Director – Takeshi Nozue
Screenplay – Takashi Hasegawa
Studios – Visual Works, Digic Pictures, Image Engine
Distributor – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Aniplex, Stage 6 Films
Kingsglaive is a prequel movie for the upcoming Square-Enix developed role playing game Final Fantasy XV. The events of the story proceed those of the game featuring the father of Noctis (the star of the upcoming game) King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII and his elite guard known as the Kingsglaive. This review is for the English langue version of the movie.
Nyx Ulric servers as our primary protagonist for the duration of the movie and at the beginning of the movie is one of the Kingsglaive’s most effective agents despite not always playing by the rules or following orders. Whilst on assignment to guard Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (who is due to marry Noctis) he uncovers an invasion force moving on his homeland the kingdom of Lucis by the militaristic empire of Niflheim. The plot is slightly more convoluted than that with a lot of political back stabbing and the addition of an underground rebellion but for the most part that covers the main events that you will see unfold in front of you whilst viewing this movie.
Visual Works produced the lion’s share of the movie’s visuals and you would be hard pressed not be impressed by the sheer spender of it all. The studio is a division Square-Enix who are making the game so there are plenty of in game references to the wider series such as creatures and summons, they also previously worked on Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The battle sequences are fast paced and feature much of the teleporting sword fighting you will have witnessed if you have played any of the demos for the game. The facial expressions and lip sync on all of the characters themselves is as close to photo realistic as I have seen so far and there are times when it is difficult to tell if you are looking at real life actors or CGI.
The soundtrack is suitably dramatic featuring a mixture of orchestrated pieces alongside some more modern guitar heavy pieces. There are some big names on the English version of the movie featuring the likes of Aaron Paul as Nyx (Breaking Bad/Need for Speed), Sean Bean as King Regis (Game of Thrones/Goldeneye) and Lena Headey as Lunafreya (Game of Thrones/Dredd). Normally TV/Movie actors serving as voice actors ends up being disastrous but this time around they actually do a really good job. I can only assume they had an incredible voice director as unlike say Headey’s flat performance in the recent Telltales Game of Thrones videogame, she sounds invested and enthusiastic as does the entire cast.
There are however a few problems with this movie and unfortunately they are fairly major and they start with the actual story itself. A lot of things happen in this movie, we have two super powers who have been fighting a war for longer than some of the characters have been alive and with that comes a lot of politics. I’m not sure how the writers managed it but they have written a main story arc involving politics that is somehow less interesting than the one featured in The Phantom Menace. We never fully understand why the nations are at war in the first place other than Lucis are the good guys and Niflheim are the bad guys which seems a gross simplification.
The film attempts to emotionally manipulate the viewer several times but the most egregious of these is the introduction and subsequent despatching of Crowe. She has at most five minutes of screen time and when her corpse shows up later in the movie a huge deal is made about it and how we should feel furious at her death and yet, next to no time was spent on actually developing her. She feels like a plot point written to exist purely to drive several of the other characters into action following the events of her death.
The film is also very unevenly paced; we start in the heart of a massive battle sequence with some of the most well-known monsters in Final Fantasy lore clashing with our heroes and then we spent most of the rest of the movie sitting in meetings listening to old men discuss the political structure of the land. We do of course have battle sequences laced in here and there but until we get to the last 10-15 mins of the feature there is nothing of substance.
The problem seems to be that they are trying the same formula they used when making Advent Children but they have forgotten that whilst Final Fantasy VII and its characters had been around for years before a movie was ever thought of, Final Fantasy XV has not yet been released so we literally know nothing about the world or characters featured. Rather than try to tell the origin story of an entire kingdom and of a disposable cast that is unlikely to be more than a footnote in the upcoming game, this should have instead been launched after the game cutting out all of the bloat to tell a much more directed tale. Luckily there is an anime series titled Final Fantasy XV Brotherhood which does a far better job at introducing us to the world of Eos and the characters that will actually feature in the game.
In the end Kingsglaive is a visually stunning movie with a great voice cast and wonderful musical score sadly let down by uneven pacing, poorly written dialogue and a story that meanders for too long and does not do enough to justify itself as a standalone movie. Fans of the game series may find something to enjoy here but even for those of us invested in the series of games it’s a hard sell. Whilst not awful it is the furthest thing from what this series deserved and is a disappointing lesson in how not to make a movie based on a video game.