Editor’s Note: Spoilers will follow. Proceed with caution.
At this point in time, it’s fairly safe to assume that I’ve gotten fully invested into the lore and the intrigue surrounding Final Fantasy XV. From all the different facets of it, with an anime series and feature-length film, the events occurring between the Kingdom of Lucis and the Niflheim Empire have caught my interest.
Following my interview with the team behind Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and learning more about the music elements from John Graham, a composer behind the film, I finally got the chance post-exam to watch the movie. As great of a visual spectacle that it is (seriously, it’s a whole new level of photorealism), Kingsglaive suffers somewhat from a murky plot and comes off as a feature-length cutscene opener for the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV, now slated for November 30. One of the key points of Kingsglaive that Director Takeshi Nozue wanted was for Kingsglaive to be able to stand alone as a film that can attract those who are not fans of the series or know little of the franchise. The only problem was that it didn’t quite hit the mark because there are some points that are left unanswered that are supposed to be told in the game.
Voicing the characters are the ever-charismatic Sean Bean (King Regis), a flat performance that didn’t quite match for Lena Headey (Lunafreya Nox Fleuret), and a relatively strong voiceover from main protagonist Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul) despite playing the role of the stereotypical hero. Alongside them are Liam Mulvey (Libertus Ostium) and Andrea Tivadar (Crowe Altius). There are many characters in Kingsglaive, some of whom had rushed story arcs and stunted development. I was personally very disappointed by Crowe’s sudden end. Other characters had reduced screen time and some of the more intriguing characters didn’t get enough – ill-fated King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII was such a standout character and his getting murdered at the midway point just hurts. It’s very clear that he’s a shrewd ruler, but also a compassionate father that wants the best for his son. Watching these internal conflicts play out with King Regis was one of the highlights of the film, but the unfortunate news was that this only took place in the first half.
With the extensive cast of characters erupts a storyline that starts with a great action opener and a narration by Lunafreya. It then decides to go into a long-winded ramble about politics between the two empires; both sides are “far too clever to have believed in this peace” (General Glauca of Niflheim). There’s supposed to be a peace treaty that would end the war, at the cost of Lucis surrendering its outside territories to the empire and forcing Prince Noctis to wed Lunafreya. As we all know, this treaty is just a veiled excuse for Iedolas Aldercapt and Arydyn Izunia to bring their warships to attack the city and take both Lunafreya and the crystal, which powers the city’s defenses. While the first half stalls with excessive politicking, the second half erupts into action following King Regis’s murder at the hands of Glauca, later revealed to be the Kingsglaive commander Titos Drautos in a twist by intervention from Libertus, a former member of the glaive. The climax has Nyx and Glauca razing the city in an epic battle, which I must admit was a real treat to watch; the Old Wall coming to the aid of Nyx was actually pretty cool as they utilized the same teleporting that the Kingsglaive used.
One of my issues with Kingsglaive was with some of the animations. While I understand that the film is entirely in CGI, there’s still the noticeable lag in some of the character movements that can’t quite mimic the fluidity that humans display. While I deeply admired the photorealism of individual shots, that jerkiness definitely affected some parts of the movie. As a counterpoint, the CGI for a lot of the teleporting maneuvers and action sequences that the Kingsglaive utilized, or the still shots of the cityscape in Insomnia, that was top-notch work and illustrates just how far the technology has come since Advent Children.
The only other issue I had was with the resolution of some of the side character storylines. Characters like Crowe were under-utilized and others, like Libertus, felt like wasted potential and could have been a lot more. Behind the slippery intentions of some of the mutinous members of the Kingsglaive, to characters like Iedolas Aldercapt and Ardyn Izunia, or even Rayvus Nox Fleuret, there’s a lot of empty explanation and it’s understandable that these details would be explained in Final Fantasy XV; however, it’s these crucial details that would not make the film a standalone product, and that’s what Kingsglaive wanted to be. It becomes nothing more than a teaser and a “To Be Continued” that will end in Final Fantasy XV. The impact that some of these characters left on the film felt like they were lost and merely served as exposition.
At the end of the day, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is an excellent B-grade popcorn flick that presents plenty of action sequences that is unfortunately marred by a murky political background. With an excellent soundtrack and ties to older franchise monsters, it’s a decent attempt to get people intrigued in the Final Fantasy XV universe, but fails to stand alone as a product that can pull in the masses. For those who intend to play Final Fantasy XV, they will definitely come out of this experience a bit richer; for those unfamiliar with the franchise, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.