Today I decided to watch Final Fantasy Advent Children again. It's a weird little movie with the most rabid of fan bases behind it. Seriously, people love them some Final Fantasy 7. So with great trepidation I step forward to say that... man, I don't know if I really like this film or not.
Square Enix, the people behind the film and the game it was based on, have made some incredible games over the year. I'll admit that I didn't play Final Fantasy 7 myself, but I'm roughly familiar with the plot (or as familiar as one can get with the incredibly over-complicated story they have in that game). I really enjoyed Final Fantasy 10 and was okay with it's direct sequel. They know how to tell an engaging, moving story. But man... they get complicated.
So back on track here, let's take a brief look at Advent Children. It takes place after the events of the game and their first issue, from my point of view, is that it is clearly made for fans of the game and not to bring in new fans. My first time watching it I had no earthly idea what was going on. In fact, I recall there being a special feature on the DVD that gave you a primer on the game's story so you could follow the movie. It didn't work.
The next big issue is that, and this is confirmed from the producers, they chose coolness over logic. Fight scenes (and I'm assuming anything else that seemed cool) were given carte blanche to do whatever. That's really nothing new in anime, but man, does it ever make it hard to figure out what characters are capable of. Is this person REALLY that strong or was it just cool?
Things don't really follow logical paths in this movie to begin with, and then the story has a habit of holding back information. Talking with people that have played and LOVE the game, even some of them are a little vague on the hows and whys of this movie. So... really... I never had chance.
So, from a writing standpoint, I have to deduct points for being very exclusive. It's like a club that's members only. Now, they released a "complete" version later that fills in some gaps (which is what I watched today) and even with that, I just don't think I can appreciate the movie with the same spirit that players of the game can. There are locations that I'm sure press the nostalgia button pretty hard, characters that go through emotional arcs that I just don't have attachment to, and all the special moves and magic, I know that had to blow fans' minds. But... I just thought it was kinda cool looking.
I think this may be the polar opposite of what most fans deal with when their favorite works come to the big screen. People always say the book is better. That the movies never stick to the original plot. I wonder if this is the reason why. I get the impression that Advent Children stuck to the original plot so closely that it excluded anyone not familiar with the source material. Like this might as well have been another game than a movie. At least then, people would've thought "Eh, I should probably play the first one before I play this." Instead, I think myself and others like me just say down with our overexcited friends and thought "Wow, I have no idea who that is or why I should be excited. Wait... is that Cloud? I thought he had a different sword. Wait, who are these three guys?"
Don't get me wrong, the graphics are phenomenal, the music amazing, and the overall experience is enjoyable, but I just can't help that think I was not and will never be the intended market for this movie.
PS. If YOU would like to figure out what the heck is happening in that game / movie, please enjoy this lovely explanation from Starbomb.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.