Advent Children

Unless you’re either (a) living under a rock or (b) not a hopeless dork, you’re probably aware of Square Enix’s recent efforts to exploit the rabid fanbase of revive the Final Fantasy VII franchise. Along with a handful of video games that tie in to FF7, they also created another computer-animated movie: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.

But wait, you say, didn’t Square’s last attempt at a Final Fantasy-derived movie, The Spirits Within, utterly bomb and do enough damage to Square’s bottom line that they got acquired by rival Enix? (Or maybe you’re saying, “stop putting words in my mouth.”) Pretty much, yeah.

So, the big question: did Square learn from the earlier experience in filmmaking and create something that’s actually good, or is it just a forgettable effort to exploit the presumed FF7 cash cow?

Simply put, this movie is bad. Really bad.

For starters, unless you’ve played FF7, don’t even waste your time. The movie makes no effort to explain any of the backstory; it just assumes you’re intimately familiar with the characters and the storyline. And even with that knowledge, things don’t make a whole lot of sense.

To briefly summarize FF7, angsty amnesiac Cloud and company are trying to stop crazy white-haired pretty-boy Sephiroth from merging with mysterious alien creature Jenova and summoning a meteor to destroy the planet. You see, Cloud and Sephiroth were both members of a militia creatively named SOLDIER and were experimented on by being injected with Jenova cells. Apparently side-effects of the treatment can include angst and wanting to destroy the planet. There’s other stuff going on too. Oh, and Aeris dies.

I’ll also now try to summarize the plot of Advent Children, which only really serves as a loose way to segue from one fight scene to another (I’ll get to that later). (I’d say “spoiler alert,” but you can’t really spoil a movie this bad.) Apparently killing Sephiroth in the final battle just spilled those pesky Jenova cells all other the place, because now a bunch of eponymous children are infected with them and well on the road to being detached and angsty. Meanwhile, a trio of Sephiroth wanna-bes are going around to round those kids up so the Jenova cells can reunite. But more importantly, the Sephiroth Imposter Trio are looking for Jenova’s head, which I guess was left over after FF7′s pre-penultimate battle. Rufus and the Turks (from the aforementioned “other stuff going on”) are somehow involved with that, though it’s not explained why or how, especially when you find out that Rufus’s whole wheelchair-bound thing is an act and he’s got Jenova’s head in a box on his lap under his blanket the whole time.

So that’s what’s going on. See how the plot centers around getting those Jenova cells? Yeah, none of that’s actually explained in the movie; you just have to know what Jenova cells do from FF7. Not that it really makes the storyline make more sense, but there you are.

What’s truly amazing about Advent Children is how brazenly cynical an attempt it is to shovel fan service into the mouths of drooling FF7 fanboys. (“Fan service” in the broad sense of the term; unlike in FF7, Tifa’s actually wearing clothes this time around.) You’ve got fight sequences (wait for it…) every 12 minutes. You’ve got the entire FF7 party show up for one of them, despite the fact that most of them appear nowhere else in the plot, and their sudden arrival in time to fight a summoned monster tearing up the town square isn’t explained at all. A cell phone ringtone is the FF7 victory theme (and it rings right after Tifa finishes fighting one third of the Sephiroth Memorial Posse. Speaking of which, one of them suddenly turns into Sephiroth when he gets Jenova’s-head-in-a-box, because, um, then Sephiroth and Cloud can have a big extended fight scene set to a metal remix of One-Winged Angel. Plus, there’s regular glimpses of fanboy favorite Aeris, who shows up in full in the last scene.

There’s not really any rhyme nor reason to why anything happens. It feels like Square Enix rounded up a bunch of FF7 fanboys, asked them what they wanted to see in a FF7 movie, and threw together a rough plot to try to tie everything together.

And then there’s the battle scenes. You’d think anything with more fight scenes than an American action movie has got to be exciting, right? Hardly. Remember that big long fight on the highway in The Matrix Reloaded that you thought was going to be cool but turned out to be drawn-out and tedious and even the characters in it seemed bored the whole way through? (You don’t? Lucky.) The fight scenes in Advent Children are worse.

Most video games aren’t known for particularly realistic depictions of violence. For example, in FF7 you can get shot by machine guns and stabbed by ridiculously huge swords and only suffer a few HP worth of damage. That literally happens in Advent Children, and it works about as well as you think. People get thrown through thick stone columns and don’t even seem to notice. People can jump hundreds of feet into the air — thousands if other people jumping in midair at the time grab their hand and throw them upwards even more. Several times. In a row. The stuff going on in the fight scenes is so ludicrously over-the-top it’s painful to watch.

So, combine a seemingly endless sequence of unbelievable battle sequences, chain them together with an unexplained plot that doesn’t make sense even if you know the backstory, and add a heaping helping of fan service, and you get Advent Children.

Needless to say, if you’re not a foaming-at-the-mouth FF7 fanboy, avoid this movie like H5N1. And if you are a foaming-at-the-mouth FF7 fanboy, not only do you probably think all of the above makes the movie good, but you probably didn’t bother to read all the way to the end before flaming me in the comments anyway.

If Advent Children is typical of Square Enix’s other FF7-related efforts, at least now I know I have absolutely no interest in any of them.

(Also, memo to Square Enix: next time you want to cash in on FF7′s US fanbase, don’t release your films in Japan several months before in the states. I don’t think I’d ever seen a torrent with five digits’ worth of people connected to it before.)

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