'Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV' review: Pretty but hollow
“No one lives in the slums because they want to. It’s like this train. It can only go where the tracks take it,” Cloud, the spiky-haired, giant sword-wielding hero from the 7th installment of role-playing game Final Fantasy once said.
He was, of course, referring to the sad lot of the people he was destined to save. However, he could as well have been referring to the artistic and creative fate of every movie that would bear the words Final Fantasy.
Stuck with the lengthy convolutions and complex mythos of the videogame but without the interactivity to make the investment worthwhile, the films rely heavily on state-of-the-art visuals to veil their labyrinthine plots to no avail. All of the Final Fantasy movies, from the woefully dismal The Spirits Within (2001) to Advent Children (2005) to Kingslaive, suffer from being gorgeous but impenetrable drags, not because they want to be, but because their loyalty to the brand precludes them from being more streamlined and palatable to a wider audience base.
Too complicated a history
Another complication of the entire Final Fantasy franchise is that there is actually no continuity between the videogames, despite all of them bearing the same title. Except for recurring elements, such as creatures, characters, crystals, and a general theme that mixes fantasy elements with sci-fi, each videogame involves a separate world with a different set of histories and conflicts. Simply put, there is no comfort, not even for long-time fans of the videogame. Everyone starts from the very beginning.
Thus, Kingsglaive opens with a crash course in the knotty lore surrounding Final Fantasy XV. Not even the composed and confident narration of Lena Headey (who voices Princess Lunafreya) and gleaming animation can ease the tension of the grave back story, which involves warring magical kingdoms, a technologically superior empire that is set to invade, royal intrigues, and power struggles.
The film really begins in a heated battle between the titular Kingsglaive – a group of selected magic-users plucked by the king (Sean Bean) of the only kingdom that has yet to surrender – and an army of bugs and monsters who seem to be under the employ of the empire. In between digital fireballs and acrobatic stunts, the movie introduces its main protagonist, idealistic Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul), who, through another series of perplexing plot turns, becomes involved in ensuring the safety of Princess Lunafreya from those chasing after her.
Tropes and stereotypes
There is a lot of plot to be covered by the movie, with even more characters to add depth to. However, Takeshi Nozue, who also directed Advent Children, is more concentrated on making everything look as spectacular and photorealistic as possible. The results are, admittedly, astounding.
The world of Final Fantasy XV is designed to look similar to ours, exaggerated by ornate details that obviously suggest the fact that its universe is one where both magic and futuristic technology exist. Given this, the movie’s dazzling cityscapes seem oddly familiar, with its roads populated by cars that look and move like the ordinary ones we have. The design gives the movie a compellingly bizarre contemporary look, more akin to the haunting dystopias of The Hunger Games and other young adult-themed franchises than the otherworldly settings of other Final Fantasy materials.
If only everything else were up to par, then the movie’s message could have been more relevant and pertinent to our times.
Sadly, the story is left at the margins, relegated by Nozue to serve the purpose of weaving together the many bombastic chase and fight sequences that seem to be the heart, soul, and purpose of the movie.
The characters are derived and written from the stereotypes that the role-playing game has exploited from the very beginning. Nyx is the spunky warrior-type. The princess is the dainty but courageous female representative. There is even a villain whose surprise identity isn’t really a surprise, given that it is all part of the franchise’s oft-used tropes.
Emperor with no clothes
Sure, Kingsglaive is bound to dazzle.
However, its allure is temporary. As soon as one acclimates to the movie’s incessant supply of tricks and gimmicks, the movie quickly loses its charms, revealing itself as this emperor with no clothes, a pretty but hollow ruler with nothing else to show but fake emotional faces and a whole lot of distracting fireworks. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.