Review: Is the Third Time a Charm for Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV?

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Posted August 22, 2016 by Spencer Birch in Movies

Directed by: Takeshi Nozue

Starring: Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Aaron Paul

Release Date: August 19, 2016

 

In 2001 the world was slightly over excited for what was promised to be the first of many films created by the recently opened Square Pictures: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The film was groundbreaking in a lot of ways, the CG work was top of the line and it boasted a star studded cast that was largely uncommon for animated films at the time (outside of perhaps Pixar). Unfortunately The Spirits Within was met with less than stellar praise when it launched, grossing nearly half of it’s original production costs at the box office.

Since then there has been several other Final Fantasy offshoots from the divisive Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie to several anime series and even radio shows. So when Square Enix along with Sony Pictures announced an offshoot movie to their upcoming game Final Fantasy XV, you can imagine my trepidation. In general video game movie adaptations sound like a great idea on paper but in practice they often fall short, lacking many of the fundamental features that make the games fun, namely the part about them being games.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV begins with a small scene laying out some backstory with narration by Lena Headey, who voices Lunafreya, princess of the kingdom of Tenebrea. Immediately upon it’s opening you are greeted with fabulous voice acting and gorgeous visuals. These two traits are pervasive throughout the film and continue to impress during the duration. The entirety of the fully CG movie is motion and facial captured with many of the voice actors doing the captures themselves which adds to the realism. I found that, for the most part, the uncanny valley that is normally present in Final Fantasy films was no longer an issue. Square Enix, along with it’s partner studios, has done a great job making all of the character models seem realistic while also adhering to a very specific art style which works well to bridge the gap between live-action and CG.

How do they keep their hair looking great during battle?

How do they keep their hair looking great during battle?

Kingsglaive wastes very little time with narrative before jumping straight into the action, I counted about one minute of playtime to be more exact. As mentioned previously the visuals are fantastic, even during sequences of fast movement. The motion captured nature of the film gives many of the characters a slightly Crouching Tiger feeling during more intense sequences, but with it being fully computer rendered this works well for me. You are soon presented with a flash forward into the future where you are introduced to the main character, Nyx, as he fights the invading kingdom of Nifleheim. Here we are awarded with the first callbacks to earlier entries in the Final Fantasy series. Some may call it fan service, which I suppose technically it is, but the way it is done is tasteful and fun.

For all of the praise I have given the movie for it’s voice acting and visual fidelity, you may be wondering if there is any downside to Kingsglaive at all. Not to worry, this movie is not without it’s typical video game movie offshoot issues. The story is rather light once you understand it, though getting to that point can be a bit hard for some people; especially if you aren’t good at memorizing dozens of fantasy names and putting them to their CG faces. Kingsglaive is mostly action and really cuts down on slower sequences of dialogue which I am happy about, though some of the more calm scenes of exposition can be trying. Despite the excellent voice work, some of the interplay between characters feels as though they were recorded completely separately, that is to say, it doesn’t feel as though they play off of each other naturally. I have no idea if this is the case or not, your guess is as good as mine. This luckily isn’t an issue throughout the entire film though, many of the sequences of pure dialogue are excellent, namely some scenes featuring Sean Bean (King Regis of Lucis) and David Gant (Ledolas Alercapt, emperor of Nifleheim).

 

It's about to go down

It’s about to go down

All in all, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a lot of fun to watch, and is a one of the better video game movie offshoots available. From gorgeous CG and art direction to great voice acting, it exceeds a lot of my (admittedly low) expectations of what a Final Fantasy movie in 2016 would be. Sure, some of the dialogue can be a bit cheesy, and the story is pretty tough to follow, but I think that the goal of this movie is to showcase what Final Fantasy is all about: immersing you in a fantasy world full of action, adventure and good old fashioned video game-y drama.


About the Author

Spencer Birch

I dislike long walks on the beach actually, sand gets everywhere and the sun makes it hard to see my screen. Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/spencermbirch