Children of the Forlorn
Observe how elegantly engineered the fight scenes are. Gaze at everybody's hypnotic Botox skin and fluid movements. There's enough energy and production value here to illuminate a dozen Bruckheimer productions in perpetuity. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is obviously a labor of love, and based on beauty alone it deserves a large audience, a theatrical release, and much more than its decrepit sappy script.
Taking place two years after Final Fantasy VII, Midgar, the metropolitan crux of the world, has shut down in some lame unexplained way. At the end of the game, the Lifestream (essentially the IV unit of the word) got off its collective espery ass and saved the world, while deeming Midgar a threat and switching it off. So evil's dead, but in its wake children are being affected with "Geostigma," which makes them feel crappy in also some lame unexplained way. They've inherited evil cells from the Lifestream as a result from FF7's climatic battle, and a gang of sinister mysterios are running around, rounding them up.
In the 1997 game, Cloud was an oblivious and confused protagonist, our adolescent guiding us through the last frontier before gaming reached its critical mass as basement culture and transformed into something enormous. Now, he shuffles between uncharacteristic preening and whining more about life than Morrissey on a sunny day. He's a kvetchy boob, and all he and his friends do now is model for the camera, always reaching for this forced cool factor now that the world is actually paying attention to them.
Advent Children operates on video game terms, not movie terms, and even observing that belittles how far video games have come. Running around like fashion model action figures, nothing seems to affect them. They take punches and kicks, and break down walls with their tossed bodies, but get up unscathed. Bullets are taken directly to the face, but they emerge with only a scar and broken designer glasses. With apparent healing powers that would make Wolverine's burn green, stabs to the shoulder are literally shrugged off; the arm's a-okay four camera cuts later. If they're impervious, why should we, or even how can we, care about their plight?
Sure, they sponged up bullets and lasers in the game, but that's a necessary evil we've all come to accept from video games. For the most part, the assumption's made that the hero is just like anybody else, neither stronger nor weaker. But we love and adore them because they recognize evil and ennoble themselves with the will to fight it. In the game, the only thing that separated Cloud's band of brothers and sisters from the rest of the world was their confidence and bravery.
Here, it's an enormous physical gap. Having apparently raided Low G Man's shoe closet, the characters become unrecognizable as they leapfrog from building to building with superheroic grace. Cloud is an especially bad offender, flying around like a hopping mad Neo: just as scrawny, but with nicer hair. Every fantasy needs to have some semblance of our world, otherwise it dives into pure surrealism, and I'm not talking about the yummy Bu˝uel kind.
With humming choir and violins always in tow, the dearly departed Aeris makes frequent mystic appearances, usually whenever Cloud needs a pick-me-up or if the movie requires an easy out of a plot snag (her involvement with the "solution" to the Geostigma is pure baloney). Okay, having the dead appear blurrily in the background is lame, but it's a movie staple. But then having Aeris actually interact with kids before lilting off into a beam of heavenly light? That's a rule not meant to be broken. When the divide between life and death is closed, the conflict becomes hollow and the action totally soulless.
Or consider the scene where two characters hold explosives, make quips, and then the camera zooms out just to see how huge their explosion is. Bombastic, but we can only hope to go out with such panache. But then having these characters reappear at the end (and other characters presumed dead and never seen throughout the movie) with zero explanation? Awful filmmaking.
Even as a movie exclusively for Final Fantasy fans, it's a failure, as it doesn't bother asking that fundamental question: "What's up, everyone?" Aside from Tifa and Cloud, everyone is just paraded in to do some dirty work. But what they've been doing these past two years is anybody's guess. And though you don't need exposition to demonstrate how rad Yuffie is, what's a reunion when you don't get to, you know, reunite?
14 October 2005