RULE WELL, YOUNG KING
Like other pillars of video gaming (i.e. Mario, Sonic, Zelda, and Mega Man), the Final Fantasy series has endured over the many console generations wars, cementing itself in gaming history. Created by Square, who later became Square-Enix, and set as a Japanese Role-playing game (or J-RPG for short), the Final Fantasy games have created breathtaking adventures, filled with memorable characters, engrossing narratives, imaginative worlds, and engaging battling gameplay. Even looking beyond the core games (the ones with the roman numeral), the series has evolved with side projects, including other video games (on multiple platforms), episodic TV series, and feature films. Now, acting as a precursor, Song Pictures, Square-Enix, Studio 6, and director Takeshi Nozue begins the adventure of Final Fantasy XV in the cinematic tale of Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. Is this fully realized CG prequel movie worth a glance from causal moviegoers or is a just something for the FF hardcore fans?
Set in the world of Eos, the magical kingdom of Lucis is home to their sacred Crystal, a powerful relic that has been blessed with power magic to defend the nation. The crystal, traditionally treated as a gift from the world’s deities and kept in a special chamber within the royal palace, holds magical power only accessible through the Ring of the Lucii, a ring passed down the line of Lucis’ kings, including its presiding ruler, King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (Sean Bean). In recent years, the empire of Niflheim, a militaristic nation of technologically advanced in weapons and machines, has subjugated the nearby nations under its rule and now looks to Lucis as its last opposing force. Defending the nation of Lucis from Niflheim’s forces are the Kingsglaive, an elite unit that wields the royal family’s magical power, including a young brash warrior named Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul). As the war rages on for years between the two nations, King Regis, tired and weary of fighting, is faced with an impossible ultimatum, to marry his son, Prince Noctis (Ray Chase) to Princess Lunafreya Nox Flueret of Tenebrae (Lena Headey), captive of Niflheim, and surrender his lands to the empire’s rule. Although Lucis’s king concedes to the terms, it becomes clear that the empire of Niflheim has ulterior motives underneath this agreement, plunging Regis, Luna, Nyx, and the entire Kingsglaive forces into the crossfires of war.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
What can I say…. I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan. While I do like video games that have high graphics and a “fast and furious” type of approach (racing games, fighting games, and first POV shooter games), I really do prefer more video games that engross its players in its digital world, elevating the story, characters, fighting combat into something more engaging. My actual first FF game was Final Fantasy VII, which is still my all-time favorite FF game or maybe Final Fantasy IX is. I don’t know…I love them both. Plus, since I love FF7, I was (and still am) of the spinoff CG movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I mean, come on, that ending fight with Cloud and Sephiroth was epic!
Of course, I’m excited to finally get to play Final Fantasy XV soon, which was originally named Final Fantasy Versus XIII and has been in development for nearly a decade, but I’ll have to wait a bit as the game itself, which was originally set for September 30th, 2016, was delayed until November 29th, 2016. (Ugh…sigh). Anyway…I remember I heard the news that there was going to be a full length Final Fantasy XV movie and then when I saw the trailers for it I was totally hooked as I rewatched them again and again. As much as I wanted to be one of the few that got to see Kingsglaive in select theaters, I unfortunately wasn’t able to do so. However, that didn’t discourage my uber nerd anticipation from wanting to see the movie. Now, after waiting for months, I finally? got a chance to see it (via digital download). What did I think of it? Well, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is definitely entertaining and beautiful, but is mainly for the FF gamer fans.
Kingsglaive is directed by Takeshi Nozue, who has previously worked on several Square-Enix video games (Final Fantasy IX, X, X-2, XIII and Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2) as well as directing the feature Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Given his background, Nozue definitely seems well-versed in the Final Fantasy mythos and this shows with Kingsglavie. In truth, Kingsglaive has a lot of common threads typically found in a Final Fantasy game (a king, a princess, a warrior, ancient magic, giant mythical creatures / beings, and a war between sovereign nations). The story is also a bit engaging as Nozue tells of the events surrounding the symbolic peace treaty between the nations of Lucis and Niflheim. From its opening scene of explaining the fall of Tenebrae to the epic FF-style ending battle in the third act, it’s clear that Nozue and his team give Kingsglaive that extra zest of Final Fantasy flavor.
Animation-wise, Kingsglaive is absolutely gorgeous (and I really do mean it). While the game’s animation and cut-scenes in FFXV raise the bar in the video game world, the full length CG rendered counterpart film is stunning, oozing with intricate details that past the animation style of their previous film Advent Children. Every micro-inch of the movie is expressively detailed with animation from office building and throne rooms to urban styled streets and battled ruined landscapes. I could go on and on about this, but I won’t bore you guys. To simply put it, Kingsglaive is a true marvel in CG animation and, even if you don’t like the movie, you cannot deny how beautiful looking it all is. Just the game universe of FFXV, Kingsglaive boast as very interesting CGI world. While FF games have usually been fantasy looking (whether classically pseudo-medieval or somewhere futuristic), the FFXV universe is interesting as it’s described as a “fantasy that’s based in reality” (an aesthetic combination of modern day that’s blended with fantasy and science fiction motifs). Kingsglaive certainly does showcase this surreal setting, presenting the feature with modern stylings (cars, buildings, arcade games, TVs, cars, motorcycles, etc.), while also using futuristic weapons and airships as well as fantasy elements of swords, daggers, and magic. There were times that I actually forgot that I was watching a movie about a FF game. Yes, I know that sounds cheesy, but the world’s architectural layout and design is definitely different from past Final Fantasy iteration settings, a welcoming and unique approach for this game and future installments.
In addition, Kingsglaive also has several nods and winks to the Final Fantasy franchise past. This includes several creatures found in the several of the FF games, including Cerberus, Ultros, and Diamond Weapon that all make appearances (as well past references here and there). Be sure to look for them while watching the movie. Lastly, the film’s music is also really good. Composed by John R. Graham, the score featured plenty of dramatic flourishes here and there. I wonder if some of the musical themes in Kingsglaive are going to be in FFXV, which is being composed by Yôko Shimomura.
Unfortunately, Kingsglaive isn’t made for everyone. Just like what I said about the movie Warcraft, Kingsglavie is geared more towards its fans. Of course, while those diehard FF fans will most likely enjoy the movie, everyone else, however, will definitely have mixed feelings. Characters, names, places, magical properties, etc. are dished out really quick with a sort of pre-conceived notion that everyone will know this and will be playing the Final Fantasy XV game. All of this can sometimes be “off-putting” to non-fans as it all feels rushed and a tad bit confusing to follow. Again, I’m going to borrow what I said about the Warcraft movie…. it’s like this (borrowing the first lines from the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie) “To those who love this world and knew friendly company therein. This Reunion is for you.” Basically, Kingsglaive is for its fans.
Another notable problem with Kingsglaive is what it represents in the grand scheme of the FFXV universe. Let me explain. Since the movie is the first to be released (before the actually game), Kingsglaive (as a whole) feels incomplete. Yes, it does tell a narrative from start to finish, but it feels more like a prologue to what is to come (setting the world and the events that lead into the game). Thus, if a viewer has no intention of playing the FFXV game, then the film becomes more perplexed and confusing as the story of the Nyx Ulric and the other members of the Kingsglavie might be finished, but the larger story in-play feels unfinished. Even if you dismiss that notion, the movie itself still keeps a lot stuff shrouded in secrecy. What I mean is that Kingsglaive is one of the first entry points in the FFXV universe, so it doesn’t fully come out and show us and explain everything as it will probably be later explained in the fullness of the actually game. An example of this is the narrative’s political intrigue, which sounds interesting, but isn’t quite fleshed out in the movie (I assume it will be in the actual game). Again, you’ll kind of feel a bit cheated by the film’s end as neither would want to crave more of it (in its story and events) or be thoroughly disappointed at how incomplete the movie is. In truth, some might think of Kingsglaive as a very long commercial ad for FFXV. Who knows….they may be right.
Like its overall animation, the character designs for all the Kingsglavie is solid. Facial details and expressions are meticulous rendered and very vivid. There are a couple of times when one of the several characters stare blankly into the screen and feel like their eyes are dead (a sort of a common thing that computer graphics hasn’t fully replicated), but, for the most part, feel like fluent human body movement. Of course, what comes next is the voice work, which is a mixture of good and okay. One of Kingsglaive’s main draws is that it has three “big name” actors to voice the three main principal characters of the feature. First is actor Sean Bean (Ned Stark from Game of Thrones) as the wizen King Regis of Lucis. In my opinion, Bean’s voice matches perfectly to Regis as he certainly does have that overall gravitas sounding voice, which the character of Regis has. Definitely a good match. Likewise, Lena Heady (another Game of Thrones star), who voice the character of Lunafreya Nox Flueret, is another example of great voice work, with Heady’s soft-spoken voice matching the calm composure of the former princess of Tenebrae. The third voice work comes from Aaron Paul, who plays the character of Nyx Ulric, a member of the Kingsglaive. Paul, famous for his role in the TV show Breaking Bad, has that brash-warrior / hero voice that fits well with the character of Nyx. Indeed, all three (Bean, Heady, and Paul) do great work by lending their voices to these three characters. The only downside is that I wish all three did the voice work in the FFXV game (they have other voices actor for that).
Beyond the main three leads, the rest of the supporting voice work cast of Kingsglavie is a mixture of great to just being okay. The best is in this group was Darin De Paul, who plays the character of Ardyn Izunia, the chancellor of Niflheim, and Adrian Bouchet as Titus Drautos, the captain of the Kingsglavie. Both characters are interesting and are voice pretty good. Other voice work, including Trevor Devall as Luna’s brother Ravus Nox Fleuret, David Gant as Niflheim’s Emperor Iedolas Aldercapt, and Andrea Tivadar and Liam Mulvey as Kingsglaive members Crowe Altius, and Libertus Ostium are just “so-so”, feeling more like “video game sounding” voice work that hits their mark a few times, but (more often than not) lacks a dramatic vocal punch to their character.
Lastly, stay tuned for a small teaser at the end of the movie (after the credits) for a small scene from the FFXV game of what Prince Noctis and his friends are doing when the events of Kingsglaive end.
Loyalty and betrayal go hand-in-hand as the war between Lucis and Niflheim reaches a climactic point in the film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. Director Takeshi Nozue’s newest film is made visually impeccable by a flourish of CG animation that’s beautifully detailed as well as setting the stage to what is to come in FFXV. That being said, Kingsglaive isn’t made for everyone as the movie feels incomplete, is a tad confusing (at points), and was strictly made for its fans base. Personally, I liked the movie. Yes, it does have some problems (a bit convoluted at times) but was still worth the hype. It wasn’t perfect, but was still enjoyable and entertaining. Thus, I recommend the movie for Final Fantasy gamers (acolytes to the franchise and those looking to play FFXV), but also give it an “iffy choice” for the casual moviegoers. Turbulent times lie ahead for the Kingdom of Lucis, but Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV showcases the promise for what is to come in its video game counterpart, introducing viewers to the world and setting to the upcoming roman numeral Final Fantasy game.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)
Released On: August 30th, 2016 (Digital Download)
October 4th, 2016 (DVD / Blu-Ray)
Reviewed On: September 4th, 2016
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is rated PG-13 for fantasy action and violence throughout
Written By Jason Kerin