Tentacle-Free Anime: "Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV" (2016)
- by Kazekun, 5 December 2016
I'm more than certain I've discussed my lack of experience with the myriad worlds that make up the popular and massive Final Fantasy lore, mostly with the games. I've seen more FF anime than I've played the games. In fact I've even reviewed Final Fantasy: Unlimited once upon a time ago. But with the newest game having come out recently and already breaking all sorts of records, I figured I'd dip my toe back in and check out the various anime that tie-in to Final Fantasy XV. It was quite the experience...
Before anyone asks, yes I've seen Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children but that has literally no bearing on this. It's just another well received film in the franchise that looks awfully pretty, but canonically the two are not connected. This I am aware of and eventually I will cover that film. But we're here to talk Kingsglaive so let's get to it.
Regardless, Nyx serves as the protagonist of our story and is a man who – much like many of his fellow Kingsglaive – has witnessed the firsthand destruction of his home to the evils of Nilfheim. Unlike a lot of his fellow Kingsglaive however Nyx doesn't blame King Regis for Niflheim's destruction and so this ends up later putting him at odds with his “brothers.” Nyx, as far as I currently know, does not show up in Final Fantasy XV so setting him up as this big hero for the story really struck a chord with me.
Without truly spoiling anything, the story does later set it up for Nyx to die, but considering we do not see his death on screen I can only make assumptions as to his true fate. I like Nyx a lot and Aaron Paul – Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad – does a serviceable job at portraying him. I wouldn't call it great acting, but then again no one turns in a truly stellar performance in this film.
Even Sean Bean and Lena Headey – Ned Stark and Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones – don't really pull out all the stops for their characters. Though I wouldn't say a single one of them phones it in, I just don't imagine any of them having much voice acting work before this film.
Discussing their characters for a moment, Bean plays King Regis and Headey plays the former princess of Tenebrae, Lunafreya. Both characters are incredibly important to this universe, however in the context of Lunafreya – Luna for short – that ultimate importance will be further explored in the game rather than here in the film. That doesn't stop either of them from getting a lot of screen time however. Regis is a kind king who is doing the best he can for the people he is tasked with protecting.
The decisions he makes in the film are ultimately for the greater good of his people, but also prove to be fatal for his slice of the Kingdom still intact as Niflheim takes advantage of his willingness to comply with their treaty agreement and bring the city down in a heap of rubble. Luna, however, is a character that I found myself having trouble stomaching.
Like Regis she means well in her choices, but when Nyx is tasked with protecting her from Niflheim and the two find themselves on the run she ends up making a lot of – in my opinion – dumb mistakes that almost get them both killed after Nyx ends up having to run after her and save her. Multiple times. I'm proud of Square Enix for attempting to give her some oomph, and allow her to make her own choices. But when all those choices put her in the damsel in distress role then perhaps you done goofed when trying to write out a smart and capable character.
The story as a whole is pretty solid and the revelations and overall political aspect is quite good actually. Some things I did see coming because they sort of have to happen in order to get the plot rolling, however there's also a whole host of other events that transpire that I wasn't expecting either. Such as seeing a bunch of giant statues come to life and go toe to toe in this brutal, all-out brawl with Niflheim's demons. The entire final fight is just this long, drawn out, knock out fight between Nyx and another character, a demon from Niflheim and a couple of giant statues. It's awesome.
This is a good segue into the animation which is flat-out gorgeous. This is one of the prettiest fully CGI films I've seen in a very long time. There are so many wonderful shots in this film filled to the brim with detail – from the characters faces to even landscaping shots. Speaking of the characters faces for a second, there are also many, many shots in which we see characters talking and while some of them move in a believable fashion there's also a whole host of moments where characters speak and their mouths seem to either spasm or not barely move at all.
For the landscape, the aesthetic in this film is completely balls to the wall. You have the Kingsglaive which look like shiny versions of Assassin's Creed characters and almost anything to do with the royal family everyone is dressed in lavish, Elizabethan inspired garb while the the architecture for many of the important buildings are Gothic Victorian inspired. But added in with those is modern day Los Angeles, New York City and Tokyo crammed into one.
People in the droves wearing modern day fashion and driving vehicles that are rendered beautifully but are in fact modern day vehicles. One car in particular that we see throughout the film is an Audi with a slight Final Fantasy trim to it, and at one point we see the Beats by Dre logo in the film. In three full shots in fact. What this world is even supposed to be is literally beyond my understanding. I don't hate it, but it was very jarring. And yes I know there's a blend of that stuff in Advent Children as well but I don't remember it being on this level that both Audi and Beats by Dre exist within this universe.
My biggest gripes with the film really lie with the villains which while some of them did get quite a bit of screen time ultimately they're just “evil” in this movie and their stories are left in a manner of “to be continued” rather than giving any of them a full arc to play out in this film. I'm sure many of them will be fleshed out in Final Fantasy XV but for Kingsglaive the big fight isn't even between the big bad which I feel does do a bit of disservice to Nyx's story. Especially with how it ends for him.
Now, I mentioned a character earlier by the name of Noctis and how this story sets up his big adventure in Final Fantasy XV. Noctis is the only son of the King and I'm not going to talk to much about him in this review because he's actually barely in the film and away from the Kingdom of Lucis for the entirety of the film. As a kid in a flashback we see Noctis in a wheelchair, this really isn't explained until a different story featuring Noctis. But in the end credits scene we see Noctis and his group of bro's heading down a road on their way to meet up with Luna who's gotten in touch with them. He is not in a wheelchair by this point.
The two characters, Luna and Noctis, are destined for some greatness that requires the two of them to get married and while it's hinted out throughout the film in many scenes this “destiny” is never spelled out. Which is another gripe for me at how many things are hinted at in this film but are left to be told in full in a video game rather than be full explored in this film.
I am a huge fan of cross media promotion and storytelling, I love it so much, but it is nice when every story tied together can for the most part stand on its own. And for the most part Kingsglaive can. But it's obvious once the credits roll that there's more story to come. Now you just have to play 50+ hours of a video game to find out what that story is.
I really liked Kingsglaive overall, and if you have any inkling of playing the game that comes after it, or if you just want a fun, action pact fantasy film to watch then I can happily suggest putting this on and letting yourself get lost in the story, characters and gorgeous animation. It has its issues, but what piece of entertainment doesn't? Thankfully none of them are off-putting enough to keep the movie from being entertaining.
Final Score: 4 Main Characters with a Mullet out of 5
Have you checked out Kingsglaive yet? Did it make you wanna buy an Audi? Let us know in the comments!