by Jay Seaver
There's something almost admirable about a movie as focused and single-minded as "Advent Children". It is unabashedly constructed with a niche audience in mind. A lot of folks will look at it on the shelf and wonder what the heck happened to "Final Fantasy" II, III, IV, V, and VI, or why it doesn't seem to share anything with "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within". It's focused on looking good above all else, and if you catch it at the right time, that may be reason enough to forgive its confusing, barely-accessible plot.That plot is... uh... there was some kind of disaster two years ago where a group of heroes barely saved the world from a corporation that nearly caused a genocide by trying to tap the life forces that circle the planet like a halo for energy. The heroes have gone their separate ways, but now "the planet has struck back" with a plague, a terrorist type is kidnapping orphans to brainwash them, and the new president of the evil corporation is trying something shady. Cloud Strife, the hero of the game, is trying to forgive himself for the people who didn't make it, operating a delivery service out of friend Tifa Lockhart's bar while they keep an eye on several orphaned kids.
"I kind of enjoyed it, though I have no idea what was going on."
Or something like that. If you've played the game, it probably makes a lot more sense. There's enough for us newbs to follow, but only just. That's almost irrelevant as a criticism, though - if you're not familiar with this information, or aren't willing to try and piece it together, then this movie isn't for you. Sit back, enjoy the pretty pictures, and if you get anything out of the story, great. The story really isn't that bad, although it's told in a way that is pretty similar to the medium which spawned this movie - information delivered blandly expository dialogue, segue to action scene, segue to obligatory character moments, and repeat.
But at times that's okay. There's an action sequence in the center of the movie that runs about forty minutes, and by the time it ended, I had no idea how it started, which is like a game - one thing leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another, and it ends with a motorcycle chase featuring folks I'm not even sure were around at the start of the whole donnybrook. The final set piece features guys who must be part of the game but had been blink-and-miss-them (if that) presences through the rest of the movie. It's a pretty spectacular scene, though, with virtual camera work in a long, continuous shot that just may not be possible with live action. It doesn't have a whole ton of emotional heft, but it's not completely empty, either - I may not have been totally invested, but I wasn't disconnected, either.
I think the film might actually benefit from having a smaller budget as befits a direct-to-video release. Directors Tetsuya Nomura and Takeshi Nozue are able to draw upon anime conventions and styles for their film's look - translated to 3-D, of course, and rendered with astonishing detail, but still with the bold character design and physics-defying action. Unlike The Spirits Within, it's not trying to ape live action, so where the artifice appears, it doesn't feel like the film is falling short of its goals. The characters' faces aren't terribly expressive, but the exaggerated body language looks less unnatural. It's not in the same category of what Pixar did with Cars, but it's not the completely soulless experience that a lot of CGI films with mostly-human casts can be.
It is very mechanical at times - the kids, in particular, seem terribly artificial. I saw it in a theater as part of an anime marathon, surrounded by people who knew the background and were digging it. That's not how most folks are seeing this flick, and if I instead borrow a DVD from a friend and watch it on my own in my living room... Well, I maybe lose patience and turn it off five minutes in, during the first exposition dump. Unfair, perhaps, but undeniable.This is an remarkably well-produced niche film. If you aren't in that niche, there's a a good chance you're not terribly impressed. But if you are, I can see it being something special.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14321&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/27/06 22:08:57