FILM REVIEW: ADVENT CHILDREN (COMPLETE)

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i like many people my age reserve a very special place in my heart for Final Fantasy VII. I clocked in something like 90 hours (that’s small potatoes even for me now, as i’m almost at 400 hours in Skyrim…) at the young age of 11 to play everything in it that i found interesting. Never had a game consumed my imagination or fascinated me with its setting like FFVII had. My sister and I (she would watch me play) spent months in front of the TV finishing it, and enjoying its ups and downs*. Unlike other investments of time that i regret (Karas…) i count those 90 or so hours as some of the most fun i had in my life.

Naturally when i heard that a sequel was being made as a part of that Compilation of Final Fantasy i was absolutely thrilled, (although i was a bit disappointed by the fact that it would be a movie instead of a game) and much like i would do with The Dark Knight, i went ahead and over hyped it by constantly reading any bit of news i could find, and digging up my copy of FFVII and trying to play through it again.

You can probably guess that i was bitterly disappointed by the time the end credits rolled…

Was that it? I asked myself. Where was the tension? Why wasn’t it a 4 1/2 hour magnum opus? Why did it feel less like a reunion and more like bumping into an old friend on a street corner, while being in too much of a hurry to chat? Realising only afterwards the tragedy of how much time had passed since you saw them last?

That was almost 10 years ago, and time has healed that particular wound enough that i felt i should give Advent Children a second chance.

 

THE GOOD

This movie looks great, and when i say great i mean fantastic. The level of detail in the environments, and attention to lighting and mood in all of the scenes really serves to bring the world of FFVII to life. Which is a damn shame because it only serves to make me want Square Enix to pull their heads out of their asses and remake the damn thing**. Most of the characters have all received new looks and i would say that all of them look quite good in them.

Before FFX introduced voice acting much of the atmosphere and all of the embellishments of emotion and tone had to be provided by the score. Nobuo Uematsu’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of motif’s and themes provided that in spades, songs like The Nightmare Begins, Anxious Heart, Those Chosen by the Planet, and of course One Winged Angel have all been seared into my memory, and despite my astronomical expectations Mr. Uematsu pulled off a miracle and produced new music and remixes that equaled the best the original game had to offer. New pieces like “Divinity II” and“The Promised Land” are breathtakingly beautiful, and “Advent: One Winged Angel” mixes heavy metal and traditional orchestrations that is just awesome in that words most traditional sense.

 

THE BAD

I’ll be the one to say this, who the fuck is Denzel and why the fuck should i care? This highlights my biggest gripe with the movie; In a world filled with interesting and memorable characters, with their own struggles and unique personalities the film makers instead try to get us to “feel” and “care” about some faceless unmemorable kid. Oh sure its tragic and sad that he is an orphan and he has geostigma, but i don’t care.

Nor will i ever (despite the Complete’s improved attempts at getting me to). If the film makers wanted me to feel that geostigma was something that was tearing the world apart it should have affected one of the characters that i’m invested in. i care what happens to them as a result of spending a decent chunk of my spare time in my formative years with them, i will easily root for their triumphs and would be saddened by their failures.

That truly is the worst part of Advent Children, never mind the gaping plot holes, or the lack of any sense of danger or tension in the proceedings, its the fact that this doesn’t feel like a reunion for the simple fact that it doesn’t reunite the characters in a substantive manner.

To elaborate on my assertions that the movie lacks any sense of danger i have to bring up the first fight Cloud gets into with the Sephiroth triplets. After a neat motorcycle chase sequence, where it is apparent that Cloud is also suffering from geostigma, he is surrounded and is shot in the face… He has a bullet (presumably) hit him right between the eyes suffers a cut and has his goggles busted.

You know what i start to think when a character is shot in the face and doesn’t die right away? Particularly if its set up that he is in a weakened state of being? He can’t and will not die. With that thought it mind all of the various fight scenes and cliffhangers all fell flat on their face. I knew Sephiroth would be defeated shortly regardless of how much Cloud was hurting because One Winged Angel was about to end, and sure enough Cloud pulled it all together just in time for the final notes.

I can feel that this is in danger of turning into a bile filled rant if i go on so i’m going to stop, as it would appear that time has not healed this wound enough.

 

THE COMPLETE VERSION

As i stated earlier, it has been about 10 or so years since i watched Advent Children fully. I have however kept up a curiosity as to what the “Complete” version had to offer as the running time of the film was increased, and it would appear the film makers tinkered with just about everything. So i bought the Blu-Ray popped it in and was rather pleasantly surprised that i found myself liking it a bit more.

I’m not sure how many scenes were added or tweaked, but somehow i ended up caring for Cloud a bit more here than i remember doing so before. It could be because his relationship with Tifa and Denzel is a little more fleshed out with some added content (this was most prevalent during Cloud’s “lost some weight” speech as somehow it felt much more real than in the original film). Also Cloud and Sephiroth’s climactic fight is marginally better as Cloud actually seems like he is fighting a losing battle against him. Also they included to my absolute delight a fully orchestral arrangement of Anxious Heart which is among my top five favorite video game score cues.

However the “Complete” version still doesn’t address my core issues that i have with Advent Children. Namely that most of the colourful cast of supporting characters from the game are nowhere to be seen, the void left by those characters is filled with Rufus and Reeve doing their best Jar Jar Binks impersonations, the movie suffers from some bad writing and is impenetrable to anyone who isn’t familiar with the game***, Geostigma continues to be a non-issue as Denzel and Cloud are still able to run around despite having it for a protracted amount of time, and Cloud having been turned into Sashimi by Sephiroth is still invincible (he is run completely through by Sephiroth’s blade, but after an overly long, pace/mood shattering pep talk from Zack he manages to pull it all together and kill him).****

 

THE UGLY

It may be that i’m being to hard on Advent Children, in that i expected far too much from it. Final Fantasy VII is my Star Wars; its one of my hallmarks of my youth, and anything related to it is going to have one hell of an up hill battle to impress me, as a result how could this movie ever live up to those expectations?

Advent Children lost that battle i’m afraid, its story is just not as involving as what came before, and although the “Complete” version is the superior one, it still pales in comparison to the standards set by FFVII, and i’m afraid it will always be in my eyes a source of bitter disappointment.

 

 

FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN

2 stars

OUT OF FIVE

FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN COMPLETE

2.5 stars

OUT OF FIVE

 

 

 

* you know i scratch my head when people say they cried when Aeris died, it was shocking (as much as it could be, a buddy spoiled that for me…) but i wasn’t emotionally scarred by it. Honestly i was more disturbed when Cloud and Tifa were out of the picture as i wasnt sure if either of them would make it to the end alive, and also that they were two of my party members…

** yes i know and acknowledge the basic fact that they would have to put all of their other projects on hold, as a game of the same size as VII would need the same resources that a new game. But it’s as safe an investment that could be made, and i think that they are just horribly afraid of making money.

*** it’s not like me to put this many annotations, but with this one it can’t be helped. Although it isn’t necessary to be inclusive towards a new audience, think about how much more involving and honestly cooler a proper prologue would be that shows the war of the ancients against Jenova, the war against wutai and subsequent creation of soldier, and a bit more of the stuggle against Sephiroth. Sure it would be monumental and expensive, but The Fellowship of the Ring’s prologue managed to set up almost the entirety of the back story in something like 10 minutes. I for one think that is a much better prospect than that awful summary that we are given.

**** This is more of a criticism of the Blu-Ray than the film itself : Nobuo Uematsu’s great score is mixed so low into the background on this version that it makes all of the scenes that would benefit from it feel bizarrely quiet and anti-climactic. I was straining to hear “Divinity II” over all of the sound effects and dialog and it was really really off putting. It might be because i’m not listening to this film on a surround sound system, but i shudder to think if that would help or make it worse…

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