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Due to the humongous popularity of Final Fantasy VII, it's natural that Square would succumb to the temptation of milking the name for all it's worth. This is not an outlet for critiquing Square's business decisions, though. Nonetheless, it gives you an idea for what Advent Children is about. It's got a strong summer blockbuster feel with fantastic animation, awesome action scenes, and is jam-packed with fanservice for those who've played the original game. However, like most summer blockbusters, that's all it really amounts to.
The plot is something I can sum up in a nutshell: Sephiroth gets revived so that he can have an awesome climactic battle with Cloud to an equally Crowning Music Of Awesome remix of the iconic One-Winged Angel. The rest is mostly an excuse to get up to that point, crammed with action and angst. Yep, angst, what some may refer to as a Final Fantasy staple. Kadaj, who is pretty much "the guy that will turn into Sephiroth", whines constantly about Mother, or Jenova. Cloud for much of the movie is unable to get over his past, though you have to hand it to Tifa for doing a Lampshade Hanging and telling him that it's not all about himself. People claim that I probably should play the original game first before critiquing the plot, but I counter that a movie should be able to stand on its own for newcomers to the series. Also, from what I heard, people that have played the original were still unhappy with Cloud's perceived Character Derailment, but I'm not going to waste too many words on idle speculation. Admittedly, I might be able to appreciate this movie more if I played the game first, but from what I've seen, I doubt that knowledge would make it seem any more than pure fanservice, although I might be able to get said fanservice, which is worth something at least.
If you're looking for a nice animated action movie, you've got it here. Just don't go in expecting too much depth.
As someone who played the original game before watching it, I felt that that probably made it even worse.
If you enjoyed the first game for what was, at the time, a startlingly nuanced and mature plot, interesting character development, and well devised gameplay, this is probably not the movie for you.
If your reactions to Cloud and/or Sephiroth can be summed up with "Squee!" and you thought what would really have improved the game was a higher pixel count on Sephiroth's Shirtless Scene in the final battle, knock yourself out.
The sad thing is that Advent Children was originally gonna be a 20-30 minute showing of the character's lives after the end of the game.
But after some whining from the fanboys(in both Japan and the US), squenix succumbed and that what started the money train.
I watched the movie just recently, and I noticed the lack of plot as well. Frankly, though, I wasn't expecting an amazing plot. The movie wasn't about the story—it was about the flashy animation (which was amazing—it's easy at times to forget that it's animated) and the What Do You Mean Its Not Awesome factors. Frankly, if I'm going to watch a movie for amazing animated battles that raise the HSQ every scene, I'm fine if the plot is weak.
Okay, I will start off by admitting that I haven't played more than a few minutes of the game (I kept getting killed by the first monster on level one when I tried it on my cousin's system.) That being said, I watched Advent Children and Advent Children Complete. Advent Children Complete made a whole heck of a lot more sense. If these negative comments are based solely on the original release then I encourage you to watch Complete.
I also don't have a problem with a movie sequel to a game requiring some knowledge of the game to understand completely. It is nice to be able to appreciate it without that knowledge, but how are they going to do that, exactly? Pause the action while they explain what Materia is? Include a manual of spells and summons with the disk?
As for Cloud's angst... Okay, I'd have to play the game to get where everyone is coming from. But from what I've understood from other sources it sounds like Cloud had one seriously damaged psyche. You don't get over something like that after one Battle At The Center Of The Mind. (Trust me, I know.) Advent Children is set two years after the game ended, and on top of his existing mental issues he's got his failure to find a cure for geostigma to deal with. Not just failure to cure it, he ended up getting himself sick! "I'm not fit to help anyone," indeed. For all that, and the disturbing hallucinations (I'm not talking about the conversations with Aerith here) he shakes the gloom off pretty fast.
In summation, I thought it was pretty much Made Of Win.
P.S. Er, sorry about that, should be Battle In The Center Of The Mind.
I agree with Brigid.
I want to add a cite from the movie:
To those who loved this world...
And knew friendly company therein...
This reunion is for you.
This movie is Fanservice, yes, it's for the fans and they released it in DVD/UMD/Blu Ray for this very reason. It's ok if you haven't played the game and want to watch it, and if you didn't understand many things, well, go to play the game or do your research. Even with that, you still can enjoy the movie the way you want. If some fans didn't like it, well, that's their own bussiness, as it is that you liked it. And being fanservice doesn't make the movie bad, it's production is as good as the big companies animated movies and has better plot than recent productions, depise being not too complex says much; or even better. It's fanservice made by the Rule Of Cool, but very well done fanservice.
And about plot, the movie has many subjective points and it's deeper than you might think, for the analytical people out there, go to the WMG in the FFVII page and you'll see many theories and analysis from the movie. I encourage people to watch Advent Children Complete and revise their impressions and ideas of it.
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