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BLU-RAY: Gloriously animated but confusing film
on June 8, 2009
Square's FINAL FANTASY series has been the reigning king of RPG videogames for the past 20 or so years. Each installment in the game is a completely separate storyline with absolutely no relation to any other, making the play experience fresh and new each time. However, no other chapter in the series managed to capture the hearts of millions of gamers around the world than the popular 7th installment in the series, released back in 1997. The tone of the game was exciting, and the characters were three dimensional beings who were woven into an intricate storyline. The game is best known for a tragic scene where one of the characters is killed, bringing a depth of emotion never before seen at that time which brought some players to tears.
Square decided to release a sequel to Final Fantasy VII, but instead of opting for the game treatment, they began work on a 100% CGI animated movie using the same technology as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It was released in 2004 to critical fan acclaim, and then to DVD shortly thereafter. So how does the Blu-Ray release stack up?
First of all, this is the most complete and glorious version of Advent Children that you're ever going to get. It's on Blu-Ray, and the format is nothing but kind to animated movies, especially those done in CGI. FF comes alive with pristine, crystal-clear visual quality with over 20 minutes of added scenes to boot. Indeed, this "Complete" edition is the version that future releases will be stacked against.
The audio track doesn't seem any different from the one included on the standard-def DVD release. I bought the Japanese import way back when, and I noticed a significantly more powerful soundtrack, especially in music and thundering sound effects. I was slightly disappointed to see that the Blu-Ray version didn't match that brilliant track, but then again, I was watching the English dub. The Japanese dub has a bit more punch to it. With some tweaking to my equalizer and surround channels, I managed to satisfy my audio demands.
If there's a downside to the film, it lies in the story. If you haven't played the original Final Fantasy VII from beginning to end, you're going to be friggin' lost. I myself had played the game straight through from start to finish, and even stopped to find every single secret in the game. But, that was a while ago. Even I had a few "WTF" moments during the course of the film. Nevertheless, having played the game means everything. Characters like Barrett, Sephiroth, Tifa and Marlene aren't going to matter if you don't know their backstories. Of course, this movie is primarily about Cloud Strife, the main character, and his pangs of guilt at having been unable to save the life of Aerith, his companion from the game. To a first-time viewer who is completely new to the story, Aerith's very presence will be a head-scratching conundrum.
But, that's beside the point. This movie was created by Square, exclusively for the diehard fans of the game. It really is a labor of love on Square's part, and a testament to their connection with the game. They're giving the fans what they want, even if it means that a large chunk of the human population won't have any idea what this film is about. There's passion in the creation of the film, and the action sequences are flat out breathtaking (if not totally unrealistic). It gets the adrenaline pumping, especially during the final act which is straight action for almost a half-hour, non-stop.
Advent Children is a masterpiece. It's animation is flat-out incredible, and rivals anything seen by Pixar to this day, and it has the advantage (and disadvantage?) of being tied to such a beautiful and standard-changing backstory. I loved it.
To those who aren't FF7 veterans.....download it onto your PS3 or PSP from the PlayStation store and play it straight through from beginning to end before evening THINKING about picking this film up. It's worth it, trust me.