It took me a long time to finally set aside some time to watch this. And before I go into the review, let me just say this: this movie is gorgeous. And that is its biggest highlight. There will be some spoiler talk in here, so if you're still interested in the movie, I would say to skip this review. Or only read this if you still plan on watching the movie with the intent of drawing your own conclusions of it.
The movie came out last year, 9 July 2016 to be exact. 2016 was a huge promotional year for Square Enix. They had this, Brotherhood, the Audi R8*, A King's Tale, and a tonne of other things to help promote the actual game. They were very, very busy, but out of all that, we're going to, of course, discuss the movie.
For those who don't know, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (henceforth known as "Kingsglaive") is a feature length CG movie by Square Enix. The development team behind the film is actually Vision Works. People might know them as the team that made Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children, which is one of my favourite adapted movies. The movie tells the political story of King Regis, his counsel, and of these people known as the Kingsglaive, who are a group of refugees who lend the power of the Crystal to keep the country of Insomnia safe during these wartimes.
The total runtime of the movie is 110 minutes, and I will say it again.
This movie is breathtakingly beautiful.
Since the aesthetics for XV and VII are vastly different, there's a bit more colour and even realism that goes to the forefront in the Kingsglaive movie. To me, the sense of scale is a bit larger; the aspect of responsibility and duty and overall investment does feel a bit deeper because these are people used as tools for the government. They, by and large, have no real individual status in the way of class or power. They're citizens through their usefulness. They're refugees who are only honestly treated as such by the noble class.
Now, I'm not saying that I have a real attachment to the characters. Sadly, I don't. I can just understand their backgrounds and their place in the larger world. Kingsglaive's writing is poor on several fronts. The biggest issue is that they try to tackle too many stories and plot points at once. This is easily a 140 minute movie at minimum. If they added more runtime, I feel as if everything would tie together a bit nicely. I know this isn't specific, but I'll try to tackle the movie's writing as best as I can.
They take on too many plot points.
At the very forefront of the movie, you have a war between Niflheim and Insomnia. That much is obvious, and this angle is actually told pretty okay. There's enough explained that you're informed of who people are, what their roles are, and you're interested in their own motivations. With Niflheim, they're way past the stage of political espionage. They're all about attacking hard and attacking strong to get what they want.
The other angle is with the refugees, who are taken in during wartimes. AKA, the Kingsglaive. They're given the power of the crystal to use so long as they're defending their foster homeland. There is dissent within the ranks who blame Regis for being a cowardly king and abusing his power. There are those who are upset about the way that the war has gone, naturally, and who reject their lot in life And so, the Glaive is split into three parts.
This is where things become complicated. There's the rebel force; there's the traitorous task force; and there's the heroic Glaive. The rebel force and the TTF are essentially the same thing, but their desires are different. They both want King Regis' regime to end or change; they both want to stir up the classes to make things their version of equal. But the Rebels work down low, trying to break everything apart. The TTF want to keep the power of the crystal to become something more than rats.
They don't seem to be with Niflheim or Insomnia; they're just the unseen third party who want to shake shit up and use that power. And then there's the heroic Glaive. Honestly, there's only about two people even in this category, and they're Crowe and Nyx.
And that brings us to:
The character writing isn't great.
It's best to say that they're, on the whole, under developed.
We don't/can't get attached to Crowe. Lunafreya is darling, and honestly, I like her a lot. The way that they write her as fearless, headstrong, and dutiful are actually well done. She lacks a very outward personality, in the same way Ignis does (to me). They're dutiful and stoic people. But there doesn't seem to be much of her past that. She doesn't react one way or another to her fate. It doesn't even seem as if she has much of one either. I'm going to give Square the benefit of the doubt and say that that was their intent. That this aspect of her is something they want(ed) to explore in the game.
Nyx is pretty solid; we get him pretty well. He is who he is. He's very much the typical protagonist who basically laughs in the face of death time and time again. He has a very Danny Glover "I'm too old for this shit" kind of way about him sometimes.
Niflheim people? Done well. I'll admit that. They're clearly "the bad guys" from our perspective. Bunch of dicks, really and truly.
But then……… We get kind of short changed on everyone else. Yes, we have the traitors, the obvious red flag bad guys, but then I feel we get robbed of the impact. What happened to Crowe? What did they do to her? The way that they describe Crowe's fate doesn't match up with what we see. What was their ultimate point in taking her out; who did it; and also why? Did they know they couldn't fit her to their cause? If so, why didn't they try to take care of Nyx the same way?
I get what they were trying to do with Libertius, but with so much of his character, I don't feel like… there was enough to him somehow. He betrayed his duty, but he still gets the heroic save the day moment to help turn things around. I feel like his guilt or his understanding of the situation to help turn things around just felt kind of like "Oh well, he should be useful in the third act." versus something that was actually… good.
This movie has a lot of complicated characters, but it's not easy to try to capture them all in that short amount of time.
The reveals aren't very strong.
And this could play in part because of how they tried to take on so many plot points. There's enough there to help the viewer understand why people are doing what they're doing. But at the end of it, all I could say was "Uh-huh, sure, dude." The big reveal left me wondering "How?" more than anything else. I wasn't shocked in a good way. I was honestly a big confused.
The Glaive wasn't given a lot of attention outside of Nyx anyway. We followed him around primarily, so when so people came out of the wood works as villainous, all I could think was that I expected it, but I didn't entirely understand why they were a particularly evil asshole. I don't like secondary exposition to catch the audience up. Just show it; don't tell us.
Since this movie is only 110 minutes, life comes at you fast, friends. Especially in the third act. It's unfortunate because there are consequences to everyone's actions that start playing out. There are action scenes that are amazing. They're beautiful but a bit confusing to keep up with. Vision Works does an amazing work with their CG action.
The unfortunate thing is that since Kingsglaive moves quickly, you can see from a narrative perspective where things could have been tailored or shifted to tell a stronger story.
My final thoughts?
I don't think Kingsglaive is a bad movie, but it's a far cry from a strong one. It's not well told; it relies too heavily on one character without giving us a full understanding of why he's given the nickname he has. There's one initial moment of heroism, but afterward, we have to just assume that he's going to live up to that name. I think the movie sets him up too much without playing too much to the other characters.
I enjoyed Kingsglaive, and I can definitely see where it's lacking. It's beautiful and rich in a world of equal endearment. The characters are rich and organic, but they're not captured to their fullest potential. The motivations elude us all too much. There's enough of a foundation there to get us ready for Final Fantasy XV, especially with the post credit film which is incredibly charming.
There's a lot of potential in this movie. It's decent; it's crafted nicely, but it lacks heavily. I think that's a shame because with the right amount of polish, this could have been a breathtaking piece of work. That being said, I do suggest you pick up Kingsglaive and watch it for yourself. The cast did an amazing job with each of their characters, and Square & Vision Works did put together something that is to be respected.
All in all, this is a solid 6 out of 10 movie. I think we should at least appreciate their efforts, and as they gave us a lot of good but not always great content, I can see where they tried and put a lot of passion into their current installment. The passion, I believe, is something to be admired.
* Also with the Audi R8, I want it more than anything; it's not just because it's Final Fantasy themed, but because I'm a huge car person and that car is sexy.