[Editorial Tuesday] Pros and Cons: Final Fantasy VII Advent Children

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Serving as a sequel to the groundbreaking Japanese style Role Playing Game that established the genre on an international scale, Advent Children serves as a sequel to what happens two years after the events after Cloud Strife and his friends saved the world from the evil clutches of Sephiroth, and now his threat is back. However, there is also a disease going around called Geo Stigma affecting Cloud and numerous citizens of Midgard.

The movie instantly met with praise from the dedicated fanbase and even won best picture in the first and so far only ever (and highly controversial) American Anime Awards back in 2007. This movie kicked off a return of the game with other installments such as the Last Order OAV (which recaps the events of Cloud confronting Sephiroth prior to the events of the game), Dirge of Cerebus (a PS2 game focused on Vincent), and Crisis Core, the PSP exclusive prequel. And just recently, the long awaited remake being confirmed for PS4.

Despite that, is Advent Children the great movie many fans and critics make it out to be? For Honey’s first ever Pros and Cons list, we will explore Final Fantasy VII Advent Children.

Story and Characters

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Pros

Cloud and Tifa are back and so is the original cast to a very minimal degree. Many elements and concepts from the game still remain such as the concept of the lifestream and holy. Plus, the Turks (most notably Reno and Rude) play huge roles in the movie and they are kind of the heart of the movie despite being villains in the original game.

Other concepts such as materia and materia summons briefly factor into the movie as well. The main environment of Midgad will also be familiar to long time fans as well.

Cons

Cloud’s angst is unbearing to go through in this movie. He strongly lacks the charisma as a main character and he is rather impossible to relate to. His wise cracking and smart aleck personality from the original game are now gone as well as his romantic qualities. The movie shows he is not over Aeris/Aerith when the original game shows he got over her death and found peace. Now he is just emo. Despite Tifa’s role and how she worries over Cloud, the movie does nothing to develop their relationship.

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Outside of Cloud, Tifa, and a bit of Vincent, the rest of the original cast really have no presence. Granted they help out during the Bahamut fight, but they cause no damage to the point that they felt nearly non-existent. Too much of the movie focuses on Denzel, an original character severely ill with Geo Stigma. The audience really knows nothing about him and it's hard to really care and relate to him. His role could have easily been used by Marlene or another cast member where fans of the original game can feel more connected.

Maybe the PS4 remake will make use of him considering Square is taking an episodic approach to its release. The movie also doesn't really do anything to further symbolize what happens 400 years after the events of the game and how Red XIII brings back his race (and he doesn't do anything memorable in the movie or plays any significant role that contributes to the story beyond that).

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The villains are just hard to take seriously because of their emo gimmick and their whole “I want my mommy” dilemma. In addition, the movie doesn't explain why they kidnap the kids, why they need them or why Kadaj can turn water black and what that water is supposed to do. I mean, is he taking some sort of drugs? If so, I want some!!! It is easy follow along but rather boring because the game already establishes and resolves the whole thing about Jenova not being the real mother of Sephiroth.

Plus, the ending just feels so anti-climatic with the cure of Geo-stigma just being Holy Water (ok, I know it's really the Holy spell and all that but still, it comes across as ridiculously symbolizing that Cloud is like Jesus or something). The worst, the movie relies so much on exposition as a result.

The CG

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Pros

Nobody can deny the quality of the CG of this movie being second to the likes of James Cameron’s Avatar. As the original game is famous for its use of FMVs, Advent Children became another ground breaker with a full CG movie by exceeding another predecessor, The Spirits Within. Though the original game designs were more directly anime influenced with the big eyes and pointy faces, Advent Children takes the original designs and appropriately makes them look realistic in the vein of The Spirits Within.

Considering Nomura Tetsuya’s love for J-pop and how it influences his designs, they are very strongly adamant in this film. With Tifa’s new outfit, it takes great inspiration from Suzuki Ami’s fashion to the music video of one of her hits, Be Together. As for the male cast, their pretty faces, tight fashion and feminine and mysterious hair styles takes influences from Japanese boy bands such as NEWS and KATTUN.

Cons

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Too much of the world focuses on the gray and black further emphasizing its emo driven plot. The movie does nothing to show some of the lively and colorful environments from the original game such as the Golden Saucer and Cosmo Canyon, or some of its more beautiful natural places such as Yuffie’s home village. With all that breath-taking CG, it'd be great to see how these those places would have looked with those graphics and does not use it to its fullest potential.

The Action

Pros

If there has been one instant winner with this movie, it is the non-stop fighting. It covers a lot of angles and borrows (or some would rather say steal) a lot of its cinematography and choreography from The Matrix by being gravity defying. It does a better job than The Matrix because the CG in those movies has to make the characters look as real as possible, and it consequently makes some of the movement choppy.

The CG and design in this movie allows a much more fluid and natural movement that doesn't have to make the characters look as real as two people being filmed on camera. The action is very stylized and high-octane. In many of the fights, all of Cloud’s limit breaks from the game are given opportunity to shine as well as Cloud’s new omnislash.

Cons

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The thing about the action is that there is no consistency with the way things work. In the first fight, Cloud is shot point blank in the face and it does no damage than to just his sunglasses. Due to this, the fights tend to drag and go no where. In addition, there is no consistency with how the fights work. In the beginning, Cloud can take getting shot in the face but he can't take a distant shot through the heart. How does that make any sense? As a result, there is no feeling of anyone’s life on the line or any feeling of danger whatsoever.

When Cloud defeats Bahamut, he needs the help of his friends to “boost” him, but in the Sephiroth fight, he is practically flying. Some fans simply can just write this off by saying he “leveled up” after beating Bahamut. It would make sense in J-RPG rules, but in a movie, it wouldn't. To simply steal from Bruce Lee in the beginning of Enter the Dragon, the fights in this movie need emotional content. In the end, it's a matter of style vs substance.

Overall

Anytime the movie is met with criticism, many fans will be quick to say you have to play the game in order to appreciate it. That may be true but should playing a 24 hour game be a prerequisite to enjoy a two hour movie? James Cameron once said you shouldn't have to enjoy a sequel without watching the predecessor. Terminator 2 does a great job of being an excellent sequel without any exposure to the first movie. The fourth Rambo movie tells a great story without any required exposure to the first three movies, excellently develops the John Rambo character, and gives the audience a strong message to the tragedies in Burma that very few people knew about prior to the release of the movie.

So whenever people tend to resort to that line of justification that audiences need to play the game, it seems to me that the majority of its praise stems from the basis of its brand name and not the quality of the movie in itself.

It is certain that a majority of the critics have played the game enough times to know that Cloud and his friends went through a great deal of development and it was sad to see that there is no further development, especially in context to their relationships. And without the need for cure spells or potions, the fighting is rather directionless and feels like watching an MMA and/or boxing match where both combatants are going for the knockout, but they are swinging and missing and they're not smart enough to make any changes to their strategies.

One thing that cannot be denied is that the music is excellently used and the remix of One Winged Angel did make things feel more intense as well as the piano rendition of the battle theme song in the church.

So how do you feel? Is Advent Children worthy of its award for best picture and the rest of its praise? Is it all style and no substance? Does the whole play the game argument to enjoy the movie really hold water? Will the PS4 remake help make this movie make more sense? Leave a comment with how you feel!

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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