Good news Final Fantasy fans. You now have a decent Final Fantasy movie that does not reek of obvious pandering (a.k.a Final Fantasy VII Advent Children), and does not go way off tangent by being a generic sci-fi film (a.k.a Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within).
The bad news? Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV is not a good movie if we’re measuring it within the context of this year’s offerings, but as a prologue to an upcoming game, you could do worse.
The story follows Nyx (Aaron “Breaking Bad” Paul), a rogue/dutiful outsider/hero archetype from an elite soldier force designated to protect King Regis of Lucis (Sean Bean), and the royal city of Insomnia. Known as the Kingsglaive, these soldiers have sword chucking and warping powers, thanks to the King who gave them the ability from a giant crystal he’s safeguarding. The crystal has also erected a huge barrier, to protect the city from the invading forces of the evil empire, Niflheim.
After a pretty intense border protection battle scene, a representative of Niflheim proposes a peace treaty to King Regis, which is to basically surrender all territories beyond Insomnia to them, to stop the war. There’s also Princess Lunafreya, voiced by Cersei “Lena Hedey” Lannister, who’s suppose to wed our Final Fantasy XV hero, Noctis, but apart from setting context through her narration, she seems to be a plot device for the Kingsglaive to rescue and protect. And yes, the only reason you will feel for her is because of the Final Fantasy XV trailer material outside of this movie.
Kingsglaive is clearly a companion piece to the upcoming 15th mothership Final Fantasy game, and the biggest problem here is that it’s restricted to telling certain plot details already set within the upcoming game, and can’t go off tangent.
There is this huge sense of chessboard storytelling, where every piece of dialogue is just to hurry along the story, and the creative minds have not much room to breathe and develop the movie. Having said that, it’s not like the entire movie isn’t trying, with the inclusion of key scenes where characters attempt to bond or express themselves. These include the early scene in a bar, the exchanges between Nyx and Luna before and during an eventual warzone battle, and the climax.
The rest of the story, sadly, does not go beyond going through its story bullet points like a drive-by. We don’t get to see an escalating civil unrest until the second act whips out its phantasmal swords and guns (literally). The conversations about the Kingsglaive questioning their rulership, and whether they really are nothing more than expendable pawns, tease signs of richer storytelling but all of these get shifted to cruise control, just to get to the next plot point. And you get a sense that some scenes between transitions are missing.
Perhaps some key details in the film will be brought to light when the game comes out at the end of September, but until then, casual moviegoers without any inkling of Final Fantasy lore will bw befuddled half of the time, and wonder why the film loves using fade-out and fade-in cuts, instead of the usual jump cuts for half of the film. But at least there are cool visuals, action scenes, and some competent voice acting to accompany this production.
Another noteworthy element to this Square Enix and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment production is the action, which delivers like something only a Japanese role playing game can. Audiences will be in awe at scenes filled with fantasy creatures big and small, mechas, and magic-wielding soldiers kicking plenty of ass. Watch out for the one-on-one duels with the antagonist, General Glauca (just because he’s an imposing armored guy in armor representing Niflheim), where the stakes are high and clear as day. Fans will be pleased that a number of Final Fantasy beasts do make appearances beyond cameos, and made their presence felt.
The English dub here range from serviceable, to kind of awkward at parts, especially with the side characters. It’s pleasing to know that Aaron Paul, Sean Bean, and Lena Headey aren’t just cashing in cheques here, and play their respective roles as hero, king, and dignified princess rather well.
Alas, all those good points come crashing down when the movie just ends abruptly, because those who paid good money to watch Kingsglaive must now feel obligated to get their fill of the bigger picture and closure, with the upcoming Final Fantasy XV game.
The kicker is that this is likely the best that FF fans are going to get, when it comes to a decent Final Fantasy feature length film. It seems that without links to a flagship game, we will not be able to have a movie that can stand on its own merit.
I would like to be proven wrong in the future, but until then, just go into Kingsglaive with minimal expectations. This experience is not that painful, and can leave a pleasant sensation, if only for a brief moment.