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Found 21 results

  1. For the past... wow, 11 years, people have been putting forward the name of wisecracking actor Nathan Fillion to be the motion picture face of the Uncharted series. Fillion, known for his roles as a freewheelin' space captain in Firefly and wealthy book author/crime solver in the long-running Castle series, frequently talked about wanting to take on the role, but did not land the part for the official film. Tom Holland is currently slated to play the role of Nathan Drake in the official upcoming film, which will serve as a prequel to the events of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. However, that doesn't mean that Fillion has completely given up hope of staring as Drake. Earlier this week, a 15-minute fan film appeared on YouTube. Directed by Alan Ungar, the short stars Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake and Stephen Lang as Drake's long-time friend Sully. Drake, suspected of stealing an artifact from a mysterious, wealthy businessman quips his way through an interrogation scene - something that's all part of the plan to recover a clue to something bigger than he or Sully could have ever imagined. The short definitely feels like only part of a larger project, though it's probably too much to hope that we'll ever see a feature-length film that elaborates on this particular plot. If anything, this feels like a proof of concept for Fillion as a potential action star. Take a look below: Look, all I can say is #MakeFillionNathan.
  2. For the past... wow, 11 years, people have been putting forward the name of wisecracking actor Nathan Fillion to be the motion picture face of the Uncharted series. Fillion, known for his roles as a freewheelin' space captain in Firefly and wealthy book author/crime solver in the long-running Castle series, frequently talked about wanting to take on the role, but did not land the part for the official film. Tom Holland is currently slated to play the role of Nathan Drake in the official upcoming film, which will serve as a prequel to the events of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. However, that doesn't mean that Fillion has completely given up hope of staring as Drake. Earlier this week, a 15-minute fan film appeared on YouTube. Directed by Alan Ungar, the short stars Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake and Stephen Lang as Drake's long-time friend Sully. Drake, suspected of stealing an artifact from a mysterious, wealthy businessman quips his way through an interrogation scene - something that's all part of the plan to recover a clue to something bigger than he or Sully could have ever imagined. The short definitely feels like only part of a larger project, though it's probably too much to hope that we'll ever see a feature-length film that elaborates on this particular plot. If anything, this feels like a proof of concept for Fillion as a potential action star. Take a look below: Look, all I can say is #MakeFillionNathan. View full article
  3. Well, this is unconventional. An upcoming film currently in pre-production under the name Atari will be offering investors the chance to buy into the film via a cryptocurrency called the Bushnell Token after Atari founder and subject of the biopic Nolan Bushnell. According to Vision Tree, the production and financing company behind the film, the decision will help generate hype for the project by getting fans and gamers invested both emotionally and financially in the film's success. Vision Tree aims to raise over $40 million with the Bushnell Token's Initial Coin Offering (ICO). Those who purchase these digital coins will reap some percentage of the film's earnings when it releases. Investors will also have some say in the creation of the film itself with the ability to vote on trailers, casting decisions, and more. It's unclear exactly how much power investors will have over the creative process. J.D Seraphine, the co-founder of Vision Tree, spoke about the benefits of using cryptocurrency to crowdfund a project. "Entertainment companies can engage directly with their audience and crowdsource financing at such a great scale now," he said. "We’ve seen success with our own films, namely Sirius, and we’re seeing many successful film projects continue momentum and traction through an ICO. We’re excited to be one of the first to utilize an ICO and a cryptocurrency to engage with audiences and finance a film in this way.” Atari will focus on Nolan Bushnell's origins as a pinball machine repairman and tell the story of how he managed to create one of the most important gaming companies in history and what led him to walk away from it all a handful of years later. The film is being produced with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way production company. Bushnell feels that the move to finance the film in this way represents a forward-looking approach that explores what could be possible with blockchain-based currencies in the future. "Blockchain represents a new environment that needs to be explored in all its dimensions: games, movies, books, art, etc. It is an innovative approach, fueling economic models and matching support with funding. The idea that we have a new way to fund things is fascinating and powerful.” Nolan Bushnell was recently the subject of allegations that he had contributed to a sexist work culture at Atari. In a number of publications throughout the years both Bushnell and former employees told stories about the culture of Atari that included naming prototypes after attractive women in the office and inviting female employees into hot tubs during meetings. The allegations cost Bushnell an achievement award at GDC 2018, a move which Bushnell applauded in a statement released in January. There's no word on when the Bushnell Token will be up for sale to the public, but keep an eye on the Atari film website for updates. View full article
  4. Jack Gardner

    Atari Film to be Funded by Cryptocurrency

    Well, this is unconventional. An upcoming film currently in pre-production under the name Atari will be offering investors the chance to buy into the film via a cryptocurrency called the Bushnell Token after Atari founder and subject of the biopic Nolan Bushnell. According to Vision Tree, the production and financing company behind the film, the decision will help generate hype for the project by getting fans and gamers invested both emotionally and financially in the film's success. Vision Tree aims to raise over $40 million with the Bushnell Token's Initial Coin Offering (ICO). Those who purchase these digital coins will reap some percentage of the film's earnings when it releases. Investors will also have some say in the creation of the film itself with the ability to vote on trailers, casting decisions, and more. It's unclear exactly how much power investors will have over the creative process. J.D Seraphine, the co-founder of Vision Tree, spoke about the benefits of using cryptocurrency to crowdfund a project. "Entertainment companies can engage directly with their audience and crowdsource financing at such a great scale now," he said. "We’ve seen success with our own films, namely Sirius, and we’re seeing many successful film projects continue momentum and traction through an ICO. We’re excited to be one of the first to utilize an ICO and a cryptocurrency to engage with audiences and finance a film in this way.” Atari will focus on Nolan Bushnell's origins as a pinball machine repairman and tell the story of how he managed to create one of the most important gaming companies in history and what led him to walk away from it all a handful of years later. The film is being produced with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way production company. Bushnell feels that the move to finance the film in this way represents a forward-looking approach that explores what could be possible with blockchain-based currencies in the future. "Blockchain represents a new environment that needs to be explored in all its dimensions: games, movies, books, art, etc. It is an innovative approach, fueling economic models and matching support with funding. The idea that we have a new way to fund things is fascinating and powerful.” Nolan Bushnell was recently the subject of allegations that he had contributed to a sexist work culture at Atari. In a number of publications throughout the years both Bushnell and former employees told stories about the culture of Atari that included naming prototypes after attractive women in the office and inviting female employees into hot tubs during meetings. The allegations cost Bushnell an achievement award at GDC 2018, a move which Bushnell applauded in a statement released in January. There's no word on when the Bushnell Token will be up for sale to the public, but keep an eye on the Atari film website for updates.
  5. This is it. Sonic the Hedgehog will be coming to theaters courtesy of Paramount Studios next year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, SEGA's blue blur will spin attack his way onto the silver screen on November 15, 2019. It's a bit nebulous as to what form the film will take, though some outlets are reporting that it will be a mixture of CGI and live-action, suggesting that the film might be drawing on the Sonic Adventure games for inspiration. A number of high-profile names, along with a few unknowns, are attached to the project. Neal H. Moritz will produce with Tim Miller, the director of Deadpool, serving as the film's executive producer. Sonic will be adapted to the big screen by first time director Jeff Fowler. Fowler made a name for himself by directing a 2005 Oscar-nominated short titled Gopher Broke. This film seems like it has the potential to be solidly good or fantastically bad, but either way, I'm suddenly a bit more excited for November 15, 2019. Perhaps Sonic might even beat Nintendo's upcoming Mario film into theaters?
  6. This is it. Sonic the Hedgehog will be coming to theaters courtesy of Paramount Studios next year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, SEGA's blue blur will spin attack his way onto the silver screen on November 15, 2019. It's a bit nebulous as to what form the film will take, though some outlets are reporting that it will be a mixture of CGI and live-action, suggesting that the film might be drawing on the Sonic Adventure games for inspiration. A number of high-profile names, along with a few unknowns, are attached to the project. Neal H. Moritz will produce with Tim Miller, the director of Deadpool, serving as the film's executive producer. Sonic will be adapted to the big screen by first time director Jeff Fowler. Fowler made a name for himself by directing a 2005 Oscar-nominated short titled Gopher Broke. This film seems like it has the potential to be solidly good or fantastically bad, but either way, I'm suddenly a bit more excited for November 15, 2019. Perhaps Sonic might even beat Nintendo's upcoming Mario film into theaters? View full article
  7. Yesterday, Nintendo of America hopped on Twitter to make some pretty massive announcements about upcoming projects. Nintendo kicked off their trio of news blurbs by announcing when Switch owners can expect the system's paid online service to go live. Simply titled Nintendo Switch Online, the service will offer a selection of classic Nintendo games every month for either $3.99 per month, $7.99 every three months, or $19.99 for an entire year. The catch is, unlike Xbox Live Gold or PS+, those games will switch out every month and subscribers will not be able to keep the previous month's games. The service will launch sometime in September 2018. The company then revealed that their next mobile project - Mario Kart! The app will be called Mario Kart Tour. Nintendo gave a rather nebulous release window for the app that states the app will release "in the fiscal year ending in March 2019." Not much more information was made available, but it's pretty interesting to imagine what a mobile Mario Kart title would be like. Finally, Nintendo confirmed the long rumored deal between themselves and animation studio Illumination to make a film based on the Mario franchise. This will be the first film Nintendo has worked on based on one of its characters since the 1993 Super Mario Bros. live-action film. Shigeru Miyamoto has been confirmed to be co-producing the film alongside Illumination CEO and film producer Chris Meledandri. It's pretty shocking that it has taken so long for Nintendo to get back to making films based on the Mario franchise, especially since the very first video game movie was a Super Mario Bros. animated film. View full article
  8. Yesterday, Nintendo of America hopped on Twitter to make some pretty massive announcements about upcoming projects. Nintendo kicked off their trio of news blurbs by announcing when Switch owners can expect the system's paid online service to go live. Simply titled Nintendo Switch Online, the service will offer a selection of classic Nintendo games every month for either $3.99 per month, $7.99 every three months, or $19.99 for an entire year. The catch is, unlike Xbox Live Gold or PS+, those games will switch out every month and subscribers will not be able to keep the previous month's games. The service will launch sometime in September 2018. The company then revealed that their next mobile project - Mario Kart! The app will be called Mario Kart Tour. Nintendo gave a rather nebulous release window for the app that states the app will release "in the fiscal year ending in March 2019." Not much more information was made available, but it's pretty interesting to imagine what a mobile Mario Kart title would be like. Finally, Nintendo confirmed the long rumored deal between themselves and animation studio Illumination to make a film based on the Mario franchise. This will be the first film Nintendo has worked on based on one of its characters since the 1993 Super Mario Bros. live-action film. Shigeru Miyamoto has been confirmed to be co-producing the film alongside Illumination CEO and film producer Chris Meledandri. It's pretty shocking that it has taken so long for Nintendo to get back to making films based on the Mario franchise, especially since the very first video game movie was a Super Mario Bros. animated film.
  9. 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
  10. 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? 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  11. 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?
  12. 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
  13. I always took it for granted that I couldn’t defend my illogical love for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I didn’t even complete a Final Fantasy game until after I saw Advent Children. I was an aspiring writer with a guilty pleasure; I enjoyed a movie that had a nonsense plot and weak characters. Half the Internet labeled me a fangirl, pining after meaningless action scenes, technology porn, effeminate men in black leather, and an emo protagonist. The other half of the Internet, however, loved the movie as much as I did, but no one could defend why, besides citing its obviously spectacular visuals, action, and music. Then, in 2013, I asked myself, “Why do I like Advent Children?” It had been my favorite movie for eight years. I’d just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media arts. Five years of studying filmmaking and films praised as the greatest ever made had failed to dislodge a video game-based, action movie from its prestigious place in my mind. In the wake of Avatar, Pixar movies, films receiving rave reviews, Advent Children remained. The nostalgia glasses, if they even existed, refused to fall off. After all this, I wondered why I should continue to accept that Advent Children didn’t mean anything. I began a journey of self-discovery to find the most action-packed, realistic, adult, and oddball movies CGI had to offer. Even before Advent Children, computer animation had fascinated me. As a kid, I watched A Bug’s Life repeatedly until I could recite every line. I loved pre-rendered video game cutscenes particularly from the Oddworld series. Surely, if I liked Advent Children only for the graphics, I should like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. If I liked its action and PG-13 rating, then I should like Beowulf. If I liked its originality, then I should like a CGI movie with an original story like Vexille. From the mainstream 9, The Polar Express, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to the lesser known Elysium, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and Kaena: The Prophecy to the cell-shaded Japanese imports Appleseed and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, I’ve watched them all, as many as I could find. While I found each of them beautiful in their own way, none of them affected me as profoundly as Advent Children had. I began tearing them apart to figure out how they worked or didn’t work. Each film taught me a little more about Advent Children until I finally understood it. Contrary to what almost every reviewer says, Advent Children contains a complete and masterfully told story; its greatest weakness and greatest strength lies in subtlety. As an action movie, Advent Children builds its world, develops its characters, and tells its story with action. Believe it or not, its stunning cinematography and fight scenes contain a wealth of information in addition to looking flashy. The film’s visuals and short but to-the-point dialog contain everything we need to know to understand the story and characters. As expected, this visual and minimalist storytelling requires the viewer’s attention. Fortunately, its beautiful artwork encourages multiple viewings to absorb the details. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Advent Children often result in critics prematurely discarding it and unfairly describing it. Non-fans of Final Fantasy VII discard it as incomprehensible on the assumption that the story exists in the game or not at all when it is really in the frame. Fans discard it without examining its merits because it sequels a story that didn’t need one or has too much or not enough fan service. A film based in the Final Fantasy VII universe must exist solely for fans. An action movie that defies physics must not have any rules. This film is a visual spectacle; therefore, it must not contain thoughtful content. Advent Children is just an unrealistic cartoon that shouldn’t be treated seriously. In truth, Advent Children defies the stereotypes of every label applied to it: fan service film, video game movie, photorealistic CGI, cartoon CGI, action movie, original science-fiction story, etc. The film is all of these things and none of them. It achieves something completely unique that has never been done so well by any other CGI movie. It tells a dark, thoughtful, and human story with computer graphics. Advent Children is a work of art disguised and discarded as fan service. At a glance, Advent Children appears to have spectacular action, emo characters, and no sensible plot, but closer examination reveals the film’s universal story and devastatingly human characters. Reviewers say that Advent Children’s convoluted, nonsense plot exists only to tie together its action scenes and that only Final Fantasy VII fans can understand it. While the story that defines Advent Children’s setting is somewhat complex and heavy with Final Fantasy VII concepts, the protagonist’s story isn’t, and the movie provides enough details that anyone can follow along. Two years ago, a super soldier named Sephiroth attempted to destroy the planet as revenge for the experiments that made him. The Shinra Power Company created him among a special group of warriors known as SOLDIER to defend itself against rebels who disagreed with their transformation of the planet’s life force, known as the Lifestream, into energy. To give them strength, Shinra infected its warriors with the cells of Jenova, an alien being that caused a catastrophe long ago. A group of rebels, the film’s protagonist Cloud among them, and the Lifestream itself managed to stop Sephiroth, but two years later, not all is well. A terminal illness called geostigma sweeps through the population, and three mysterious figures, Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, appear. Their leader Kadaj reveals that those with geostigma inherited Jenova’s power and will to destroy the planet just as Sephiroth did. Kadaj claims that they need cells from Jenova’s remains to fulfill this prophecy, and he believes that Shinra holds them in their possession. Since the destruction of Shira’s power plant, only its president Rufus and a handful of employees, Reno, Rude, Elena, and Tseung, remain. When Rufus refuses to cooperate, the search for Jenova, which Kadaj and his brothers call Mother, turns to a monument erected by Shinra. Using materia, spheres forged in the Lifestream that allow users to perform magic, Kadaj summons a monster called Bahamut to destroy the monument. After they search the rubble to no avail, Rufus reveals that he holds the remains in his personal possession. He finds the periodic cycle of attempts to destroy the planet amusing because they all inevitably fail. To taunt Kadaj, he tosses the remains away. Kadaj manages to save some of the cells and uses them to become Sephiroth reincarnate. This may sound like something only the most dedicated of Final Fantasy VII fans would care about, but like the convoluted plots of most Final Fantasy games, this alien story serves as the setting for a much more human tale. Despite fighting alongside those who saved the world two years ago, the protagonist Cloud can’t forget the people who died along the way, especially his mentor Zack and his friend Aerith. He made a promise to Zack that he would live out both their lives, and he wants to make up for his failure to protect Aerith. But now it seems that he will not be able to do either. After contracting geostigma, Cloud retreats from his friends and makeshift family, believing that he will die as a worthless person. He can’t even save his foster son Denzel, who has also contracted the disease. Yazoo and Loz interrupt Cloud’s plans for a quiet death when they attack him out of nowhere. Shinra also offers him an opportunity to help them deal with the three violent teenagers. Initially, Cloud refuses, remembering the company’s questionable business practices, but he’s eventually forced into the conflict when the trio kidnaps Denzel and his friend’s daughter Marlene. Cloud’s attempt to free them ends in failure, but Marlene manages to escape. After receiving a lecture from Marlene and his friends Tifa and Vincent, Cloud formally decides to make an effort to live and seek forgiveness. In response to his newfound determination, Aerith, who has become a god-like being in the afterlife, reveals to him the cure for geostigma, water infused with the Lifestream. The fight to stop Kadaj’s malevolent plot goes well until Cloud finds himself again alone and facing the worst of his past: Sephiroth. Thoughts of those he wishes to protect, however, empower him to finish the fight and save the world. In the end, surrounded by the people he’s saved, Cloud accepts the opportunity to heal his foster son’s geostigma himself. Yes, Advent Children is about a guy struggling to process his past and find his place in the present, but herein lies the major source of discontent about the film’s characters. Many people complain about the film’s focus on Cloud, his angst-ridden teenager personality, and the lack of development or presence of other characters from the game or otherwise. These complaints have some merit, but as is, Cloud’s surprisingly human character colors the entire film, its characters, its themes, and its battles. Cloud is a fascinating choice of protagonist particularly for a CGI action movie, a medium proliferated with seemingly invincible protagonists that can’t even be hindered by their own supposed weaknesses. Cloud is beyond physically strong as expected but otherwise incredibly flawed. He’s mentally scarred, physically ill, easily exhausted, and emotionally distraught. These problems constantly plague him in his fight to save himself and the world. Images from his past haunt him, pain and exhaustion collapses him, and fear alienates him. He saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. He can jump super high and wield swords as tall and wide as himself, but a gun shot and a stab wound threaten to kill him at the end of the movie. Forget about fighting the bad guys; he struggles to find the strength to fight. Cloud possesses inhuman abilities but retains human weaknesses. Cloud evokes real life mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. He saved the world and no one blames him for the people who died, but he still sees himself as a failure. Despite his physical strength, he doubts his fighting abilities. Like people with depression, Cloud rejects or fails to internalize his successes and good qualities. He lives in a world that doesn’t need soldiers anymore, but he operates a delivery service with a motorcycle that has built-in sword racks as if the fight two years ago never ended. Intrusive flashbacks of enemies he once fought and people he lost plague him. These symptoms seem like PTSD. Aerith watches over him as a god-like presence and persistent reassurance that everything will be okay. He’s surrounded by friends who adore him and want to help him. But Cloud remains afraid that someone else will die and uncertain in his abilities like someone with anxiety or OCD, who can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. He chooses loneliness and death at the start of the movie because he’s tired of hurting and doesn’t believe that anyone should care about him. Tifa and Marlene’s frustration with him mirrors the frustration and helplessness felt by loved ones of the mentally ill. Despite the fantastical world that Cloud lives in, he faces some of the most devastating and common of human problems. Cloud doesn’t just experience sadness and anxiety though. Like most people with or without mental illness, he experiences a range of emotions like embarrassment, happiness, frustration, cockiness, impatience, disgust, relief, and determination. Cloud feels and talks about sadness and anxiety most often, but emotes much more when he deals with enemies, particularly in the heat of battle. This makes sense. Enemies pose a physical threat that Cloud knows how to handle. To varying degrees of success, he can fight physical problems to escape his seemingly unsolvable inner torment. Sometimes fighting only makes him more scared, but when it works, he can feel something other than sadness and fear. Cloud snarls angrily when Loz taunts him. He smiles cockily when his friends let him deal with Kadaj alone. He squints in disgust when Reno mentions resurrecting Shinra. He grimaces with determination as he and Kadaj slide down a rocky hill, but when he slides to a stop and Kadaj pulls ahead, his face returns to a moody frown. The reaction shots in the film round out Cloud as a person. By melding its somewhat convoluted geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth plot with Cloud’s story, the film invites interpretation. For me, much of it is about mental illness, which I’ve dealt with most of my life. Kadaj and Cloud explore methods of coping with mental illness. In the beginning of the movie, Cloud chooses to hide his pain and isolate himself from others. Meanwhile, Kadaj, a child damaged and angry from love he never received, chooses to inflict his pain on others and seek companionship. Under the guise that he will heal them, Kadaj seeks out orphans infected with Jenova cells, the closest that he can get to his Mother. He instead indoctrinates them with his own hatred for the world. As the movie progresses, Cloud decides to face his pain in the hopes of healing and reunite with his friends. Kadaj allows his pain to control him and seeks isolation. While Cloud allows Aerith and his friends to heal and strengthen him, Kadaj rejects healing and embraces his pain, seeking solitude with Jenova’s dead remains. Eventually, he allows his hatred to consume him and becomes Sephiroth, a murderer as opposed to a mere torturer. Ultimately, Cloud chooses to live, and Kadaj chooses to die. For most of the movie, Cloud appears to always be alone while Kadaj bares the appearance that he always has company, but this doesn’t reflect their true states. In every scene, the audience sees Cloud listening to his friends over the phone, receiving divine assistance from Aerith, or accepting help and support from his allies. He feels alone, but he’s never really alone. It takes him most of the film to realize this himself. Meanwhile, Kadaj surrounds himself with children who obey his will, hostages who ultimately betray him, and dead alien remains. Despite all his talk about family, Kadaj wants to be his Mother’s only child and is essentially always alone with only himself for friendly company. Even when he’s with Loz and Yazoo, the three of them comprise the remnants of one person: Sephiroth. Only at the end of the film do we see Kadaj as alone as he is in reality. Other themes that run through the movie include life, the cycle of life and death, and reunion. For how many action scenes the film contains, it shows surprisingly little blood, gore, and death. All the side and main characters live except for Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. Even Sephiroth lives. The film doesn’t glamorize the deaths and injuries onscreen from a monster attack on the city or geostigma. It acknowledges that people die and get hurt, but focuses on showing that more people live as if to say, “Yes, bad things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.” Cloud’s survival at the end of the movie doesn’t mean that he solved all his problems. Sephiroth survives, symbolizing that the cycle of life and death, happiness and sadness will continue. For now, Cloud averted the crisis. Perhaps someday, another problem will drag him down, but it will get better again as long as life continues. Despite all the battles he fights, violence doesn’t heal Cloud; reuniting with people does. Violence damaged him, and it almost kills him at the end of the movie. The kind acts Cloud performs throughout the film lead him to a reunion with his family, his friends, the people of the world, and finally happiness. Cloud discovers Tifa after she loses a fight to Loz. Holding her reminds him of the family he left behind. When he takes Marlene home after she escapes Kadaj’s gang, he returns to his friends to fight alongside them. Cloud sits with Kadaj as he dies, and they both share a sense of relief with the city’s inhabitants when healing rain sent from Aerith falls from the sky. Finally, after Cloud heals Denzel, he glimpses Aerith, walking among the living once again. Seeing her restores his faith and happiness. Even someone as flawed and damaged as Cloud can survive, find strength, and feel happiness. Perhaps he’ll never be able to do this without his friends, but that’s okay. These messages may sound cheesy, but they can be important to say for those who suffer from mental illness and other adversities where seeing the good things in life is so difficult. I could go on and on about Denzel, family, the salvation of children, and the film’s occasionally bizarre imagery. Final Fantasy VII fans such as Glenn Morrow, Il Neige, and Jirard Khalil have analyzed the film to find meaning through their experiences with the game as well, but I’d better stop here because in an hour and a half, this movie speaks volumes. Despite what reviewers say, Advent Children clearly has a story with conflicts, characters, and themes that relate to real-world human experiences. While critics may suspect or even recognize that the film has these elements though, they continue that how the film tells this story is the problem. Its excessive fight scenes and short, badly-written dialog hints that novice filmmakers padded a short film with an hour of senseless but cool-looking fight scenes. Are the battles really pointless distractions though? Part two of this three-part series will reveal the genius behind Advent Children’s action-packed madness. View full article
  14. I always took it for granted that I couldn’t defend my illogical love for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I didn’t even complete a Final Fantasy game until after I saw Advent Children. I was an aspiring writer with a guilty pleasure; I enjoyed a movie that had a nonsense plot and weak characters. Half the Internet labeled me a fangirl, pining after meaningless action scenes, technology porn, effeminate men in black leather, and an emo protagonist. The other half of the Internet, however, loved the movie as much as I did, but no one could defend why, besides citing its obviously spectacular visuals, action, and music. Then, in 2013, I asked myself, “Why do I like Advent Children?” It had been my favorite movie for eight years. I’d just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media arts. Five years of studying filmmaking and films praised as the greatest ever made had failed to dislodge a video game-based, action movie from its prestigious place in my mind. In the wake of Avatar, Pixar movies, films receiving rave reviews, Advent Children remained. The nostalgia glasses, if they even existed, refused to fall off. After all this, I wondered why I should continue to accept that Advent Children didn’t mean anything. I began a journey of self-discovery to find the most action-packed, realistic, adult, and oddball movies CGI had to offer. Even before Advent Children, computer animation had fascinated me. As a kid, I watched A Bug’s Life repeatedly until I could recite every line. I loved pre-rendered video game cutscenes particularly from the Oddworld series. Surely, if I liked Advent Children only for the graphics, I should like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. If I liked its action and PG-13 rating, then I should like Beowulf. If I liked its originality, then I should like a CGI movie with an original story like Vexille. From the mainstream 9, The Polar Express, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to the lesser known Elysium, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and Kaena: The Prophecy to the cell-shaded Japanese imports Appleseed and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, I’ve watched them all, as many as I could find. While I found each of them beautiful in their own way, none of them affected me as profoundly as Advent Children had. I began tearing them apart to figure out how they worked or didn’t work. Each film taught me a little more about Advent Children until I finally understood it. Contrary to what almost every reviewer says, Advent Children contains a complete and masterfully told story; its greatest weakness and greatest strength lies in subtlety. As an action movie, Advent Children builds its world, develops its characters, and tells its story with action. Believe it or not, its stunning cinematography and fight scenes contain a wealth of information in addition to looking flashy. The film’s visuals and short but to-the-point dialog contain everything we need to know to understand the story and characters. As expected, this visual and minimalist storytelling requires the viewer’s attention. Fortunately, its beautiful artwork encourages multiple viewings to absorb the details. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Advent Children often result in critics prematurely discarding it and unfairly describing it. Non-fans of Final Fantasy VII discard it as incomprehensible on the assumption that the story exists in the game or not at all when it is really in the frame. Fans discard it without examining its merits because it sequels a story that didn’t need one or has too much or not enough fan service. A film based in the Final Fantasy VII universe must exist solely for fans. An action movie that defies physics must not have any rules. This film is a visual spectacle; therefore, it must not contain thoughtful content. Advent Children is just an unrealistic cartoon that shouldn’t be treated seriously. In truth, Advent Children defies the stereotypes of every label applied to it: fan service film, video game movie, photorealistic CGI, cartoon CGI, action movie, original science-fiction story, etc. The film is all of these things and none of them. It achieves something completely unique that has never been done so well by any other CGI movie. It tells a dark, thoughtful, and human story with computer graphics. Advent Children is a work of art disguised and discarded as fan service. At a glance, Advent Children appears to have spectacular action, emo characters, and no sensible plot, but closer examination reveals the film’s universal story and devastatingly human characters. Reviewers say that Advent Children’s convoluted, nonsense plot exists only to tie together its action scenes and that only Final Fantasy VII fans can understand it. While the story that defines Advent Children’s setting is somewhat complex and heavy with Final Fantasy VII concepts, the protagonist’s story isn’t, and the movie provides enough details that anyone can follow along. Two years ago, a super soldier named Sephiroth attempted to destroy the planet as revenge for the experiments that made him. The Shinra Power Company created him among a special group of warriors known as SOLDIER to defend itself against rebels who disagreed with their transformation of the planet’s life force, known as the Lifestream, into energy. To give them strength, Shinra infected its warriors with the cells of Jenova, an alien being that caused a catastrophe long ago. A group of rebels, the film’s protagonist Cloud among them, and the Lifestream itself managed to stop Sephiroth, but two years later, not all is well. A terminal illness called geostigma sweeps through the population, and three mysterious figures, Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, appear. Their leader Kadaj reveals that those with geostigma inherited Jenova’s power and will to destroy the planet just as Sephiroth did. Kadaj claims that they need cells from Jenova’s remains to fulfill this prophecy, and he believes that Shinra holds them in their possession. Since the destruction of Shira’s power plant, only its president Rufus and a handful of employees, Reno, Rude, Elena, and Tseung, remain. When Rufus refuses to cooperate, the search for Jenova, which Kadaj and his brothers call Mother, turns to a monument erected by Shinra. Using materia, spheres forged in the Lifestream that allow users to perform magic, Kadaj summons a monster called Bahamut to destroy the monument. After they search the rubble to no avail, Rufus reveals that he holds the remains in his personal possession. He finds the periodic cycle of attempts to destroy the planet amusing because they all inevitably fail. To taunt Kadaj, he tosses the remains away. Kadaj manages to save some of the cells and uses them to become Sephiroth reincarnate. This may sound like something only the most dedicated of Final Fantasy VII fans would care about, but like the convoluted plots of most Final Fantasy games, this alien story serves as the setting for a much more human tale. Despite fighting alongside those who saved the world two years ago, the protagonist Cloud can’t forget the people who died along the way, especially his mentor Zack and his friend Aerith. He made a promise to Zack that he would live out both their lives, and he wants to make up for his failure to protect Aerith. But now it seems that he will not be able to do either. After contracting geostigma, Cloud retreats from his friends and makeshift family, believing that he will die as a worthless person. He can’t even save his foster son Denzel, who has also contracted the disease. Yazoo and Loz interrupt Cloud’s plans for a quiet death when they attack him out of nowhere. Shinra also offers him an opportunity to help them deal with the three violent teenagers. Initially, Cloud refuses, remembering the company’s questionable business practices, but he’s eventually forced into the conflict when the trio kidnaps Denzel and his friend’s daughter Marlene. Cloud’s attempt to free them ends in failure, but Marlene manages to escape. After receiving a lecture from Marlene and his friends Tifa and Vincent, Cloud formally decides to make an effort to live and seek forgiveness. In response to his newfound determination, Aerith, who has become a god-like being in the afterlife, reveals to him the cure for geostigma, water infused with the Lifestream. The fight to stop Kadaj’s malevolent plot goes well until Cloud finds himself again alone and facing the worst of his past: Sephiroth. Thoughts of those he wishes to protect, however, empower him to finish the fight and save the world. In the end, surrounded by the people he’s saved, Cloud accepts the opportunity to heal his foster son’s geostigma himself. Yes, Advent Children is about a guy struggling to process his past and find his place in the present, but herein lies the major source of discontent about the film’s characters. Many people complain about the film’s focus on Cloud, his angst-ridden teenager personality, and the lack of development or presence of other characters from the game or otherwise. These complaints have some merit, but as is, Cloud’s surprisingly human character colors the entire film, its characters, its themes, and its battles. Cloud is a fascinating choice of protagonist particularly for a CGI action movie, a medium proliferated with seemingly invincible protagonists that can’t even be hindered by their own supposed weaknesses. Cloud is beyond physically strong as expected but otherwise incredibly flawed. He’s mentally scarred, physically ill, easily exhausted, and emotionally distraught. These problems constantly plague him in his fight to save himself and the world. Images from his past haunt him, pain and exhaustion collapses him, and fear alienates him. He saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. He can jump super high and wield swords as tall and wide as himself, but a gun shot and a stab wound threaten to kill him at the end of the movie. Forget about fighting the bad guys; he struggles to find the strength to fight. Cloud possesses inhuman abilities but retains human weaknesses. Cloud evokes real life mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. He saved the world and no one blames him for the people who died, but he still sees himself as a failure. Despite his physical strength, he doubts his fighting abilities. Like people with depression, Cloud rejects or fails to internalize his successes and good qualities. He lives in a world that doesn’t need soldiers anymore, but he operates a delivery service with a motorcycle that has built-in sword racks as if the fight two years ago never ended. Intrusive flashbacks of enemies he once fought and people he lost plague him. These symptoms seem like PTSD. Aerith watches over him as a god-like presence and persistent reassurance that everything will be okay. He’s surrounded by friends who adore him and want to help him. But Cloud remains afraid that someone else will die and uncertain in his abilities like someone with anxiety or OCD, who can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. He chooses loneliness and death at the start of the movie because he’s tired of hurting and doesn’t believe that anyone should care about him. Tifa and Marlene’s frustration with him mirrors the frustration and helplessness felt by loved ones of the mentally ill. Despite the fantastical world that Cloud lives in, he faces some of the most devastating and common of human problems. Cloud doesn’t just experience sadness and anxiety though. Like most people with or without mental illness, he experiences a range of emotions like embarrassment, happiness, frustration, cockiness, impatience, disgust, relief, and determination. Cloud feels and talks about sadness and anxiety most often, but emotes much more when he deals with enemies, particularly in the heat of battle. This makes sense. Enemies pose a physical threat that Cloud knows how to handle. To varying degrees of success, he can fight physical problems to escape his seemingly unsolvable inner torment. Sometimes fighting only makes him more scared, but when it works, he can feel something other than sadness and fear. Cloud snarls angrily when Loz taunts him. He smiles cockily when his friends let him deal with Kadaj alone. He squints in disgust when Reno mentions resurrecting Shinra. He grimaces with determination as he and Kadaj slide down a rocky hill, but when he slides to a stop and Kadaj pulls ahead, his face returns to a moody frown. The reaction shots in the film round out Cloud as a person. By melding its somewhat convoluted geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth plot with Cloud’s story, the film invites interpretation. For me, much of it is about mental illness, which I’ve dealt with most of my life. Kadaj and Cloud explore methods of coping with mental illness. In the beginning of the movie, Cloud chooses to hide his pain and isolate himself from others. Meanwhile, Kadaj, a child damaged and angry from love he never received, chooses to inflict his pain on others and seek companionship. Under the guise that he will heal them, Kadaj seeks out orphans infected with Jenova cells, the closest that he can get to his Mother. He instead indoctrinates them with his own hatred for the world. As the movie progresses, Cloud decides to face his pain in the hopes of healing and reunite with his friends. Kadaj allows his pain to control him and seeks isolation. While Cloud allows Aerith and his friends to heal and strengthen him, Kadaj rejects healing and embraces his pain, seeking solitude with Jenova’s dead remains. Eventually, he allows his hatred to consume him and becomes Sephiroth, a murderer as opposed to a mere torturer. Ultimately, Cloud chooses to live, and Kadaj chooses to die. For most of the movie, Cloud appears to always be alone while Kadaj bares the appearance that he always has company, but this doesn’t reflect their true states. In every scene, the audience sees Cloud listening to his friends over the phone, receiving divine assistance from Aerith, or accepting help and support from his allies. He feels alone, but he’s never really alone. It takes him most of the film to realize this himself. Meanwhile, Kadaj surrounds himself with children who obey his will, hostages who ultimately betray him, and dead alien remains. Despite all his talk about family, Kadaj wants to be his Mother’s only child and is essentially always alone with only himself for friendly company. Even when he’s with Loz and Yazoo, the three of them comprise the remnants of one person: Sephiroth. Only at the end of the film do we see Kadaj as alone as he is in reality. Other themes that run through the movie include life, the cycle of life and death, and reunion. For how many action scenes the film contains, it shows surprisingly little blood, gore, and death. All the side and main characters live except for Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. Even Sephiroth lives. The film doesn’t glamorize the deaths and injuries onscreen from a monster attack on the city or geostigma. It acknowledges that people die and get hurt, but focuses on showing that more people live as if to say, “Yes, bad things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.” Cloud’s survival at the end of the movie doesn’t mean that he solved all his problems. Sephiroth survives, symbolizing that the cycle of life and death, happiness and sadness will continue. For now, Cloud averted the crisis. Perhaps someday, another problem will drag him down, but it will get better again as long as life continues. Despite all the battles he fights, violence doesn’t heal Cloud; reuniting with people does. Violence damaged him, and it almost kills him at the end of the movie. The kind acts Cloud performs throughout the film lead him to a reunion with his family, his friends, the people of the world, and finally happiness. Cloud discovers Tifa after she loses a fight to Loz. Holding her reminds him of the family he left behind. When he takes Marlene home after she escapes Kadaj’s gang, he returns to his friends to fight alongside them. Cloud sits with Kadaj as he dies, and they both share a sense of relief with the city’s inhabitants when healing rain sent from Aerith falls from the sky. Finally, after Cloud heals Denzel, he glimpses Aerith, walking among the living once again. Seeing her restores his faith and happiness. Even someone as flawed and damaged as Cloud can survive, find strength, and feel happiness. Perhaps he’ll never be able to do this without his friends, but that’s okay. These messages may sound cheesy, but they can be important to say for those who suffer from mental illness and other adversities where seeing the good things in life is so difficult. I could go on and on about Denzel, family, the salvation of children, and the film’s occasionally bizarre imagery. Final Fantasy VII fans such as Glenn Morrow, Il Neige, and Jirard Khalil have analyzed the film to find meaning through their experiences with the game as well, but I’d better stop here because in an hour and a half, this movie speaks volumes. Despite what reviewers say, Advent Children clearly has a story with conflicts, characters, and themes that relate to real-world human experiences. While critics may suspect or even recognize that the film has these elements though, they continue that how the film tells this story is the problem. Its excessive fight scenes and short, badly-written dialog hints that novice filmmakers padded a short film with an hour of senseless but cool-looking fight scenes. Are the battles really pointless distractions though? Part two of this three-part series will reveal the genius behind Advent Children’s action-packed madness.
  15. At the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event held last night, Square Enix revealed that there would be a five episode animated miniseries to show how the friendships formed between the cast of characters depicted hanging out together in the trailers. The series, titled Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, will release periodically from now until the launch of the game on September 30. All episodes will be free and available on the Final Fatnasy XV YouTube channel. The first episode has even been released already! Give it a watch if anime is your thing. Each episode is expected to be around 12 minutes long. Also revealed was the feature-length CG film Square Enix has dubbed Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. The story appears to set the stage for the return of protagonist Noctis to his rightful throne. While Noctis has been away, his homeland appears to have fallen into turmoil and only a select few seem capable of holding it together until the hair to the throne returns. A considerable amount of star power appears to be behind the film, too. Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings) will be playing the role of King Regis, Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) graces the CG screen as Luna, and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) assumes the part of Nyx, a member of the titular Kingsglaive, an elite group of soldiers tasked with defending the king. Square Enix has always been more miss than hit with its CG films, but perhaps Kingsglaive can change that and erase the sins of Spirits Within. Kingsglaive will not be shown in theaters, but it will be available for download and streaming at some point before the September 30 launch of Final Fantasy XV.
  16. I had the pleasure recently of sitting down with documentary filmmakers David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall to talk about Thank You for Playing, a film about the Green family and their struggle to make a game (That Dragon, Cancer) about their terminally ill son, Joel, while also caring for him as his condition worsens. It's a powerful, moving piece of film making. Right now Osit and Zouhali-Worrall are in the final hours of a Kickstarter campaign to fund national distribution of their film. Earlier this week, I published the written version of the interview. However, that thing is a massive bit of writing, so I asked David and Malika if it would be alright to publish the audio of our talk and they have graciously allowed me to put it out into the world for your listening pleasure. Outro music: Super Mario Bros. 'Me and Mario down by the Schoolyard' by FFmusic Dj and Geoffrey Taucer (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03100) You can check out their Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1372561818/bring-thank-you-for-playing-to-theaters-screens-wo?ref=project_tweet View full article
  17. Jack Gardner

    Listen to the Thank You For Playing Interview

    I had the pleasure recently of sitting down with documentary filmmakers David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall to talk about Thank You for Playing, a film about the Green family and their struggle to make a game (That Dragon, Cancer) about their terminally ill son, Joel, while also caring for him as his condition worsens. It's a powerful, moving piece of film making. Right now Osit and Zouhali-Worrall are in the final hours of a Kickstarter campaign to fund national distribution of their film. Earlier this week, I published the written version of the interview. However, that thing is a massive bit of writing, so I asked David and Malika if it would be alright to publish the audio of our talk and they have graciously allowed me to put it out into the world for your listening pleasure. Outro music: Super Mario Bros. 'Me and Mario down by the Schoolyard' by FFmusic Dj and Geoffrey Taucer (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03100) You can check out their Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1372561818/bring-thank-you-for-playing-to-theaters-screens-wo?ref=project_tweet
  18. Jack Gardner

    More BioShock Movie Concept Art Surfaces

    The film adaptations of BioShock might both be dead in the water, but Gamespot managed to unearth some of the concept art from the cancelled Gore Verbinski project. There are ten images in total released by artist Kasra Farahani and can be viewed on his website. The art appears to show Rapture's power generators, fueled by Little Sisters. Big Daddies stalk the halls and fight marauding hostiles. Solitary figures absorb blue liquid from overhanging IV tubes. It all looks dour, gloomy, and wistfully beautiful. It is hard not to wonder what the finished film might have looked like. This isn't the first time that concept art has leaked from the cancelled BioShock films. After the initial $200 million budget was slashed to $80 million and Gore Verbinski left the project, 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was brought on with a new vision. Ken Levine ultimately shut down production on Fresnadillo's version of BioShock, concept art of which can be found on the portfolio of Jim Martin.
  19. The film adaptations of BioShock might both be dead in the water, but Gamespot managed to unearth some of the concept art from the cancelled Gore Verbinski project. There are ten images in total released by artist Kasra Farahani and can be viewed on his website. The art appears to show Rapture's power generators, fueled by Little Sisters. Big Daddies stalk the halls and fight marauding hostiles. Solitary figures absorb blue liquid from overhanging IV tubes. It all looks dour, gloomy, and wistfully beautiful. It is hard not to wonder what the finished film might have looked like. This isn't the first time that concept art has leaked from the cancelled BioShock films. After the initial $200 million budget was slashed to $80 million and Gore Verbinski left the project, 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was brought on with a new vision. Ken Levine ultimately shut down production on Fresnadillo's version of BioShock, concept art of which can be found on the portfolio of Jim Martin. View full article
  20. The latest issue of the film industry magazine Empire holds the first image from the set of the film adaptation of Blizzard's iconic MMO. Scanned by Dark Horizons, the image appears to show director Duncan Jones watching his cast and crew during a filming session. Gamespot gathered some of their creative noggins together and came to the conclusion that the scene being filmed is set in the Stormwind Throne room. Details on the film are scarce, but it is reported to have a plot centered around a conflict between orcs and humans and that industry special effects giant Industrial Light and Magic has been contracted. The film was originally slated for December 18, 2015, but was bumped back a year after the announcement that Star Wars: Episode VII was releasing the same day. Currently the World of Warcraft film is looking at a march 2016 release. View full article
  21. The latest issue of the film industry magazine Empire holds the first image from the set of the film adaptation of Blizzard's iconic MMO. Scanned by Dark Horizons, the image appears to show director Duncan Jones watching his cast and crew during a filming session. Gamespot gathered some of their creative noggins together and came to the conclusion that the scene being filmed is set in the Stormwind Throne room. Details on the film are scarce, but it is reported to have a plot centered around a conflict between orcs and humans and that industry special effects giant Industrial Light and Magic has been contracted. The film was originally slated for December 18, 2015, but was bumped back a year after the announcement that Star Wars: Episode VII was releasing the same day. Currently the World of Warcraft film is looking at a march 2016 release.
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