||The 1997 PlayStation video game Final Fantasy VII, arguably the most popular entry in the long-running series, finally got a direct sequel in 2005, but not in video game form. Instead of debuting their follow-up on one of the latest next-generation consoles, the powers-that-be at Square Enix decided that it deserved the feature-film treatment. And thus, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was born.
Set two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, this cinematic sequel centers once again on Cloud Strife (Takahiro Sakurai/Steve Burton), the blond hero of the original game. Midgar is now beset by a mysterious plague known as Geostigma, affecting much of the city’s populace. While gunning his motorcycle around the wastelands on the outskirts of town, Cloud finds himself under attack by a trio of silver-haired bikers. Led by the lanky Kadaj (Showtaro Morikubo/Steve Staley), these punks are after one thing: their mommy.
Okay, they call her “Mother,” although who that’s supposed to be isn’t clear at first. Still, they decide that the best method in staging a “reunion” with dear ol’ Mom is to unleash all kinds of hell on the planet. As such, the last forty-five minutes of the film is almost pure action-packed spectacle, as Cloud and all his old friends from Final Fantasy VII (Tifa, Barret, Vincent Valentine, etc.) do battle against Kadaj, his minions, and a gigantic monster that’d give Godzilla a run for his money. Of course, as any FFVII fan knows, there’s also badass villain Sephiroth to worry about, who appears complete with long, flowing silver hair, a gigantic katana, and a hard-on for killing Cloud. He’s supposed to be dead, but when does that ever stop a larger-than-life comic book villain?
Although much has been said about how incomprehensible FFVII: Advent Children is, the storyline is actually pretty simple - it’s just the details that are a little complicated. Otherwise, the plot’s really about a group of bad guys who want something, and a group of good guys who have to stop them. The rest is window-dressing, which may be a problem for some. Perhaps the reason I didn't find it problematic is the fact that Advent Children is so visually arresting. The clothes and hair are practically photo-real, while the action set-pieces, all completely unconcerned with actual physics, are exhilarating to behold. Both the Japanese and English voice cast is topnotch, albeit with a slight edge going to the Japanese. Further, the score by Nobuo Uematsu adds the right level of suspense, poignancy, and dramatic bombast to enliven the proceedings considerably.
Conventional wisdom suggests that you’d have to be a fan of Final Fantasy VII and all its ancillary properties to truly “get” and appreciate Advent Children. To some degree, those grumblings are absolutely true; after all, fan service is meant for fans-only. But as someone who spent his college days playing Metal Gear Solid and the Tekken series in lieu of FFVII, I still found this film to be enthralling from the get-go. It may have diminishing returns on repeat viewings, but in terms of pure spectacle, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is hard to beat. (Calvin McMillin, 2009)