Perhaps the best video game movie to date
Yes, compared with all the video game films I've seen, I really do think Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is the best one to date. Unlike the cash-grabs, this film serves a purpose of establishing a strong backstory for Square Enix's upcoming RPG game Final Fantasy XV (formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII), developing some of game's supporting characters and of course, to intrigue audiences into playing the game itself. Initially, despite being a huge fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, I wasn't interested in playing the game at all as I thought it looked like it features a K-pop boyband in black leather outfits posing in World of Warcraft but after watching the movie, I was like — Well, okay, fine, I'll play the game, damn it!
As far as we all know for now, the game opens with protagonist Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum on a road trip away from the kingdom of Lucis with his three companions to meet Princess Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (Lena Headey) as they are to be married as part of the treaty for peace between Lucis and the Niflheim Empire. The film's story, however, focuses on the events that led to the invasion of Lucis that occurs while Noctis is already away from home. So basically, the film's timeline is parallel to the beginning of the game itself. As there was a content overload for the game, Square Enix decided to make this spinoff to tell the other side of the epic story and to set the central plot point for the upcoming game. And it has done very well in that while also giving details about this intriguing world and its lore and magic.
Like many war films, Kingsglaives starts with a narrated prologue about what happened 10 years prior to the main storyline that started the long war between Lucis and Niflheim. The rushed exposition is probably one of the only three problems of the film. There's a lot going on in the story and things can get a little confusing and underdeveloped, especially if you didn't know much about the game and were watching the film as a standalone.
While the film doesn't really feature the main playable characters of the game, it has its own protagonist — Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul), one of the elite royal guards and soldiers of Lucis called "Kingsglaives" who are empowered by the magic of Noctis' father King Regis (Sean Bean), which explains the title of the film. Ulric is a courageous and righteous immigrant who spontaneously saves lives during war even when it requires him to disobey direct orders. Although Ulric's the hero, the film also explores King Regis' character and dilemmas as he decides to sign the treaty to end the war they've been fighting for so long to protect their people. Other characters such as Lunafreya, who'll be one of the key characters in the game, are given a bit of development as well. Superstar actors Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) performed very well voicing their respective characters in the English version.
However, there's a group of rebel characters that's very much neglected after being introduced in one very brief scene. Their leader does appear again later in the film just to reveal something that doesn't really have much impact to the story. For now, I've no idea what's that all about or for. The film also doesn't depict the father-and-son relationship between Regis and Noctis much. The story would've been far more poignant if it did. These are the other two problems that I had with the film. But apart from that, it's fantastic.
The film has a very welcoming dark, gritty tone with elements of Final Fantasy IV, Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. Under the direction by Takeshi Nozue (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), the film achieves the awesome blend of the franchise's familiar steampunk kind of universe and the hero-magic-crystal-king-princess-betrayal-big fight finale plot structure with engaging complex politics and action-packed war — all in less than two hours of running time — with every scene backed by the epic music composed by John R. Graham under the supervision of the game's main composer Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts, Mario & Luigi: Paperjam, Street Fighter II). And thanks to the well-written script by Takashi Hasegawa, the dialogues are very mature and hardly cheesy.
Hardcore fans of the Final Fantasy franchise would also be pleased with the film's nods to the previous instalments — Cerebus, Ultros, monsters that looks similar to FFVII's WEAPONs, Nibelheim (Niflheim), Exdeath's stance, mentions about chocobo and gil currency, and maybe many more others that I failed to recall. Unlike that disappointing Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) crap, Kingsglaive is a true and true Final Fantasy film.
Produced by the same team that made Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005), the photorealistic CGI looks absolutely stunning. Perhaps the best-looking animated film to date as well. The characters look gorgeously real and their motion-captured facial expressions and movements are very convincing. The design of the steampunk world is very impressive — a mix of medieval times and today's modern cities. The product placements do look slightly out of place (what, an Audi in this fantasy world?!) but it doesn't bother as much as I thought it would.
The action sequences are very entertaining although at the end there's too much going on that I lost track on what's what. I love the DoTA Blink Dagger-like fighting style of the Kingsglaives. They teleport to wherever they throw their weapons to and continue their offence from there before throwing the weapon again to disappear in order to dodge attacks. The fights also involve the trademark RPG elemental magic and gigantic monsters. It's freaking cool and I can't wait to try this battle system out in the actual game. Also, the action sequences are not just for the sake of fan-servicing. There's a mission or a reason for every fight, and it's engaging because some of these characters here could actually die (as they're not protagonists in the game).
As emotions are invested into the promising plot and characters after watching this film, it will be very exciting when we actually get to play the game and explore the world, revisit these supporting characters and see progression of the story. To me, it also justifies the significance of the games' first trailer that was released 8 years ago where it shows Noctis fighting to sit on the throne. Yes, it was that long ago but fortunately, it's seems like it was all worth the wait.
Malaysia censorship: A lot of video gamey action and violence but nothing that requires to be cut. No chocobo was harmed in this film.
Second opinion: After watching the film, my friends asked, "How much is a PS4 or X Box One?" They loved it as much as I did.
Verdict: Warning, watching this film made me consider buying a console just to play the game. I'm not even joking. But non-Final Fantasy fans might not appreciate it as much.
Rating: 4 / 5
Based on: Square Enix's video game Final Fantasy XV
Country / Language: Japan / English or Japanese
Genre: Action fantasy, video game
Running Time: 115 minutes
Director: Takeshi Nozue
Screenwriter: Takashi Hasegawa
English Voice Cast: Aaron Paul, Neil Newbon, Lena Headey, Sean Bean
Malaysia Release Date: 11 August 2016 (GSC cinemas only)
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Visual Works, Digic Pictures, Image Engine, Puppetworks Animation Studio
Follow me: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google+