadaj claims that they need cells from Jenova’s remains to fulfill this prophecy, and he believes that Shinra holds them in their possession. Since the destruction of Shira’s power plant, only its president Rufus and a handful of employees, Reno, Rude, Elena, and Tseung, remain. When Rufus refuses to cooperate, the search for Jenova, which Kadaj and his brothers call Mother, turns to a monument erected by Shinra. Using materia, spheres forged in the Lifestream that allow users to perform magic, Kadaj summons a monster called Bahamut to destroy the monument. After they search the rubble to no avail, Rufus reveals that he holds the remains in his personal possession. He finds the periodic cycle of attempts to destroy the planet amusing because they all inevitably fail. To taunt Kadaj, he tosses the remains away. Kadaj manages to save some of the cells and uses them to become Sephiroth reincarnate. This may sound like something only the most dedicated of Final Fantasy VII fans would care about, but like the convoluted plots of most Final Fantasy games, this alien story serves as the setting for a much more human tale. Despite fighting alongside those who saved the world two years ago, the protagonist Cloud can’t forget the people who died along the way, especially his mentor Zack and his friend Aerith. He made a promise to Zack that he would live out both their lives, and he wants to make up for his failure to protect Aerith. But now it seems that he will not be able to do either. After contracting geostigma, Cloud retreats from his friends and makeshift family, believing that he will die as a worthless person. He can’t even save his foster son Denzel, who has also contracted the disease. Yazoo and Loz interrupt Cloud’s plans for a quiet death when they attack him out of nowhere. Shinra also offers him an opportunity to help them deal with the three violent teenagers. Initially, Cloud refuses, remembering the company’s questionable business practices, but he’s eventually forced into the conflict when the trio kidnaps Denzel and his friend’s daughter Marlene. Cloud’s attempt to free them ends in failure, but Marlene manages to escape. After receiving a lecture from Marlene and his friends Tifa and Vincent, Cloud formally decides to make an effort to live and seek forgiveness. In response to his newfound determination, Aerith, who has become a god-like being in the afterlife, reveals to him the cure for geostigma, water infused with the Lifestream. The fight to stop Kadaj’s malevolent plot goes well until Cloud finds himself again alone and facing the worst of his past: Sephiroth. Thoughts of those he wishes to protect, however, empower him to finish the fight and save the world. In the end, surrounded by the people he’s saved, Cloud accepts the opportunity to heal his foster son’s geostigma himself. Yes, Advent Children is about a guy struggling to process his past and find his place in the present, but herein lies the major source of discontent about the film’s characters. Many people complain about the film’s focus on Cloud, his angst-ridden teenager personality, and the lack of development or presence of other characters from the game or otherwise. These complaints have some merit, but as is, Cloud’s surprisingly human character colors the entire film, its characters, its themes, and its battles. Cloud is a fascinating choice of protagonist particularly for a CGI action movie, a medium proliferated with seemingly invincible protagonists that can’t even be hindered by their own supposed weaknesses. Cloud is beyond physically strong as expected but otherwise incredibly flawed. He’s mentally scarred, physically ill, easily exhausted, and emotionally distraught. These problems constantly plague him in his fight to save himself and the world. Images from his past haunt him, pain and exhaustion collapses him, and fear alienates him. He saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. He can jump super high and wield swords as tall and wide as himself, but a gun shot and a stab wound threaten to kill him at the end of the movie. Forget about fighting the bad guys; he struggles to find the strength to fight. Cloud possesses inhuman abilities but retains human weaknesses. Cloud evokes real life mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. He saved the world and no one blames him for the people who died, but he still sees himself as a failure. Despite his physical strength, he doubts his fighting abilities. Like people with depression, Cloud rejects or fails to internalize his successes and good qualities. He lives in a world that doesn’t need soldiers anymore, but he operates a delivery service with a motorcycle that has built-in sword racks as if the fight two years ago never ended. Intrusive flashbacks of enemies he once fought and people he lost plague him. These symptoms seem like PTSD. Aerith watches over him as a god-like presence and persistent reassurance that everything will be okay. He’s surrounded by friends who adore him and want to help him. But Cloud remains afraid that someone else will die and uncertain in his abilities like someone with anxiety or OCD, who can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. He chooses loneliness and death at the start of the movie because he’s tired of hurting and doesn’t believe that anyone should care about him. Tifa and Marlene’s frustration with him mirrors the frustration and helplessness felt by loved ones of the mentally ill. Despite the fantastical world that Cloud lives in, he faces some of the most devastating and common of human problems. Cloud doesn’t just experience sadness and anxiety though. Like most people with or without mental illness, he experiences a range of emotions like embarrassment, happiness, frustration, cockiness, impatience, disgust, relief, and determination. Cloud feels and talks about sadness and anxiety most often, but emotes much more when he deals with enemies, particularly in the heat of battle. This makes sense. Enemies pose a physical threat that Cloud knows how to handle. To varying degrees of success, he can fight physical problems to escape his seemingly unsolvable inner torment. Sometimes fighting only makes him more scared, but when it works, he can feel something other than sadness and fear. Cloud snarls angrily when Loz taunts him. He smiles cockily when his friends let him deal with Kadaj alone. He squints in disgust when Reno mentions resurrecting Shinra. He grimaces with determination as he and Kadaj slide down a rocky hill, but when he slides to a stop and Kadaj pulls ahead, his face returns to a moody frown. The reaction shots in the film round out Cloud as a person. By melding its somewhat convoluted geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth plot with Cloud’s story, the film invites interpretation. For me, much of it is about mental illness, which I’ve dealt with most of my life. Kadaj and Cloud explore methods of coping with mental illness. In the beginning of the movie, Cloud chooses to hide his pain and isolate himself from others. Meanwhile, Kadaj, a child damaged and angry from love he never received, chooses to inflict his pain on others and seek companionship. Under the guise that he will heal them, Kadaj seeks out orphans infected with Jenova cells, the closest that he can get to his Mother. He instead indoctrinates them with his own hatred for the world. As the movie progresses, Cloud decides to face his pain in the hopes of healing and reunite with his friends. Kadaj allows his pain to control him and seeks isolation. While Cloud allows Aerith and his friends to heal and strengthen him, Kadaj rejects healing and embraces his pain, seeking solitude with Jenova’s dead remains. Eventually, he allows his hatred to consume him and becomes Sephiroth, a murderer as opposed to a mere torturer. Ultimately, Cloud chooses to live, and Kadaj chooses to die. For most of the movie, Cloud appears to always be alone while Kadaj bares the appearance that he always has company, but this doesn’t reflect their true states. In every scene, the audience sees Cloud listening to his friends over the phone, receiving divine assistance from Aerith, or accepting help and support from his allies. He feels alone, but he’s never really alone. It takes him most of the film to realize this himself. Meanwhile, Kadaj surrounds himself with children who obey his will, hostages who ultimately betray him, and dead alien remains. Despite all his talk about family, Kadaj wants to be his Mother’s only child and is essentially always alone with only himself for friendly company. Even when he’s with Loz and Yazoo, the three of them comprise the remnants of one person: Sephiroth. Only at the end of the film do we see Kadaj as alone as he is in reality. Other themes that run through the movie include life, the cycle of life and death, and reunion. For how many action scenes the film contains, it shows surprisingly little blood, gore, and death. All the side and main characters live except for Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. Even Sephiroth lives. The film doesn’t glamorize the deaths and injuries onscreen from a monster attack on the city or geostigma. It acknowledges that people die and get hurt, but focuses on showing that more people live as if to say, “Yes, bad things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.” Cloud’s survival at the end of the movie doesn’t mean that he solved all his problems. Sephiroth survives, symbolizing that the cycle of life and death, happiness and sadness will continue. For now, Cloud averted the crisis. Perhaps someday, another problem will drag him down, but it will get better again as long as life continues. Despite all the battles he fights, violence doesn’t heal Cloud; reuniting with people does. Violence damaged him, and it almost kills him at the end of the movie. The kind acts Cloud performs throughout the film lead him to a reunion with his family, his friends, the people of the world, and finally happiness. Cloud discovers Tifa after she loses a fight to Loz. Holding her reminds him of the family he left behind. When he takes Marlene home after she escapes Kadaj’s gang, he returns to his friends to fight alongside them. Cloud sits with Kadaj as he dies, and they both share a sense of relief with the city’s inhabitants when healing rain sent from Aerith falls from the sky. Finally, after Cloud heals Denzel, he glimpses Aerith, walking among the living once again. Seeing her restores his faith and happiness. Even someone as flawed and damaged as Cloud can survive, find strength, and feel happiness. Perhaps he’ll never be able to do this without his friends, but that’s okay. These messages may sound cheesy, but they can be important to say for those who suffer from mental illness and other adversities where seeing the good things in life is so difficult. I could go on and on about Denzel, family, the salvation of children, and the film’s occasionally bizarre imagery. Final Fantasy VII fans such as Glenn Morrow, Il Neige, and Jirard Khalil have analyzed the film to find meaning through their experiences with the game as well, but I’d better stop here because in an hour and a half, this movie speaks volumes. Despite what reviewers say, Advent Children clearly has a story with conflicts, characters, and themes that relate to real-world human experiences. While critics may suspect or even recognize that the film has these elements though, they continue that how the film tells this story is the problem. Its excessive fight scenes and short, badly-written dialog hints that novice filmmakers padded a short film with an hour of senseless but cool-looking fight scenes. Are the battles really pointless distractions though? Part two of this three-part series will reveal the genius behind Advent Children’s action-packed madness. View full article
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