martedì 20 marzo 2007

Final Fantasy 7 - Advent Children

Questa è la prima recensione che ho scritto, in inglese, presa di peso da e sbattuta qua perchè ci sono un po' affezionato. Forse scriverò una traduzione in italiano in futuro ma al momento esiste solo la versione in inglese.


This is the first review I wrote, long ago, taken as it is, with no corrections, from I apologize if my knowledge of the English language back then wasn't as good as it is now.

If you haven`t played the game you may still enjoy the fights but the movie will seem so much worse than it actually is. The movie won`t have any value for you and you will enjoy it much less. For someone who hasn`t played the game all the votes should go down by 1 or 2, except animation and sound. Enjoyment would probably be a generous 8. Keep this in mind as you read the review.

Animation - 10/10

Well, this movie probably represents the peak of what Japanese animation has to offer today. I`m not going into every detail, just know that you won`t see anything better than this until someone else decides to shell out a ton of yen like Square-Enix obviously did. Computer or not, the sheer amount of detail packed in every single frame is enough to make the development of a movie like this both long and costly.

I could say FF7-AC`s animation has "two modes".
The first is used in the quiet scenes and tends to enhance the value of the beautiful 3D models of each character, their life-like movements and facial expressions.
The other is a very different style; during the fight scenes everything suddenly speeds up, the camera jerks around a lot and the characters run at insane speeds, fly and swing their swords in movements that can only be described as inhuman. Far from detracting anything from the overall beauty of this movie, this second "mode" is used very effectively to convey a strong sense of power and endurance and when one of the two sides finally is defeated, well, it`s almost a shock because throughout the fight it usually seems nobody`s ever going to give up. That`s why the action scenes are so gripping, they really catch your attention and your eyes are bolted to the screen. Actually, the fight scenes are the only thing Square has put in the movie, heh, so I guess we`re lucky they`re done so well.

Sound - 10/10

Great. Great, great, great. The sound quality of the special effects is very high and all the shots fired and all the sword blows are so much more convincing thanks to the sounds that come with them.

The soundtrack - that was truly a wonder. The guys at Square took all the best themes of the most loved characters from the game and put them in the movie, but they didn`t leave them as they were.
Half of them were remade into different versions that improve on the original in every way. I`m saying that`s true for about half of what you hear but of course I don`t have the OST yet. Anyway, the rest is improved in different ways, e.g. the famous Sephiroth theme is now accompanied by a distorted guitar and beautiful guitar solos. Many themes have been remade as rock or orchestral + techno pieces. Every single one is beautiful.

One thing I must say however is that cramming all those very different tunes together in a movie actually hurt consistency - you can hear rock right after orchestral or the other way around and it feels a bit strange.
However this small shortcoming is completely overshadowed by the sheer delight of hearing all those tunes you`ve listened to for 60+ hours while you played the game. I`m sure even someone who never heard them will like them a lot.

Story - 3/10


Seriously, there is a lame attempt at justifying the fight scenes with a straightforward and not very well fleshed out plot but you can see what Square`s aim was set on - i.e. beautiful, stunning action sequences. I can`t even summarize it without telling you 100% of it because it seems it`s a summary itself. Heh.
We have seen time and again that complex, interesting plots can be fit inside a ~1h30m timespan, e.g. think of Perfect Blue. This movie doesn`t even attempt to give the audience something interesting to think about.

The strong message of FF7 isn`t conveyed at all here. The "lifestream theory" isn`t expanded or even repeated (well repeating it would have been bad). What I`m trying to say is that nothing really interesting happens at all outside the fight scenes, no interesting events, no revelations, nothing, although the game has awesome material to offer for that purpose.

The game had a huge, deserved success and you can see the story as an excuse to let us see our beloved heroes again. In that regard the movie, too, is a success because every time one of them pops up you can`t help jumping out of the chair.

However, I believe the review of a movie should be objective and actually analize the movie itself, without seeing it as an extension of something else. Besides, there`s really nothing to extend in the game since its story was well thought out and ended in a consistent and rational way, tying all the loose ends nicely even hours before the ending.
We all know what marketing is and how it works so there`s no need to explain how big successes are likely to be exploited by those who created them (The Matrix, anyone?).

What is really inexcusable is that you can feel throughout the movie that its creators actually tried to make the overly simple plot seem something deep and complex. Be it an excercise in style or a desperate attempt to transform something that is basically a beat-`em-up, Street Fighter style, in a real movie, that`s a lame thing to do and it made me drop the vote from 5 to 2.
However, since the movie had Aerith in it, I raised the vote to 3 :D Not very rational but, hey, I`m a human being.

Characters - 4/10


Ok ok the movie has 3D models of the characters. That doesn`t mean it actually has actual characters. You know, those guys that have thoughts, things to say, a personality. The only one that seems to be explored in a little more detail is Cloud, who supposedly lost his will to fight and finds it again for no reason, probably because the last fight against Sephiroth wouldn`t have been as cool if he kept being beaten around like in the beginning of the movie. Heh.

He`s feeling guilty because he let Aerith die and never quite recovered but Aerith herself helps him. It seems cool, but this only lasts for a short time and it`s the only noteworthy thing that happens to a character in this movie. It fails completely at portraying Cloud as an interesting fellow. Actually, I`d like to stop a bit on this and tell you just how uninteresting and boringCloud is but you`ll see for yourself.

On second thought, I`ll tell you. Cloud was never meant to be the hero who defeats everyone. In the game he`s a liar - remember the Soldier thing? - and once he`s even incapacitated and reduced to a larvae on a wheelchair until Tifa rescues him from his mental breakdown.

The reason why Cloud sucks in this movie is that he had weaknesses as well as strenghts and a strong, well defined personality and you felt it even though he never said much; now he`s a Bruce Willis-like mindless hero with just a hinting of personality and a passion for childish one-liners. Not Hollywood-style one-liners as in "go f*ck yourself, man", but still one-liners. All of this things make him totally forgettable. It`s even more maddening because you can see clearly that it`s all a rushed attempt at putting something, anything around that big void to hide it from the audience. Same as the story, actually.

The other characters didn`t recieve even half of the attention Cloud got. Even Tifa, the second most important character in this movie, doesn`t really think or speak about anything interesting and her role in the movie is to put the burden on Cloud`s shoulders and convince him to fight.
Once she manages to do it, with the help of Aerith`s spirit, she holds back and lets Cloud do everything - like all the other characters do. Our heroes are all there, each one in his/her meaningless role.

They appear out of the blue riding on Cid`s new plane-thing and believe me, it`s a joy to see them all again. I never realized how much I loved them all until now. They all do things in their own very particular style: Barret runs around shooting things at random, Barret-style, Vincent shows us how cool his cloak is, Tifa punches and kicks like she did when the "limit" gauge was full, Cid still has those goggles, Cait Sith now rides Red... Really, they all rock so much - graphically. But, again, under the surface there`s nothing.
Of course, the cast is just too big for a movie. I know. But they could have made at least 2 or 3 interesting characters. Instead, well, nothing to see here, move along.

They`re in the movie only to provide fanservice - no, fanservice isn`t just tits & ass, it`s also overly detailed mechas and things like that, things that are only meant to please the fans - and they only have a small impact on the events taking place. In the end they just decide to hold back and let Cloud do all the spanking by himself, for no reason at all, even if they know he`s going to face Sephiroth who in the last battle had to be brought down by SIX of them working in two teams (unless you managed to get the Knights of the Round materia... aaahhh the memories, the memories!).
All in all, their inclusion in the movie was very, very awkward and clumsy.

So, my vote is 2 but since Aerith was one of the characters the vote went up to 3.
Since I almost fell from the chair cheering them as they appeared one after the other and my heart actually started beating faster during a certain sequence when they attack, one after the other, a huge beast (Bahamut :D) I bumped the vote up to 4.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Sure, I value rationality. Ok, I see your point, can we get back to what I was saying?

Value - 7

I wasn`t sure about this vote. I mean, the movie is funny as hell and a must watch and you`ll certainly watch it more than once but you`ll probably skip all the quiet scenes and rewatch only those amazing fights. So is the value really that high? There`s nothing you`ll want to see again outside the battles. I also think what will happen in the long run - not very long, actually - is that you`ll get bored of the fight scenes too.

What usually drives us to watch a movie again and again is mainly our love for the characters, e.g. Tanabe Ai in PlanetES. The second best thing is the beauty of the story.

Now, the story is just downright ugly and devoid of any attraction but it may just be that our love for the original characters from the game is so strong that we`ll want to see this movie a lot of times, in spite of it being empty and having only some watered down versions of some of the original characters.

Well, I give Value a 7. I`m still very unsure.

Enjoyment - 10/10

No doubt about this one. The movie is funny as hell and makes time fly. The quiet moments should have been overly boring - they would have been in a live action movie - but the animation is so good you barely notice that nothing is really going on.
The insanely high level of the animation, my friends, is the only reason why you`ll want to watch this movie.
Go for it. Watch it. You`ll enjoy it a lot, despite all its shortcomings. I recommend this movie, strongly.

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