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I agree that Mr. Mastrangeloās views are extremely unorthodox, and admit that there are likely other, equally or nearly so valid interpretations of the ending. But let us assume for the sake of argument that the human race was indeed destroyed÷sacrificed to save the planet. The Lifestream boiled to the surface and combined with Holy to repel Meteor, and was subsequently exhausted, marking the demise of the race that fueled it.
It is generally accepted that deception of oneself and others is a prominent theme in Final Fantasy VII. Cloud watched as Aeris was murdered when he could have saved her. He would have, but was rendered helpless by his alleged inferiority to Sephiroth. No one can be sure if Sephiroth was aware of his actual inferiority to Cloud, but we know that, for all his taunts, he was himself a heartless, soulless puppet of Jenova. I donāt dare attempt to sort out all of Cloud and Tifaās Blade Runner-esque implanted memories. And so forth and so on...
Whether or not Holy was going to destroy the species in its entirety, or merely Midgar, or that it was accidentally too close is not relevant, as are all the aforementioned illusions in themselves. The crux is that humans ceased to exist, and that their cessation marked the birth of a new world, a better world÷The Promised Land. At least thatās what Mags, in her wonderful Jenova Project, referred to the Cetraās utopia as (I canāt for the life of me remember whether it was in the actual game). At any rate, The Promised Land is the land not of the Cosmo race (though it seems they were spared), but of the Cetra÷and of Sephiroth.
It is therefore my opinion that completing this game was not truly victory. Although Cloud finally realized that he could defeat Sephiroth, did defeat him, and thus prevented him from interfering with Holy, he in doing so catalyzed the obliteration of himself and his species. He was again deceived, ironically into thinking that he had been enlightened, but in truth tricked into destroying his romance with Tifa, Barret and Marleneās beautiful father-daughter relationship, Yuffie and her struggle to restore Wutai to glory÷all that he and his band were fighting for. Only Cloud did not fight for Tifa. He merely convinced himself that he was.
If Sephiroth tried to create the Promised Land by taking the planetās power for himself, then remaking it in his own image, an action that in his perception would better it, and Aeris tried to save the world so that we might live to better it ourselves, then what of Cloud? Both Sephiroth and Aeris strove to (do that which would in their minds) improve the world; and, of course, the ultimate object of all improvement is perfection, which in this case would be the Promised Land. They both sought to create the Promised Land, and they are both Cetrae, at least in part. And Cloud, having been modified with Jenova cells, is as much a Cetra as either of them.
Would it not then follow that Cloud had, at least subconsciously, a similar goal, particularly when considering that he is not only the same sort of half-breed, but a clone of Sephiroth? I believe it does, and that Cloud, through Sephiroth and Jenovaās deception, as the former through the latterās, unwittingly pursued the end of creating a Promised Land. He assisted Aeris and, however unwittingly, Sephiroth as well. Like many ancient races in many different cultures, he is physically and mentally superior, but lacks true freedom of will÷a tool, or puppet, if you will, of some higher power (e.g. Jenova). Why else would he have given Sephiroth the Black Materia?
Ultimately, Cloudās efforts were rewarded, albeit in a way he did not expect. Aerisā face represents her involvement in the sacrifice of the Lifestream to save the planet÷and also to pave the way for the coming of the Promised Land. A further piece of irony to chew on: she did achieve her intended end (saving the planet), but used what amounted to Sephirothās means (the destruction of the human race)÷not unfitting methinks. Deception begets irony, which in turn begets denial and self-deception, which leads to the dark side, err, begetting more irony÷whoa, getting dizzy...
Original Editorial : The true meaning of FFVII's finale
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