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   Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children - Staff Review  

Can't Get Offa This Train Just Yet
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
RUN TIME
Approximately 101 mins.
OVERALL

4.0/5

Rating definitions 

   When Final Fantasy VII was released in the early days of the PlayStation, it was hailed as a breakthrough RPG. Accompanied by a marketing blitz the likes of which no RPG had seen before, the game introduced a slew of new gamers to the Final Fantasy series, and began the genre's expansion in North America as developers began to see this hemisphere as being more receptive to RPGs. It seemed a bit odd at the time, at least to those unfamiliar with the nature of the series, that Final Fantasy VIII didn't continue Cloud's story, and many clamored for a true sequel. Now, almost a decade later, Square-Enix has released a continuation of the story of Cloud Strife and his group with the CG movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Overall, the movie lacks some of the depth of storytelling that made the game so enjoyable, but it makes up for this failing with some truly impressive animation, particularly during the frequent and imaginative action sequences. Though some fans of Final Fantasy VII might find the movie a bit lacking, it still provides an enjoyable, if not particularly cerebral, experience.

   The movie takes place two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, and deals primarily with Cloud's attempt to come to terms with Aerith's untimely death. It introduces a trio of violent youths - Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz - who bear a striking resemblance to Sephiroth, and who repeatedly demand the return of "Mother." The conflict between Cloud and these three, along with the mysterious disease known as Geostigma, forms the basis of a story that feels a bit brainless and perhaps a little overfocused on combat over character development, especially when compared with that of Final Fantasy VII. However, with the vast majority of screen time taken up by acrobatic combat sequences, it seems unlikely that complexity or originality of story was the main concern. Of course, that's not saying the story is completely without merit. It does provide some interesting insights into a few of the less-developed characters of the game, though Cloud receives most of the attention and development as the story unfolds.

   The majority of the movie plays out in the city of Edge, and so it feels a bit more grey and urban than the game did. Though the movie does stray a bit from the feel of the game, it does an admirable job of bringing the characters of Final Fantasy VII to life, giving them a sense of style and realism that simply wasn't possible with late-90's technology. Almost all of the characters have seen some kind of redesign, with the lead characters seeing the most drastic changes, alterations which reflect the somewhat darker tone. Part of the changes from the game world, however, are simply due to changes in the tone of the story and the difference in what one can do in a game as opposed to what one can do in a movie. Characters are much more lifelike - frighteningly so at times - a fact which occasionally plays havoc with the character design, particularly in cast members who are hairier than others. Overall, though, the look that the movie presents fits reasonably well with the vaguely steampunk feel that Final Fantasy VII had, and the new designs serve to make the characters feel a little older and more traveled.

Cloud soaks up the style Cloud soaks up the style

   The most intriguing and, frankly, mesmerizing aspect of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is the acrobatics employed during the movie's frequent and lengthy action sequences. Though Cloud, as the primary focus of the movie, receives the most creative and impressive scenes, most if not all of the characters present in the movie have at least one scene in which they perform some ridiculously insane piece of gravity-defying heroism. Particularly in this aspect, the film feels very much like a love letter to the fans of Final Fantasy VII. Here, the movie says, are all of your favorite characters. They still kick butt, don't they? Look how awesome they are. And you knew them back when they were made of polygons so big you could count each individual one of them. The film trades in nostalgia to an almost disturbing degree.

   The music takes an unusually active role in the movie, acting as an enabler for huge waves of nostalgia. There isn't much in the way of truly new material in the movie's soundtrack, as it is made up primarily of re-arrangements of songs from Final Fantasy VII. There have already been a huge number of remixes, re-arrangements, and re-imaginings of Final Fantasy VII's score, as is the case with any popular game, a fact which should have made the soundtrack a bit tiresome. However, the music is written with such skill and played with such sincerity and verve that it becomes difficult to dislike. Given that its primary objective is to focus the nostalgia for Final Fantasy VII, the music does an admirable job of completing this task without being predictable or becoming cynical about its role in the movie.

Cait Sith appears to have lost his better half. Cait Sith appears to have lost his better half.

   The voice acting featured in FFVII:AC is performed by some well-known figures in the small circle of actors who normally frequent the cast of dubbed anime series, and the work they perform on FFVII:AC is solid, if a bit unspectacular at times. The one major problem with the voice acting actually has little to do with the actors themselves. The lip sync, though it works very well with the Japanese language, causes some problems for the English translation. Much as was the case with Final Fantasy X, actors have trouble matching the rhythm of their lines to the patterns of character's lips, creating awkward pauses and stutters in lines. It isn't nearly as much of a problem in FFVII:AC as it has been in other titles, but it's still noticeable enough at times to be awkward. Overall, though, the English voice actors do a solid job, and none of the voices seem out of place or inappropriate to their character.

   At times, FFVII:AC gives the impression of being an hour-and-a-half long opening CG sequence, which, given the string of sequels and spin-offs in the works, may not be too far off the mark. Though the movie feels a little brainless at times, emphasizing combat and aerobatics over character development, it doesn't abandon the characters to two-dimensionality, and in the end works quite well as a continuation of the story of Final Fantasy VII. In the final analysis, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a fun, if not particularly deep movie, and its superb animation and crowd-pleasing action sequences should make fans of the game quite happy.

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