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Well it’s finally here! The film that millions of fans have been holding out for years makes its way onto shelves after at least half a dozen delays. It all started back in 1997 when a little Playstation game called Final Fantasy VII made its way into stores and quickly became one of the most popular games of all time. Now the creators of the original game team together again to bring the heroes from that game back in a motion picture entitled Advent Children. The film was originally slated to be a ten minute anime short, which then became a thirty minute anime short film. It then developed into an hour-long 3D animated visual extravaganza before becoming this one hundred minute roller coaster. With the original release date being early 2004, the release date has been thrown around before finally settling on late 2005 in Japan and mid 2006 Worldwide.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
It seems fair that after the failure of 2001s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Square Studios would want their second attempt at a Final Fantasy feature to have more insurance of success, which is probably why they would choose to base it on the most popular and famous of the games. Many fans were very unhappy with Spirits Within as it betrayed the video game roots and went with a more conventional sci-fi approach. This film attempts to rectify that by returning directly to the game that put the franchise on the map and continuing where it left off.

It has been two years since the end of the game, and the city of Midgar is now a wasteland after the devastating magic attack from the games finale. The once oppressive Shinra Company is now reduced to three guys running out of a run-down shack. The events of the game have left the world in a very sorry state, with all that was once powerful now destroyed, leaving behind a weak civilisation. To make matters worse, there is a deadly illness spreading quickly. Former hero Cloud (voiced by Steve Burton) is now a delivery boy, spending all his time alone on the road so he can deal with the events of his past. When three new bad guys make their way into town starting all new levels of supernatural mischief, he must come to grips with the tragedy in his life and become the hero people need him to be once again.

The plot of Advent Children is very dense. What is written above only scratches the surface of the overall plot. This means that those who did not play the game may find themselves very lost here. There is a brief introduction that does its best to fill in the epic events from the game, but with total game play time being around sixty hours it has trouble doing so coherently. That having been said, if you did play the game this movie is a little slice of heaven. You are back in the world you spent so many hours immersed in and fought for. The makers obviously knew game players would be itching for this film so try to make the most of it, including as many characters as possible, if only for one scene or two, visiting as many locations as possible, and having the events of the game tie in with the film as much as possible. This is at times great for a fan, at other times it seems a little desperate, meaning that it seems like they had too much to do and too short a running time to do it.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
With that in mind, the story does focus very closely on Cloud, with most other characters being supporting in his quest. This is a blessing to newcomers as they are not swamped by too many main characters. Game characters such as Tifa, Barrett, Red, Vincent, Aeris, Yuffie and Cait Sith are all included, and all get their chance to shine on screen at some point but are not given long to do it. In an odd move, former villains the Shinra Company are given more screen time than the other heroes, as well as three new villains. There is also a special appearance by an old friend\enemy. Fans will eat it up, while others will wonder what the fuss is all about.

Visually the film is absolutely stunning. Although not overly life-like, the characters look amazing (Tifa in particular looking gorgeous), the action scenes are spectacular and inventive, and the whole world is brought to life more beautifully than imagined. The film really gives off every indication of being based on a game as the action scenes include special moves used by characters in the game, appropriately over-the-top ‘stunts’ and a genuine feeling Final Fantasy plot. It all works great and is a feast for the eyes.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
The voice casting is also excellent. It’s good that they actually took the time to cast it well. Steve Burton is not quite what many were expecting for Cloud but pulls it off great and Rachel Leigh Cook is lovely as Tifa. Most are cast to match the talent from the original Japanese cast and do very well. Also excellent is the music score which is dynamic and exciting. The soundtrack is very much worth buying.

Is the film any good? That really depends on if you played the game or not. Either way it’s a visually stunning film which is well cast and has spectacular action sequences. If you played the game, it bring the universe onto screen in a way that Spirits Within failed to do and re-unites players with their favourite characters. They should love every second. Newcomers will more than likely be lost in the plot which requires knowledge of the games events and characters so will probably feel unsatisfied in the end. As someone who was obsessed with the game though, this writer was very happy, and was breathless at the end of this fast-paced adventure.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Video


The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. As mentioned this film is a visual feast so video is very important. Luckily we are not let down, as we get a clear undistorted picture which is nearly flawless in the way of grain and artefacts. Although clear, when comparing to the superior video on the Japanese release we see that the colours are much paler and the edging less sharp on this local release. Perhaps the transfer came from a weaker source? Regardless, the picture is still very clear and helps the viewer to take in this effects extravaganza the way they were meant to.

Audio


We get the original Japanese track and the dubbed English track, both in 5.1 Surround. In both tracks the dialogue is clear, the surrounds are used wonderfully with a variety of music and directional effects, and the sub is not one bit overbearing. The only sync problems come with the English track which is to be expected when dubbing a foreign language over a film. Both tracks are worth the checking out due to the fact that they are excellent. (I watched the original Japanese track first and then did the English later and I would recommend doing the same as you would be watching the original track first)

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Extras


The only extra on the first disc is a short film called ‘Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII’, which sums up the story of the game in a way that is much more appropriate than the little introduction in the film. This is long and gives the story the time it needs. It also features of deleted dialogue from the film

The second disc is home to the other extras. Starting with ‘The Distance: Making Advent Children’, which gives a blow by blow as to how the game became the movie and how the movie was made. Worth watching for anyone who liked the movie.

There are eleven deleted scenes, which total around two minutes. Each is basically an angle that wasn’t used in the film. Not very exciting, especially when there were several shots in the trailers that are neither in the film nor here. For example a fancy looking action scene where Cloud and his bike are blown into the air and clash swords with villain Kadaj before hitting the ground.

Speaking of which, there is a selection of trailers. Several very nice trailer for the film, as well as a number of trailers for further Final Fantasy VII projects, including a game for the mobile, a game for the PSP and a ‘third entry’ in the series in the form of a third person shooter for PS2. Looks like fun.

Finishing the package is the Venice Film Festival footage, which is pretty much a cross between the film in a nutshell and a trailer. There is no deleted footage here so if you saw the movie, you really don’t need to see this.

Overall it’s a totally decent set of extras, but one has to wonder why the director’s commentary from the Japanese is missing. Granted it’s in Japanese but I hear you can put subtitles on DVDs these days. Also missing is the ‘Last Order’ short film which provides some further back story.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Overall


A real treat for those who played the game, but others will be lost and confused. Either way it’s a well made action flick which is a real visual feast. We get a solid package here as well with nice audio and video and a fine selection of extras. Fans should buy this ASAP, others should try it, and you may just enjoy it for what it is: a fun action flick with a fine set of extras to enjoy later.


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