FOR HEARTH AND HOME
Final Fantasy XV (FFXV) is nearly upon us, promising a massive world, lovable characters, and intense battles. While I’ve refrained from peeking at too many videos and previews for this hotly anticipated game, its feature-length Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV animated prequel was much too tempting to ignore. So, how is it? Sit for a spell and let me tell you…
Square Enix’s previous computer generated film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was a massive part of my early teens. It took beloved characters from my childhood and continued where one of my favorite games of all time (Final Fantasy VII) left off, delivering a rollercoaster of high-flying action and fun character banter that I love to this day. It wasn’t perfect, but warrants a yearly viewing as tradition… and now, it may be part of a double feature.
Kingsglaive is everything a Final Fantasy movie should be. Opening with a jaw-dropping battle featuring magic-flinging ground soldiers and massive monsters, it introduces us to its cast quickly and efficiently. The friendly trio of Nyx, Crowe, and Libertus go on to drive the story forward in different ways, helping to ground an otherwise fantastical movie rife with awe-inspiring visuals.
The three of them are also part of the titular Kingsglaive unit, the members of whom serve as well-trusted guardsmen or clandestine agents under orders from the King of Lucis. Comprised largely of orphans from a neighboring region who showed immense promise, the Kingsglaive has been granted a portion of King Regis’ magic to accomplish their missions against the warring Niflheim empire.
Let me get something out of the way now: this movie is full of strange-sounding names, a huge cast of characters, multiple factions, and quite a few intersecting plots and twists — all of which can make it a bit overwhelming. It asks its viewers to pay absolute attention to every second, or leaves you in the dust to ask what that guy with the Darth Vader voice is doing, and why there’s suddenly a giant tentacle monster killing people. In other words: heads up, phones down — a warning my brother should’ve heeded before he found himself exiled from the premises. (MOVIES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS, DAMMIT!)
Ahem. So since I’ll forego spilling more details about the storyline, let me just say that it satisfies in every regard. There was a moment one hour and thirteen minutes in where it seems to have built to an emotional climax, preparing for the ol’ fade to black — and then keeps going for another forty minutes! That typically spells disaster for any film, yet Kingsglaive manages to stay on track. What’s more, it veers into an incredible final battle far outmatching the Cloud vs. Sephiroth bout from Advent Children. And trust me, that’s a glowing endorsement.
The visuals play a large part in that, of course. Kingsglaive takes a more realistic approach to character appearances than Advent Children’s anime-influenced leanings. It even manages to avoid the uncanny valley more often than not, taking great care to make its characters feel like living, breathing people. There are times when the quality drops a bit — like a quick outdoor dining scene where the lip syncing and gestures look more than a little wonky — but on the whole, the presentation is something to behold.
However, the plot and visuals can only carry a movie so far. It takes a talented cast to infuse a project like this with the emotion required to endear us to these characters, and they succeed… for the most part. Sean Bean’s Regis has all the gravitas and charm of an aged King with waning power, and Lena Headey lends Princess Lunafreya a much more prominent presence than the character may have had otherwise. Who surprised me the most, however, was Aaron Paul as protagonist Nyx Ulric. I’ve never been much of a fan, but he did great in adding dimension to a character who could have easily been as dry and dour as FFVII’s Cloud Strife.
Such care wasn’t taken with other characters, like Libertus and his overly growly tone, and Crowe, whose lines were often delivered aggressively even when she seemed otherwise calm. The legions of unnamed side characters were also given loud, frequently goofy voices along the lines of traditionally dubbed anime… but I’m actually a fan of that kinda thing.
THE VERDICT: 8.5 OUT OF 10
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV sucked me into its insane tale much more effectively than Advent Children managed, without featuring characters from an already established (and immensely beloved) game. While it presents us with a skillfully crafted, self-contained adventure inside its nearly two hour runtime, it was primarily meant to hype and promote the upcoming FFXV video game. Well, in that regard… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. I’m now fully invested in this world, and can’t wait to have a chance at exploring it for myself.