Speaking of things just released on 4K blu-ray (as I was a week ago… that paragraph starter doesn’t really work here in that case… oh well) we have Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the CG follow up film to the mega-popular RPG. At the time of its release I was blown away by the animation and CG effects and I guess I convinced myself to buy the 4K version because I was desperate to reclaim that feeling but I have to say it doesn’t matter how uncompressed it is CG animation from 2005 just doesn’t impress any more in 2021… Still, what’s the actual story and experience like? Let’s take a look!
Two years after saving the world from a cataclysmic event, the members of the activist organization Avalanche have gone their separate ways. Tifa Lockhart opens a new bar while her childhood friend Cloud Strife starts up a motorcycle-based courier service. The two also look after two young children in Marlene and Denzel.
Their life together begins to crumble as a contagious plague and overwhelming grief pull Cloud away from his newfound family. While distancing himself through his work, Cloud is attacked by three silver-haired figures in black uniforms who bear a passing resemblance to his bitter rival, Sephiroth…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cloud tries to come to grips with the idea that he’s supposed to be a charismatic leader.
If nothing else Advent Children does serve as great fan service to Final Fantasy VII fans (as in the non-rude version of fan service…) as it delivers fight scenes a plenty with Cloud, plus Tifa has a couple herself and the rest of the old playable party get to do at least a little something during the big climax. Throw in remixes of the all-time classic OST and obviously plenty of visuals from the games (especially the city of Midgar) and if all your after is a straight up sequel story than you’ll have a great time.
I do like the main plotline as a follow up as well though you’ll have to excuse me not explaining every little thing as it really does require previous knowledge of the game… Sephiroth has been killed so rejoins the planet’s life stream but he’s polluting it, causing a disease known as Geostigma to start ravage the population. Sephiroth’s will has also given rise to a trio of silver-haired humans named Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo (yikes, that’s quite some names they’ve got there…) who wish to use the remains of the alien Jenova to resurrect Sephiroth himself. Most of the film revolves around this trio increasing the spread of Geostigma (each infected they see as their “brothers and sisters” as they’re also infected by Sephiroth, just to a lesser and more deadly degree…) and trying to find Jenova’s head, which as it turns out was being kept under the wheelchair of believed-dead Shinra President Rufus.
Exciting, if not a bit blurry, motorcycle / helicopter chase!
Thanks to Rufus being alive the Shinra Turks Reno and Rude play quite a large part in the film, far larger than all but Cloud and Tifa on the good guy side of things. I don’t mind as such because the duo do have an enjoyable comedy / straight man act, but it does seem odd that their role in the film could’ve gone to a Barrett or Yuffie or basically another one of the main cast. A lot of the middle of the film drags but I will give credit to a set piece where Kadaj and co. have used their control over Geostigma-poisoned children to lure Cloud to a showdown in the Forest of the Ancients which ends when Vincent arrives with his impressive-in-2005 flowing red cape and saves Cloud before giving him a pep talk. It’s one of the few moments where Cloud shows any personality, probably because the vampire is even more blunt and stoic than he is…
Eventually all of Cloud’s hard fought-for Materia collection is stolen and Kadaj uses it to summon Bahamut to destroy Midgar, leading to a reunion of all the playable party from FFVII in Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, Vincent, Yuffie, Cait Sith, Red XIII and Cid rejoining forces in order to battle back against the beast and other summoned creatures. It is eventually defeated but in the chaos Kadaj gets his hands on the head of Jenova and fuses with it, resurrecting Sephiroth from the life stream. He and Cloud proceed to have a surprisingly bloody rematch set to the classic Sephiroth tune in which Cloud eventually triumphs with a new Limit Break. In removing his foe’s spirit from the life stream the Geostigma is cured by a magical water pool in Aerith’s old church and everyone, presumably, lives happily ever after…
Rude stands guard over Emperor Palpatine.
Cloud is sadly mostly miserable in the film as he contracts the deadly Geostigma disease and has found himself still racked with guilt over not being able to save Aerith what is now two years ago. It’s a shame because those few moments of stoic and sarcastic humour or comforting smiles made his character more than the one-note way it’s presented here. In the end he sees the spirits of Aerith and Zack and is both relieved of his guilt and full with a feeling that he’s not alone any more, all things I would’ve thought he’d learnt by the end of the game, but hey-ho…
If you’re watching a HD version of the film, even regular Blu-ray, then you’ll be watching the “Complete” version which adds in 20 odd minutes previously cut from the film… and I really wish there was a way NOT to watch this version. It adds in a fair amount of extra scenes with Cloud and Tifa’s adopted child Denzel, who just isn’t that interesting by himself. He’s a handy plot device to give Cloud some extra motivation / guilt when it’s revealed he’s contracted Geostigma and then later used by Kadaj, but otherwise they just slow the pace down to a crawl, which is presumably why they were removed in the first place…
Also it has to be said that Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo are really just a means to an end and have next to no personality. Kadaj has a tantrum-throwing child aspect to him but the other two are just extra bodies / comic relief and don’t even have a great final battle, they just go up in an explosion alongside Cloud after he defeats the Septhiroth’d Kadaj. You’d think Loz and Yazoo would’ve been killed by the other cast members to give them an extra moment, but nope!
Throw in the now dated animation and Advent Children no longer lives up to my memory of it. It goes without saying that if you’re not really into FFVII lore you’ll be completely lost. This was a sequel for fans only, that’s for sure!
Irregardless of everything I’ve said, this final fight is still a great spectacle.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is still a fun follow up to the original game and has some exciting fight scenes and fanwank but it does go down in my estimation each time I see it. The animation and CG textures just aren’t up to much in 2021 (one of the many reasons it’s still inferior to 2D animation, just saying…) and the “Complete” version just drags the story down with padding that was rightfully exorcised in the original theatrical release. A bit of fun for fans, but nothing worth watching otherwise…