Of all the games in the Final Fantasy series, none has received quite the level of attention from Square Enix that Final Fantasy 7 has. At this point, FF7 is basically it’s own series, with all the spin-off games and anime OVAs and the remake project. Other FF games are lucky just to get any one of those things.
Then there’s Advent Children. A full-blown animated FF7 movie. One that has earned a rather odd spot in the fandom. It’s not universally hated, nor is it particularly loved. The fans have sort of just accepted that it exists and decided to coexist with it.
It’s an understandable position to take. Advent Children isn’t offensively bad; it doesn’t ruin Final Fantasy 7 in retrospect and it isn’t blatantly disrespectful of the original game or the fans. It isn’t a soulless cash-grab. There is some level of love and passion put into it. It’s not all that bad of a movie.
It just isn’t a particularly good movie, either.
After the events of the original game, humanity has fallen under hard times. A mysterious plague is running through Midgar, one with deep connections to the Lifestream itself. Having caught it himself, Cloud puts himself at a distance from his friends, leaving himself open to attack by three mysterious young men with familiar green eyes and silver hair. These three seek Jenova, and wish to use her to finish what Sephiroth started. Now it’s up to Cloud and friends to stop them.
As a whole, the plot is fairly simple. Bad guys want to bring back the old bad guy, heroes need to stop them. Funny thing is, the narrative isn’t all that bad. But… well… how do I put this… It’s kinda hard to take things seriously.
The three main villains (I’m not even going to be bothered to remember their names) are embarrassingly pathetic. All three of them are basically just the really edgy anime goth kids that you probably knew back in middle-school; the ones that cringe out of their skin every time they remember that phase of their lives later on. Only one of them gets any extensive focus, leaving the other two to feel like flat background extras rather than antagonists. The one that does get focus is pretty much just a spoiled brat who spouts meaningless exposition (kinda like every character, but we’ll get to that). Hell, even their goal is pathetic.
Free bit of writing advice: if your villain’s goal is just to resurrect a different, better villain for no real or interesting reason, then you need to rethink your villain.
Not that our heroes are any better. Cloud’s whole arc is basically just a less interesting version of what we got in the original game; he needs to learn to stop being an edgelord, let go of grief, and accept help from his friends. Didn’t he already do that? Tifa has no arc whatsoever and contributes almost nothing beyond a cool fight scene, and all the other party members are completely absent until the climax, wherein they all make obligatory appearances for an action scene. Reno and Rude get more screen time than most of the cast, and they’re doing a weird slapstick routine in every scene that just doesn’t fit the tone of this movie at all.
It certainly doesn’t help that none of our characters actually get to be characters. They never discuss what they want or how they’re feeling, they never share a simple moment where they reconnect or just say something that shows off their unique personality. Everyone is basically just a drone that spouts exposition to move the plot forward. There’s little to no emotion in any given scene from any given character. It’s just constant exchanges of information that doesn’t make any sense (it’s Final Fantasy, so I can mostly forgive that; nothing ever makes sense) and isn’t all that compelling (that, I can’t forgive).
Also, there’s a strong focus on kids. Very annoying, one-dimensional, and uninteresting children. Like Dennis! Everyone remembers Dennis, right? Such a classic and memorable character. He really added so much to the story by standing around, saying and doing nothing. What an important addition that we definitely needed to add into the narrative.
Now, let’s talk about the fight scenes. These add little to the actual plot beyond injecting a bit of adrenaline into things. But are they at least cool and interesting to look at? Eh, kinda. Sometimes they’re just the right amount of over-the-top, so they’re cool. Other times, they are so over-the-top that it becomes hilarious. At the very least, they’re animated well.
Which brings me to the presentation. Visually speaking, this movie definitely shows its age. Technology has advanced so far that the character models of the PS4 FF7 Remake actually look better than the models in this movie. Granted, the models in this movie still look pretty good (even if there are several shots and scenes where they straight-up look terrible; get the lighting wrong and hoo boy does this movie look bad) and they’re still animated really well. And the environments are all still just as pretty now as they were back when this movie came out.
My biggest problem is with the coloring. This whole movie is just so desaturated! It’s all just gray or brown or yellow or blue. It’s depressing and boring and often times it highlights the age of the character models. Granted, it’s an aesthetic thing; I’m sure some people dig this kind of style. It’s just not for me.
I will say, though: the music is still pretty kick-ass. The Advent Children version of One-Winged Angel is probably my favorite version of that song. There are plenty of other returning tracks that get similar treatments, and they all sound really good. The score of this movie hasn’t aged a bit.
The same cannot be said about the voice acting. Funnily enough, both the Japanese and English dubs of this movie have the same issue: the voice actors just sound bored. Understandably so, they’re spouting some pretty lifeless dialogue. Still, it takes me right out of the movie every single time.
Overall, Advent Children is a strange movie. It isn’t a particularly good one, nor is it offensively bad. It’s kinda boring, it doesn’t really have much to say or add to the FF7 universe, but it does have some pretty cool music and the action scenes are entertaining, whether they be genuinely awesome or hilarious. If you aren’t a die-hard Final Fantasy 7 fan, it really isn’t worth your time. And if you are a die-hard fan, you might get a kick out of it.
Just be sure to watch Advent Children: Complete, yeah? That one at least has some scenes that are genuinely good and not just passable. The original version is just not worth watching at all.
And now, I return to hibernation to await FF7: Rebirth.