Advent Children will only satisfy loyal fans of Final Fantasy VII and everyone else will be left disconcerted and confused.
One of the most baffling things about Final Fantasy VII is that the game never received a proper sequel despite suggesting that the story continued somehow. Since the JPRG was such a resounding success and has acquired a legendary status over the years, Square Enix decided to capitalize on fans’ interest and release the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII which was a series of media based on the popular 1997 JRPG. For the uninitiated, this new franchise included a third-person shooter called Dirge of Cerberus for the PS2, an action RPG for the PSP known as Crisis Core and a CGI film called Advent Children. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children proves that Square Enix is one of the best animation studios in the world and seeing characters like Sephiroth, Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Red XIII and all the others is terrific, but in the end, Advent Children feels like a movie with too much fan fiction, so it will only satisfy loyal fans and everyone else will be left disconcerted and confused.
The first few minutes of this film try to summarize the most important events and characters from Final Fantasy VII. In case that’s not enough (it’s probably not), both the Special Edition and the Complete versions come with a featurette that has gameplay from the PlayStation Classic, so if you don’t want to go back and play the JRPG all over again or read a detailed Wikipedia page, you can always watch this abridged version and catch up on the story. In other words, you should play Final Fantasy VII first and then watch this movie later, since the film is a direct sequel.
The film’s presentation is absolutely outstanding. As you’d expect, all the characters you know and love from the game have been beautifully recreated in glorious CGI and for the most part, their design is similar to one you remember and fresh at the same time. Also, the facial expressions and character movements are unparalleled. The music has also been reworked in the form of orchestral pieces that sound fantastic. Since this department is one of the most memorable and revered parts about the game, it’s important to note that Nobuo Uematsu is in charge of these amazing orchestral songs. Finally, the English dubbing is convincing enough, but if you have the option, I’d recommend you choose the Japanese voice acting, since it’s infinitely better.
The story, unfortunately, is probably the weakest part about the movie. In Advent Children, former hero Cloud Strife has become a renegade who’s escaping from his dark past, but as he will learn throughout this film, his past always finds a way to catch up to him. The city of Midgar has been afflicted by a sickness known as Sigma and Cloud (who also suffers from this rare disease) will team up with all of his friends to try and find a cure and defeat a group of terrorists that are trying to resurrect Sephiroth from eternal slumber. Keeping up with Shinra, Soldier, Jenova, the Lifesteam, not to mention the dozens of characters that are part of the franchise’s mythology make this movie sequel hard to keep up with at times.
Ultimately, your enjoyment with Advent Children depends on your relationship with Final Fantasy VII. Do you have great memories of the game? Did Aeris’ demise scarred you for life? Did you find the story and characters so memorable that you find yourself thinking about them to this very day? Then go right ahead because Advent Children is definitely for you. If you’re new to the series or if you’ve never liked the game, you will find Advent Children a gorgeous, but impenetrable CGI film.
To what extent is Advent Children impenetrable? Well, the plot seems like an excuse to bring back all the characters from the game and team up for some impressive-looking fights. By the way, these fights go on for way too long, which completely diminishes their impact. There are also new characters, but for the most part, Advent Children is about bringing back as many references to Final Fantasy VII as possible and the inclusion of some of the old character feels forced and contrived. Anyone who hasn’t played Final Fantasy VII will find the film incomprehensible and it’s hard to find connections between the numerous and furious fight scenes.
It’s worth pointing out that there are two versions of this film. The Special Edition came out in 2005 and has two DVDs. Disc one comes with the movie and the “Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Story Digest”, which is the gameplay taken from the game., Disc two comes with a making of featurette, Venice Film Festival footage, Sneak Peek of Final Fantasy VII-related games, trailers of the film and some deleted scenes. Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete, on the other hand, come out in 2009 in the form of a Blu-Ray and features all the extra content, the movie and adds 25 minutes of new expanded scenes.
In the end, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is extremely hard to review because your enjoyment with this film depends on your relationship with the game. If you like Final Fantasy VII and want more of it, Advent Children will definitely scratch that itch. But if you haven’t played the game or if you don’t remember it that fondly, the story won’t make any sense, and you’ll find the dialogue boring, the fight scenes repetitive and the inclusion of so many characters forced.