CGI animation. What do you think of when you hear it? If you look at the output of American studios, you’d be thinking jolly animations with furry, fluffy animals in lead roles voiced by big celebrities. Chances are you woldn’t be thinking of people… CGI people… inhabiting CGI worlds unless, of course, they were secondary characters to the fluffy animals.
You see, here’s the bizarre thing with CGI. Despite the leaps and bounds of realism and the much, much shorter processing times than in previous years, studios seem to only want to knock out cutesy animal flicks to attract a young audience. CGI animation has become synonymous with the idea that animation must be for children.
Final Fantasy: Advent Children, a Japanese CGI animation from 2005, bucks this trend in awesome fashion and looks just as stunning now as it did when I first saw it at the time of release.
A sequel to the best-selling Playstation game Final Fantasy VII, we’re quickly brought up to date with events from the game before the opening sequence. It’s set two years after FFVII, when Cloud and his colleagues took on the evil Sephiroth. This recap is brilliant as I remember the plotline of the game being incredibly convoluted! Suffice to say, Cloud has been keeping away from the limelight and must come back to save the day, with his seriously oversized sword, spiky blond hair and interesting sleeveless cardigan.
The head of the Shinra Corporation, Rufus Shinra, calls upon Cloud to track down Sephiroth (who is apparently dead), as they believe him to be behind the geo-stigma virus, and prevent the deaths of millions more people. He believes that Sephiroth somehow survived death by transferring his spirit into the Lifestream and, as a result, the corruption has caused the geo-stigma that is plaguing mankind.
In the meantime, Kadaj and his gang of bikers are hunting for something called Mother. Shinra knows that they can’t fight him so plan to recruit Cloud to deal with Kadaj too. Thankfully, Cloud’s up for this as he lives with some orphans and he doesn’t particularly want to see them die. Kadaj exploits the power of the Lifestream to give himself, and his followers, the power to call upon demon creatures and control children.
We’re set for an epic battle of good and evil as Cloud tries to get to the bottom of the geo-stigma virus and defeat the evil Kadaj before bad, bad things that are probably going to be indescribable happen!
In all honesty, the film is a series of set pieces – chases, fights, longer fights, epic battles, magic and swords – strung together by a really rather confusing plot. This, however, doesn’t detract too heavily from the stunning visuals. Characters drop in and out of the film, most of which seem to have some history with Cloud (having been characters in the game) and there is an assumption that you know who is who. In fact, some characters aren’t referred to by name, which doesn’t help that much, but we won’t get hung up on that.
The story doesn’t make much sense, and some of the dialogue is a bit bizarre, but this doesn’t stop the film being sensational. There’s a strong message here about the sanctity of life, but it’s rarely runs deep, nor does it preach.
Visually, Advent Children on Blu Ray is absolutely stunning, even four years after it was first released. The picture has been rendered in high definition, and it definitely shows. Having said that, the clarity of the original DVD was superb too, but now you will be bowled over by how crisp, clear and detailed everything looks. I’d even go as far as saying that you’ll watch it more than once just to savour the quality of the picture.
Sound is rich and vibrant from all speakers and there’s plenty of action to work any decent surround sound system. You’ve got a choice of Japanese or English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.ExtrasAs if an extra 26 minutes of film isn’t enough, there’s a whole raft of extras! Hmmmm, is this going to be a stumbling block?
Legacy of Final Fantasy VII is a Japanese language (English subs) recap of the history of FF as a series, Final Fantasy VII and its legacy. It runs for 6 mins and 38 seconds. Whilst it is interesting, it is a little on the short side and doesn’t really delve that deeply into the subject matter. Still, it’s nice to see how things have changed.
Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII and Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Compilation are 24 minutes and 29 minutes long respectively. The former covers the FFVII Playstation game. It’s pretty much a walk through of key points of the game in all its 16 bit glory. If you’ve got kids who haven’t seen that generation of consoles, stick them in front of this! It’s based on the original Japanese language game, using the FFVII music, featuring English language subtitles. The latter covers all the other games in the FFVII family – such as Dirge of Cerberus, so we’re treated to PS2 graphics and higher quality cut scenes this time, and footage from the Japanese mobile phone game.
On the Way to a Smile: Denzel is an episode from the FF anime series, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Sneak Peek of Final Fantasy XIII is a 7-minute Japanese trailer for the upcoming game, featuring a female protagonist with martial arts and weapons; an underground colony called Cocoon protecting people from the world above; a cast of quirky, and mainly blond haired characters; and characters who, when they aren’t blond, have quirky hairstyles. The game engine looks almost as good as the cutscenes, whilst the world of Cocoon is filled with masked soldiers, mystic metal creatures, and things stolen from The Matrix (the real world, not the simulation bits.) As with the characters in Advent Children, everyone looks realistically recognised. It’s bound to be a big seller when it arrives on PS3 and Xbox 360.
Also on the disc are trailers for Advent Children as shown at a variety of trade shows.
The extras, whilst plentiful, don’t feel that substantial. It would have been a perfect opportunity to look at the making of the film, or to go behind the scenes at Square to see how FF:AC was developed. How about a demonstration of the rendering process at various stages? Instead, we get three glorified trailers that give a bit of background to the story and, in the case of Legacy, impact of FF, but nothing substantial.
Final Fantasy VII – Advent Children Blu Ray is out now.