Final Fantasy has had with very spotty track record when it comes movies. From the $137 million nuclear bomb the was Final Fantasy: The Spirits to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children which many considered a love letter to fans of the beloved JRPG, Final Fantasy VII. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is in the unique position of offering fans insight on the political landscape and conflicts for fans looking forward to playing Final Fantasy XV later this holiday season.
Square Enix spared no expense to bring forward the most visually striking animated movie seen to date. Saying that Kingsglaive is a great looking movie would simply be an understatement. The level of detail and photorealistic visuals mixed with an element of sci-fi fantasy wasn’t only pleasing on the eyes but give the world of Eos it’s own visual history without saying anything. There are times where you’ll confuse the actors on-screen with real people that simply shows how far we’ve in terms of motion capture and animation.
For years, The magical kingdom of Lucis has been fighting a losing war against the technologically superior Nifleheim Empire. The Nifs employ the use of vicious monsters and advanced weaponry to essential take over most of the world. Lucis is the only nation that hasn’t succumbed to the might of Nifleheim mostly due to the massive magical barrier erected by King Regis. This halted any and all attempts of invasion by Nifleheim leaving the conflict at a stalemate.
Nifleheim’s comically stylish chancellor Ardun Izunia proposes a controversial peace treaty that could end the fighting but could put the nation of Luis in a compromising position. There’s a lot of political outmaneuvering that happens around the treaty signing that feel like a game of royal checkers than chess. Thankfully, King Regis is such a royal badass, who’s played by the equally badass Sean Bean, can make something as boring as a treaty signing into a tense and thrilling affair.
If political machinations aren’t really your thing, other half of the movie focuses on members of the Kingsglaive, King Regis’s elite forces imbued with a fraction of the King’s magic that allow them to perform extraordinary feats of wow-ness like casting magic spells and warping around like mystical Navy SEALs. Nyx Ulric, played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, uncovers a conspiracy that could mean the end Lucis and its King. His other assignment is to be the personal driver/bodyguard of Princess Luna Freya of Tenebrae, voiced by Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey. Luna Freya’s is basically a vehicle to deliver exposition and remind us that Noctis, the main character in Final Fantasy XV, isn’t going to be in this movie. It’s tough to root for Nyx as a character since he falls under the category of the very typical typical ‘rule-breaking duty-bound super-soldier’ making it tough to care about what happens to him.
The action scenes involving the Kingsglaive shooting lightning out of their hands and snapping necks are fun and well choreographed. The opening 15 minutes that pits the Kingsglaive against an invading Nif army is a jaw-dropping sequence got me more and more excited to actually to play Final Fantasy XV. The final act is essentially a long chase scene with helicopters, spider mechs and bird demon-things that ends with a boss battle on a freeway with 50-story monsters doing their best Kaiju Big Battel reenactment in the city of Insomnia. This will would please any Final Fantasy fan especially if you grew bored with old men in robe performing political gymnastics and and rather see a dude with rock-star hair fight a dark knight inside on top of a collapsing freeway. You know, the stuff we love about Final Fantasy.
Paul and Headey work really well together especially towards the end of the third act. Headey brings a regal confidence while Paul’s nails the charming rebel act. Sean Bean, who plays King Regis, deserves a nod for a really killer performance and made me wish for an entire movie devoted King Regis saying kingly things. As talented as they are, there’s no saving them from the aggressively melodramatic dialogue that usually comes with Final Fantasy. It’s tough to take a lot of what’s said seriously when the characters delivering the lines have super ridiculous names like Ravus Nox Fleuret, Libertus Ostium and Luche Lazarus.
Clocking in at under 2 hours, Kingsglaive feels about half-hour too long. There scenes involving Libertus could have completely cut completely. His arc doesn’t really pan out as well as you think it would and his role is reduced to just, “guy who gives another character a ride at the end of the movie.” There also some very interesting social-political themes about immigration, class and nationalism that I would have loved to seen fleshed-out but all seem to take a back seat in the second half of the movie in favor of watching Nyx beat the ever-loving crap out of an 8-foot jerk in plate mail, flying demons and spider-mech things for 45 minutes. Don’t get wrong, these are fun action scenes on their own but loses all charm and personality the first hour spent building by shifting its focus from world-building and political intrigue to non-stop action.
It’s tough to recommended Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV to anyone who isn’t a FF fan. If you plan on picking up Final Fantasy XV then Kingsglaive does a decent job setting up the state of the world when you take control of King Regis’ son, Noctis and his band of merry ass-kickers. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a visual marvel that suffers from a predictable story that takes itself too serious that takes away from the over-the-top action.