I think that in order to fully understand and appreciate Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, you already have to have accepted and fallen in love with the Playstation 1 game Final Fantasy VII. I feel this way, partly because I have never played the games, and therefore would not get many of the inside references, but also because the styles of both mediums are complimentary to one another.
To put it really simply, Advent Children feels a lot like a cutscene from a video game. A really well-made cutscene that looks amazing and plays out in an exciting way, but a cutscene nonetheless. It made me want to control the characters that were performing the amazing stunts within it, but instead, I was forced to watch as characters jumped from building to building or had incredibly long, drawn-out sword fights. All of which looked great, and yet didn’t amount to anything of substance.
Without having a decent knowledge of the universe or characters, the plot failed to keep me interested in the film, especially after the first half. We begin with a short explanation of the world, and why things are the way they are, before jumping right into the action. We meet Cloud, (one of the only characters I knew about prior to watching the film), who is told he should find out the cause of “Geostigma”, a virus that is wiping out a city’s population.
It seems that we are already expected to both like and care about the other characters we meet throughout the course of the film, as it doesn’t make any attempt to make us feel for the characters. Not playing the game beforehand, I didn’t care about Cloud, Vincent, Tifa, or any of the other people we meet. They were empty, and they didn’t get any characterization throughout the film. I suppose that I should have learned about them by playing the game first, making Advent Children more of a sequel to Final Fantasy VII than anything else.
In fact, if I hadn’t read about it beforehand, Advent Children could have easily passed itself off as a cutscene within Final Fantasy VII. The story picks up quickly, and feels like it finishes just as fast. This is mostly due to the fact that the story is actually not all that deep or interesting. The plot serves mostly as a reason to have many large-scale, physics-breaking fight scenes.
These scenes are when I had hoped the film would get interesting, but apart from a couple of them, Advent Children still felt kind of boring. The fight sequences looked good overall–the animations were well done–but they just weren’t that entertaining. I’m not even sure why, although it likely has something to do with the fact that I felt absolutely no relation to the characters. Things get far less entertaining when you have no attachment to what is involved, and that is what Advent Children‘s action scenes felt like to me.
The only real emotion I felt towards the characters was one of jealousy. The characters in the film all looked like they were having so much fun, while I was forced to just sit there and watch them. Since it felt like a gigantic cutscene, I kept hoping I would be able to take control and jump hundreds of feet in the air or take part in a fun hand-to-hand combat sequence. No luck, unfortunately, and instead, I was forced to sit back and watch, not taking any part in the film.
The one highlight of Advent Children comes from its visuals. The film looks amazing, and you can really tell where the majority of the film’s budget went into. While it looks like a cutscene, it doesn’t look at all like it could be from the Playstation 1 era, instead looking better than most Playstation 3 games look. It is graphically stunning, and is almost worth a watch just to admire it visually,
The same type of admiration cannot be had when listening to the film. While the musical score isn’t terrible, it sometimes doesn’t fit what is happening on the screen. Maybe this is used as a form of contrast, having melodic pieces synced up with large fight scenes. While this is likely the reason, it is distracting in a way that a soundtrack shouldn’t be. Taken on their own, the pieces sound nice, but they don’t often fit with the mood of the film.
In terms of audio, the voice acting was a mixed bag. I’ll admit that I watched it in English, as I didn’t feel like reading the subtitles. Maybe this was the wrong choice, and that the original audio would have been better, but what I ended up hearing was somewhat disappointing. I had heard praise for the English voice acting, but I don’t think such praise is warranted. Emotional responses were rare, and some of the characters’ voices didn’t seem to fit the character model they were portraying. Again, maybe it would be easier to accept this if I had played Final Fantasy VII first.
I wouldn’t recommend Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children to people who are not already a fan of the series, and most importantly, Final Fantasy VII. The film will not make you care for the characters, nor will it give you an interesting story to watch. It is beautiful to look at, and the action scenes are usually inventive enough to keep you entertained. There just isn’t enough there to bring in non-fans, meaning it isn’t a success in bringing in new people to the series. People who are already fans likely don’t need a recommendation to go see Advent Children, and if they do, then I would urge caution when choosing to watch it.