Is Square-Enix’s latest adventure in non-interactive, narrative storytelling (a tie-in with September’s console release of Final Fantasy XV) just another unnecessary video-game side story or a compelling tale filling in the background of the game?
Insomnia, the last unconquered city of the kingdom of Lucis, lies protected behind a magical barrier powered by the crystal at the heart of the city, it’s energy channelled by King Regis (Sean Bean) himself. The king also grants this power to his Kingsglaive, a sort of magical royal special ops team, whose magic primarily manifests as the ability to throw and then warp or teleport to their blades, usually as the blades are still whirling through the air.
After a particularly crushing defeat at the hands of the technological Nilfhelm, surrender seems to be the only available option and with the King’s son (and the protagonist of Final Fantasy XV) Noctis, safely hidden outside the city, plans are drawn up for peace. For Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul) and the rest of the Kingsglaive, their work is not yet done as teammates go missing, conspiracies bubble to the surface, old tensions re-emerge and a very important princess goes missing.
Beginnings & Endings
Kingsglaive gets off to a very unpromising start. Like many JRPG’s it decides the best way to explain its world is just to throw exposition at the viewer, and it’s not even helpful exposition. Even if voiced by Lena Headey, starting a movie with an info dump about people and places we don’t know and don’t care about, especially in a world like Eos that is radically different to our own, is not a great way to start your story.
The film compounds this by immediately switching to another set of unfamiliar faces, the troops of the Kingsglaive, but this time makes it even harder to give a damn about them, hidden as they are behind identical uniforms and masks and taking part in a fidgety, unclear action scene.
Thankfully, Kingsglaive improves quite a bit to become a mostly engaging adventure of magic, power, destiny, loyalty and betrayal.
The setting of the film, and game, is an odd place but visually very interesting. A world where giant demonic beings are used as weapons of war alongside robots and bugs that seem to come straight from Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers but one that also builds city’s that look built up a futuristic city of London with Audi R8’s on the road. That’s not cars that look like Audi R8’s, but actual R8’s with Audi branding.
While the CGI is quite good and can look almost photo-realistic at rest, in motions it can be a little less convincing and too little time is spent distinguishing the various members of the Kingsglaive from each other, dressed as they are for the most part as goth Jedi who have just escaped from the music video for The Black Parade
Throughout the story intriguing plot threads rear their head only to end up feeling under developed. Parallels can be seen with Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) as the Kingsglaive face war outside the walls of Insomnia (an incredibly dumb name for the city), while the populace and city guards know mostly peace and quiet within its walls. The fact that the Kingsglaive are made up mostly of immigrants/refugees from the former provinces of Lucis, also adds an interesting wrinkle to the story but even though the latter half of the plot hinges on this, it too feels unexplained sufficiently.
Still the film builds to a impressive confrontation as human’s with incredible gifts battle in front of towering beasts, something that feels very Final Fantasy. for those hoping for more on Noctis before the game comes out perhaps take a look at the traditionally animated Brotherhood series on Youtube, as he is mostly absent here
For fans of the Final Fantasy game series there are nods galore, with numerous references to Chocobo’s (although one is never seen); the appearance of a Cerberus; summoning of a kind, forming a key part of the climax and giant baroque airships plying the skies. The film also drops hints at much bigger stakes for the game than simply “reclaiming the throne“, as it’s finale leaves him with little chance of your typical happy ending.
When I was a young boy…
Performance wise, the central triumvirate of Lena Heady, Aaron Paul and Sean Bean do well with the material, but the performances of many of the rest of the small vpoice cast tend to clash with them, coming off as more “videogamey”, with Liam Mulvey’s Libertus sounding particularly weird.
Kinsglaive Final Fanasy XV manages to be WAY less confusing that Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and more enjoyable than Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within but will primarily only appeal to those fervently awaiting Final Fantasy XV‘s console release.
Starring: Aaron Paul, Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Adrian Bouchet, Liam Mulvey, Andrea Tivadar
Directed by: Takeshi Nozue
Official Site here.