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Saturday, 8 October 2016

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.

I wasn't really planning on watching this film, but I thought I may as well give it a chance, with my expectations as low as humanly possible. While I am looking forward to Final Fantasy XV (despite it being in development hell for so long, primarily due to Tetsuya Nomura's staggering incompetence), Square-Enix does not have a good track record with feature films, with its last two attempts being Advent Children, an incoherent mess, and The Spirits Within, a boring and generic sci-fi flick.

A prequel film to Final Fantasy XV, Kingsglaive splits the action between two characters: Nyx Ulric, a member of the Kingdom of Lucis' special ops squadron of mages, who utilise the king's magic to fend off invasion attempts from the Empire of Niflheim; and Regis, the king of Lucis, now too old to use the magics of his kingdom to their fullest extent. In the wake of a devastating battle in which Niflheim unveils a daemon, a giant monster of catastrophic power, Regis and his council are approached with terms of surrender, in which all of Lucis bar its capital will become part of Niflheim, and Princess Lunafreya, of the annexed kingdom of Tenebrae, will marry Regis' son, Noctis.

As the treaty signing begins, however, it becomes clear that a conspiracy is in the works, and that Niflheim has a cunning plan in the works -- a plan to conquer all of Lucis and take Regis' ring, which can summon the Old Wall, the magical spirits of Lucii kings past. As Nyx is placed in charge of protecting Lunafreya, and tasked with escaping from Lucis with her, Niflheim moves to invade, and Nyx must face off against the terrifying General Glauca.

One of all of two of the film's female characters, although the film has a pretty tiny cast anyway.

It's probably no secret that the biggest draw of this film is the animation, which is fair enough: It's what Square is known for, after all, and the CGI animation is all absolutely gorgeous, not just in terms of the quality of the models, but also in its use of colours, in its grandiose scale, and in how scenes are directed and blocked. It has the same animation team as Advent Children, for which the animation was about the only good part, and the team has clearly improved upon their skills in the ten years or so between films.

Similarly, the voice-casting is remarkably strong. Sean Bean and Lena Headey put in some fairly stunning performances as Regis and Lunafreya, and we get some pretty strong performances off David Gant (as Niflheim's emperor, Iedolas) and a hammy, scenery-chewing, very fun performance from Darin De Paul as scheming Niflheim chancellor Ardyn. Aaron Paul, playing Nyx, is a lot less compelling, but he's, you know, fine. Functional. I didn't hate listening to him, even if he couldn't keep pace with most of the rest of the cast.

(It does not help at all that Nyx is not a very interesting character, and he is consistently outshone by characters like Lunafreya and Regis, who are much more engaging, layered, and interesting.)

You can't see it clearly here, but Luna's dress, while very nice, defies the laws of physics
in odd ways.

The writing is where the film kind of falls down. It's certainly not terrible -- there is a coherent, interesting storyline that runs throughout the film. At times, it even borders on brilliant, such as in a scene where Regis and Iedolas compare the thievery laws of their individual countries, with each of them talking in double-meanings and innuendos to refer to both the kidnapping of Lunafreya and the inevitable breakdown of the peace process, each layering their dialogue with their own particular brands of menace. But for the most part, it's functional and just functional, neither terrible nor anything particularly special.

The film builds to a big plot twist near the end, which is somehow both not foreshadowed enough and completely obvious, and oddly, none of the characters seem to have anything like remotely human reactions to it -- probably because it's mid way through a tense battle scene and the writers didn't know how to make the characters act like people while keeping up the pacing.

Noctis' sole appearance in this film. His absence doesn't detract from it any.

Speaking of which, the final battle, while very visually striking, gets a little confusing at times -- usually only for a moment or two, but that's more than enough to disorient.

This film is a little too expensive and involved to be labelled, as so many critics have, as a two hour long promotional film for a game that was more or less a guaranteed success anyway, and I do genuinely believe a lot of passion and energy went into the film's production, and it's not a bad flick, either. It's kind of mindless and silly, certainly, and at two hours or so long I felt it was starting to outstay is welcome by the end, but it's a fun little fantasy flick in a year that hasn't exactly had a brilliant crop of fantasy films.

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