*** THIS IMHO REVIEW HAS A LOT SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK ***
I am big Final Fantasy fan. I've started the game from FF III (VI in Japan), and progressed my way up until XIII-2 as of late. But I failed to pick up on XIII-3 precisely from what the franchise is suffering from: creative fatigue. As much as the elements are rehashed to keep the familiarity throughout each anthology, it's also the same reason why you would get tired from playing the game over its latter iterations.
Given the mess that was Spirits Within and slightly better Advent Children, you would have cautious optimism over this next installment. It would be good to start that this movie wasn't meant to standalone as a movie, but as long prologue to the game coming out this November. Hence non-fans (i.e. movie critics) would scratch their heads walking out of the cinemas. In this limited context though, the movie can be said as a success. Then again, that success comes at limiting your audience to a sliver of hard core fans. Instead of a standalone theatrical release (no matter how limited), this would've been better off screened on the eve of the game's launch in special viewing parties, then included in a some special edition DVD when you buy the game.
From a visual stand point though, this movie though is simply BEAUTIFUL. It's like getting well art-directed movies such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers a heaping shot of adrenaline plus steroids. The detail work put on city, down to the blade of grass is nothing short of amazing. The architecture seemed like a fusion of London and Tokyo complete with the LED billboards and centuries old sculptures. At some points you can't tell if it was CG or a live action movie. I can't wait to experience this type of graphics during the game. It is mesmerizing at the start and especially during the battle scenes, well enough for you to numb out the poorly written plot.
Speaking of plot (or the lack there of) is the greatest Waterloo all of the FF movies have in common, save for FF Advent Children, where there was some sort of resemblance to one. Most critics consensus would pan this as confusing with Swiss cheese for plot holes. There wasn't enough development for you to care enough what happens to the characters. They introduce a multitude of other secondary folks with nary a backstory (Suicid Squad anyone?), and expects the viewer to bridge the gap as the story went along. Some characters, especially the 'Glaives Captain was written too shallow, and one-dimensional. You could already predict he would be the traitor towards the end. The biggest question mark for me was that sudden mutiny some of the Glaives did with nary an explanation on how they sided with the empire.
And what's with the names? Nyx, Noctis, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret? They all sound like a mash-up of German, Old English, and Norse influences with a good heaping of techno. I never quite understood the name study logic all FF games had actually. And why is the city called Insomnia? Because it never sleeps? I guess what counted for that name is more on the phonetics rather than semantics. I never really noticed, and never really bothered until this was brought up. Just a curious digression.
The fanboy inside me though got caught up with the Easter eggs referenced from other FF games. I got a bit giddy how the 'Glaives would generously use Protect and Thunder spells like it was their morning coffee. The Magitek walker tanks Niflheim empire used was a nod to FF III. There was also that huge ass angry Kraken, not to mention Cerberus running around. Oh yes, Nyx also gets to cast Knights of The Round.
Though I find the animation a bit too fluid and then sluggish when it came to subtle human movements, especially at the part when Nyx and his crew met up for drinks in some hole-in-a-wall. I guess for all the advances in mo-cap, we still couldn't perfect the imperfect human movements... those slight flicks and inconsistent jerks we do in between big movements. And of course, given Lena Headey and Sean Bean of GoT lore is on board, I just want to say it out there: the Sean Bean jinx holds up and Lena's character has sibling issues as well.
If you the non-fan and just plain curious, here's twelve (12) heaping minutes of the movie. The plot doesn't get complicated here just yet, so you can just oogle on the crazy fantastic scenery.
After you watch the movie, I suggest picking up Final Fantasy Brotherhood. This is a series of shorts produced by Square Enix and A-1 Pictures. It's a web only anime series picking on the story of Noctis right after the events of Kingsglaive. This somewhat bridges the events between the movie and the game better. It also gives the backstory of all the characters Noctis is traveling with, and why they are significant to him. At first I never quite cared about his posse and ranted why there aren't any more playable chicks in the game, but after this though I sort of understood why. I still prefer having more playable chicks in the game.
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