Let’s Chat With the Director and Lead Writer of Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV releases this month in the US as a tie in to the (very) long awaited game Final Fantasy XV. The movie follows the story of The Kingsglaive, the royal guard to King Regis. Residing in the city of Insomnia, Regis and his Kinsglaive work tirelessly to protect the crystal hidden within the citadel, the last of its kind on their home planet of Eos, from the Nifleheim empire’s invasion. The film released earlier this year to great acclaim in Japan, and features star talent from Sean Bean (King Regis Lucis) Lena Headey (Lunafreya Nox Flueret), and Aaron Paul (Nyx Ulrich).
I got the opportunity to chat with the director of the film, Takeshi Nozue, and the lead writer, Dan Inoue, about Kingslaive, its tie ins with the game, and more!
Spencer Birch: Hi! How are you both?
Dan Inoue: We’re alright!
SB: Thank you so much for talking with me today! I am really excited about Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, and I am really happy to be able to talk to you about it.
DI: We are happy to talk to you too!
SB: I guess the first question I want to ask is kind of a basic one. I understand that Kingsglaive is designed as a standalone movie that isn’t necessarily only for hardcore fans. Do you feel like you’ve created a film that can appeal to both newcomers to the series as well as hardcore fans?
Takeshi Nozue: Yeah that was kind of the original goal, to have the newcomers in mind and also that the people who had played Final Fantasy before would have a reason to come back and give it another try.
SB: Yeah definitely! So Takeshi, you previously co-directed FFVII Advent Children with Tetsuya Nomura. Was it much different this time around being the sole director of the film?
TN: Yes, there were things like the story were I didn’t have as much control in Advent Children and here I had sole control of the elements which was nice but there was also a lot more responsibility, a lot more for me to do. So it was definitely a different experience from Advent Children.
SB: Yeah. I feel that Kingsglaive is similar to Advent children in some ways, but it feels much more grand and definitely more beautiful. Dan, your writing background is mostly in games, and I am sure it’s different writing for a movie, especially a movie based on a game. Did this force you to change your writing style very much?
DI: Umm, yeah. Well we have a team of writers and I have to credit fellow co-lead Steven Reinhart with a lot of his work on the scripts, he really put the skeleton of it together. You know, the way the script was targeted, Nozue-san’s idea for the plot, and Hasegawa-san who produced the Japanese screenplay were conscious of the Western audience and they were also really open minded with having the lines that really appealed to our [Western] audience and really not making it feel translated or foreign. We have also had everyone along the way like script doctors, and there has been a lot that has gone into polishing the scripts. And then the voice talent lending their talent. We’ve watched it grow from paper to motion capture which kind of gave it form, then to voice which gave it life. I would say yeah, mostly different from the games that you’re not matching the same time frames of the Japanese performance necessarily because English was the lead language here. So there were a lot more liberties we could take with the script. Whereas in the game we have time constraints, we have certain motion constraints because it’s more of a localization whereas here with English being the main language and the motion capture actors being mostly native English speakers it was very liberating.
SB: I feel that watching the film, it suits a Western audience really well. I didn’t feel like there was any sort of disconnect at all, for me, a normal English speaking person, that I would normally experience in any sort of localized content. I want to ask about the city of Insomnia specifically. It really struck me in the film: it’s so beautiful. The architecture feels really grand like I’m in some sort of cathedral, but it’s also in the middle of a very modern, big city. Could you tell me a bit about how the design of the city came to be?
TN: Insomnia was originally presented with Final Fantasy Versus XIII and we wanted to stick to that. It was originally based on the city in Tokyo, the area known as Shinjuku and that is where it began and we wanted to keep that consistent. But we also incorporated more of the Final Fantasy elements in decoration to make it a magical city. Also following some world architecture, different cultures, different countries, and adding that into the mix while keeping that baseline there. That is kind of how we arrived at the Insomnia you see on the screen.
SB: It really struck me. If I was forced to come up with a fantasy setting in the modern time that is how I would want it to be. It feels fantastical but it also feels realistic. Let’s talk briefly about the music if that’s ok. In the Final Fantasy games the music is usually one of my favorite parts and I know that Yoko Shimomura composed most of the soundtrack for the game, and she also did the main theme for Kingsglaive. Takeshi, I have read somewhere that you have mentioned the score in the film is sort of “Shimomura Meets Hollywood.” What exactly do you mean by this?
TN: One of the key differences between composing a game score versus a film score is that a film score is more specific to the scenes, of what’s going on. It’s in a very finite area and you are hitting the beats exactly which is fairly different from a general game score which can be background sometimes. Shimomura-san is obviously aware of this and did a great job with it. The “Shimomura meets Hollywood” expression has more to do with the arrangement and bringing out the genius of her work in that way.
SB: Sure. I know that the Final Fantasy games in particular are focused around a lot of character motifs, as far as the music goes. A lot of motifs for characters and places, and I feel that the movie had a lot of this as well. Are there any tie-ins, as far as the music goes, between the game and the movie in that sense?
DI: I’m not entirely sure what you mean by motif in this instance, do you have anything as an example?
SB: Sure! For example in Final Fantasy VI the game starts out with “Terra’s Theme” [humming: “Terra’s Theme”] and so whenever she would come into the picture, or even on the overworld, it would play some aspects of that theme.
DI: I see!
TN: So we can’t really confirm or deny anything at this point…
SB: Sure, of course.
TN: It will be something fun for you to look forward to when you see it!
SB: I am definitely looking forward to it! As far as the visual aspects of the film itself, specifically the CG and in particular the facial capture and the expressions were so incredible to me when I watched it. I felt that so much of the story was told sort of between the lines with the facial expressions and not always with the dialogue. Did this aspect of the movie turn out the way you envisioned it originally?
TN: I am really happy to hear you felt that way! As a filmmaker my philosophy is that you don’t tell the story just with dialogue, but performance, dialogue and music all conspire to tell the story and work through all those nodes. That was one of the great intentions going in, to tell the story in that way. I am very glad that you picked up on that. Basically in these last ten years we have seen great advances in facial recognition technology and being able to portray that on screen, and so this really was the time to do it and I’m quite happy to hear you enjoyed that.
SB: I really loved it. It really drew me in, especially the character’s eyes, they were just so expressive all the time. I want to go ahead and move on to my final question, I just want to know personally what is both of your favorite Final Fantasy game in the series?
TN: [Final Fantasy] IX, it is the first game I worked on and it is my favorite.
DI: I have kind of a weird one, I really like FFV, it’s not story driven but I just really fell in love with that job system, it’s always had a special place in my heart.
TN: And of course XV! [laughs]
SB: Of course!
SB: XV is my upcoming favorite! Dan, you, and I would be good friends, I think; Final Fantasy V is absolutely my favorite. That job system, going back to it today, I still find things where I am like, “Wow, I didn’t realize I could setup my team this way,” you know?
DI: It’s so deep, it’s so deep. People don’t appreciate it. I’ve never heard of anyone say that V is their favorite.
SB: It’s the secret best game in the series, right behind XV! Thank you guys so much for speaking with me, it was quite an honor. I really love the film and I think that a lot of people are going to really enjoy it.
DI: Thanks for talking to us too!
TN: Thank you!