It’s been over eleven years since Square Enix last attempted to bring the world of Final Fantasy to the realm of film. Despite the amounts of money spent on the previous two computer-animated films, it’s been the case that they ended up being mainly viewed by fans of the video-games. Still, Square Enix isn’t one to throw in the towel as it prepares to release Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV a few weeks before the upcoming release of the highly anticipated Final Fantasy XV.
With Kingsglaive, it seems like Square Enix is attempting to not only once again venture into the scary world of film, but to also use it as a way to introduce both fans and potential new players to the world of Final Fantasy XV. As quickly explained during the rather brief intro, the story takes place in the land of Eos where two factions have been waging war with each other for a long time. A brief battle sequence serves to demonstrate this feud between the combined forces of the empire of Niflheim and what is implied to be the noble kingdom of Lucis.
Albeit one of the most ambitious fight sequences in the whole film, it feels like it is somewhat hindered by the various times it abruptly cuts to different points of the battle. It’s clear that the film’s intention is to focus its attention on the events that occur within the walls of Lucis’ capital city, Insomnia. The whole battle feels like a reminder that despite the troops of the lone kingdom trying their very best, they are still easily bested by the far superior power of the combined empire.
One of the highlights of the film are the views that it provides of the sprawling metropolis that serves as the main backdrop for most of the story. The reason why the citizens of Insomnia are able to enjoy a mostly carefree existence is due to a crystal that king Regis and his lineage have used to erect a barrier that protects the city. Ironically, this being the last crystal in the land is one of the main reasons that both nations have been at war, since it’s made clear that the empire’s leader envies the various commodities and advantages it provides the kingdom. There is definitely a lot of back story to cover in order to better understand the film’s main story. Despite the film doing a decent job of providing viewers with all these story details, it still feels like characters are occasionally going out of their way to relay information in great detail that would have been better explained in a more natural manner.
Then again, it also feels like quite a lot of the film’s script was done with the intent of pleasing fans. There are various moments where characters mention well known products from other titles in this long running franchise.
Perhaps not a difficult goal to achieve, but it’s still a proud one as this is easily the best script so far for a Final Fantasy computer-generated film. It’s not perfect by any means and some of the dialogue does feel forced, but the star-studded cast consisting of well known figures like Aaron Paul, Lena Headey and Sean Bean do their best with what they are given. Some of the better performances come from the key players like the king and the main Kingsglaive member, Nyx. The Kingsglaive are a squad of refugees who are given special powers and are allowed to remain within the city, in exchange for helping to protect it at all costs. It’s interesting to notice that the shocking treatment that this outcast group is given helps to shape events later into the story.
Kingsglaive does a decent job of building up to twists that are credible due to the actions of characters early in the story. Albeit it feels heavy-handed, a death is used as a reminder that even a peaceful kingdom has its dark side.
Despite being one of the more interesting characters revealed so far in the development cycle of the video-game, it’s a shame to see how Princess Lunafreya is used in the film. This character is a princess of the kingdom of Tenebrae, which becomes a hostage for the Niflheim empire after a tragic event that is shown right at the start of the film. Although she proves herself to be a resourceful, if somewhat suicidal, character at various points it still feels like there’s some wasted potential. After all, being able to survive various ordeals, that included jumping between flying ships at high latitude, whilst wearing a pair of high platform shoes and not breaking a heel is nothing short of remarkable. Yet she somehow ends up being the predictable damsel in distress who needs rescuing on several occasions and a glorified ring (key story element) bearer. It definitely feels like there is room for improvement and hopefully she will be given the opportunity to prove her worth once Final Fantasy XV is released.
The fact that the film’s story is happening at the same time as a portion of the story of the video-game seems promising. It makes the film feel relevant given that it provides some much needed backstory to the events of the video-game. Being able to see what happened that led to the video-game’s main character Noctis having to flee his home is definitely better than just reading about it. It gives meaning to the deaths of the many characters who were briefly introduced during the story of the film. Even if the focus on key characters meant that the death of supporting characters didn’t have as much of an impact as it should have.
As expected the film delivers when it comes to the visuals. The realistic character models and facial expressions are easily some of the best work seen in computer-animated films. It makes the most of the city location to include some mesmerising views used in many of the key scenes. It’s almost a shame to witness the city being partially destroyed during fight scenes that are the outcome of a failed attempt at ending the conflict between both factions. Oddly enough, it’s not that easy to keep up with some of the fights due to the film’s habit of quickly cutting to different views. It’s also disorientating to try to keep up considering that some of these fights include powerful characters and giant creatures fighting at the same time.
Despite not being quite as remarkable as it could have been, it’s still easily one of the better computer-animated films that Square Enix has released so far. Whilst not for everyone, it should definitely keep fans happy until Final Fantasy XV is released. The main attraction for anyone else is still the visuals, although there are also some decent performances from the main cast. If anything, it is a true showcase of how far technology has come.
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV arrives on Digital on 30th August, and on Blu-ray, DVD and Limited Edition Steelbook from 30th September.