Well, at least it’s much better than Spirits Within.
As the gaming world counts the weeks to the late November release of the long-in-development Final Fantasy XV, gamers all over have a wide selection of material to occupy their attention before the actual game hits. Of course there’s the anime OVA series, FFXV Brotherhood (nowhere near as good as FMA Brotherhood, I assure you), which is of course made to introduce us to the heroes of the game- Prince Noct of Lucis and his roadies. Kingsglaive, a fully-CG animated film, is another such prologue, though much more immediate to the events within the game.
As the opening seconds of the movie roll in with the familiar voice of Lena Heady (our most beloved mad queen of Westeros) giving narration, we are introduced to the big players- Lucis is the ‘peaceful kingdom of magic’ while opposite them is The Empire of Nifleheim, a militaristic nation powered by Magitek (ah, Magitek, we know you so well). The Empire of course is on the verge of total victory, with the capital city of Insomnia (really? A city is named after a sleeping disorder?) the only remaining bastion of Lucis’ control. After a flashback showing some tragic events that befall Lucis’ former ally, the country of Tenebrae, we get into the thick of action with the Kingsglaive.
The titular Kingsglaive are apparently Lucis’ main (or perhaps only) military force- not sure about how many, but there seem to be not many- certainly nowhere near a hundred strong. The Glaive are ‘mighty warriors’, all of whom are recruited from Lucis’ provinces (all of which are probably now under Empire control or attack) due to their ability to use magic. The magic they wield though comes from one source- the King of Lucis himself, King Regis (voiced by another GoT stalwart, Sean Bean). So who are the Glaive? They look kinda cool- very similar to Assassins from Assassins Creed, but in black and wielding one main weapon- a dagger or short blade which they use primarily to ‘Warp Strike’; as in, they throw the dagger and then can teleport to wherever the weapon goes. While it certainly LOOKS awesome, I find it highly impractical and sorta haphazard. I guess the Glaive are trained to be really good and accurate throwers, but come on- you’re limited by throwing range, the speed of the person’s arm, his accuracy, the fact that they can go wildly out of control (and many do in the course of the action) with a bad throw.
Anyway, in these couple of dozen or so fighters is Lucis’ main defense. What has the enemy got? Oh, aside from armies of certainly a lot more soldiers, both human and mechanical (armed with GUNS), they have Magitek war machines AND apparently controlled monsters (just like in the games!) which range from flying creeps and cannon fodder to larger beasts like a Cerberus (three-headed fire dog) and a smoky demon which also seems to be half mechanical. How a few guys with daggers is able to hold off such a force is beyond me. But well, somehow they do.
Or do they? At the moment of apparent defeat, the Empire withdraws, allowing the Kingsglaive to get a breather. Later on, the court of King Regis is visited by a strange visitor- the shabby but kinda cool-looking Ardyn Izunia, perhaps the first Final Fantasy villain ever to sport a fedora and what seems to be a beak on his right arm (really, WHAT THE HELL IS HE WEARING?). Ardyn brings an offer of peace- well, pretty much an armistice, which offers a stop to the war at the cost of Lucis surrendering all its territories save Insomnia itself. Oh, and the Prince must also marry the Princess Lunafreya, who has been an Imperial captive/ward all this time.
Of course, you just know that the Empire is up to no good, and from there it’s a nice build-up to the day of the treaty signing. In the meantime, we see ugly sides of Lucis, which utterly puzzle me. So the Kingsglaive are all recruited from non-residents of Insomnia… WHY are they regarded by Insomnians with an obvious racist disgust? They are DEFENDING YOU, IDIOTS. The Glaive themselves are not your picture of loyalty or unity either- of course, you have the gung-ho, fearless hero Nyx, his clumsy oaf of a best friend Libertus and the one hot girl, Crow. The rest are either faceless and unimportant or belligerent or smarmy. With their ranks thinned and dissent growing cracks in their resolve, in the Kingsglaive may lie the fate of Lucis as the Imperial plot soon unfolds.
First off, the movie is GORGEOUS. That much can be said readily. There’s a lot of detail in the characters, and its much improved from previous Final Fantasy films. Faces of many characters look great, and at least by this time we don’t really think uncanny valley that much any more. However, there seems to be a slight disjoint between lip syncing- or perhaps the mouths of characters don’t quite seem to jive with the words.
While the first half of the movie up to when the shit hits the fan, the movie is quite engaging. However, after a certain point and we head into an unwieldy final act, it all crumples into a mess of a pursuit/chase, and large scale “Giant Monster’ action and action that’s so zippy and flashy, it can only be described as anime. Things happen to characters that normal humans would not walk away from easily, betraying the CG nature of the actors and the world. And the action in the final battle, while pretty amazing, seems hollow, without weight and ultimately, unsatisfying.
But then, I guess Kingsglaive is not meant to satisfy. It’s here to set the stage- with the bad guys winning or on the upswing, while the heroes are- well, they’re not here. The real heroes are in the upcoming GAME, which you will need to play to get closure. I wonder though how closely they’ll keep this movie to the final game? In that way, I guess that while Kingsglaive has its faults, it was worth seeing and certainly has me stoked into kicking Imperial butt this November on my PS4.