Category Archives: CG Movie Research

Unsolicited Comment: Why Are Animated Films Cartoony Nowadays?

In this video, AniMat explains how he believes family movies also suffer from experimentation in the young art form of full-CGI, feature-length films. The latest trend in family movies has been to create what he calls “cartoony movies” instead of “animated films.” He claims that cartoony movies try to mimic seven-minute-long skit cartoons from the 1930s and 40s. Cartoony movies focus on animation, visuals, humor, and pop culture references over the script while animated films focus on the script.

I’m not sure about his cartoony movie category. For one, what could be placed in this category is as open to interpretation as what makes a movie bad. AniMat classifies Angry Birds as cartoony, but considering that Stefan Molyneux defended Angry Birds as a metaphor for today’s political climate, it could just as easily be an animated film. While it has pop culture references, its script apparently has a meaningful message. AniMat classifies Sausage Party as an animated film, but his own viewers place it in the cartoony category. And while AniMat praises Zootopia as an animated film, it’s also a formulaic Disney film in part powered by Frozen references and clichés.

Second, most of the films AniMat cites as cartoony are sequels, based on pre-existing franchises, or rip-offs. Even the films not easily classified as one of these are in an oversaturated market where everything looks like everything else. I’d say these films are bad, not because they’re experimenting, but because they rely too heavily on their audience’s knowledge of the world and characters, rely too heavily on current trends and pop culture, or don’t understand what made the base material they’re copying popular. The sequel trend isn’t unique to CGI movies. It’s a trend in many movies, franchises, and video games these days because of the economic climate. It’s easier to get an audience from a pre-existing fan base than to attract a new audience to an original concept. If these films really wanted to take risks and experiment, then they would get out of the family movie market.

Overall, I’m just not sure why these animated films need different labels for movies with “good” scripts and movies with “bad” scripts.

Unsolicited Comment: The Definition of “Style Over Substance”

I rediscovered Red Letter Media recently. In one of their recent episodes, Jay defines “style over substance,” something that I assumed I knew what people meant when they said it and never thought to formally define. “Style over substance,” according to Jay, means the way the story is told makes a simple story interesting, or more simply, “style over substance” is filmmaking.

I’ve always thought of “style over substance” meaning purposeless action scenes that mean nothing to the characters, films with artistic styles that detract from or don’t compliment the story, or films that look cool but don’t have a thoughtful take-away message. It’s a phrase I’ve fought against a lot recently in my defense of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which is accused of being all these things. Jay’s definition just gave me a different way to look at the phrase.

Essentially, when people use “style over substance” with Jay’s definition, they’re saying a story is so simple that the way it’s told is the only reason it’s interesting. Probably any story out there, however, could be condensed into a single sentence and claimed to be simple. “A boy becomes a man,” “a man rediscovers his identity,” “a girl embraces her destiny”: these are all stories that could be horribly boring or enthralling, depending on the world and characters it’s told with and the skill of the author(s). The way any story is told is exactly what makes it interesting in any storytelling medium. “Style over substance” is storytelling.

What I’m saying is, if you’ve ever used this phrase in this context with Advent Children… you’re an idiot. 😛

Kingsglaive vs Advent Children: The Consequence of Pointless Action

Transcript:

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children feature epic battles with giant monsters, magic, high-flying sword fights, high-speed vehicle chases, and overall ridiculous levels of action. Are they really comparable films though? I’ve pointed out in previous videos that these movies have big differences from one another in terms of how they communicate information visually. As action movies, Kingsglaive and Advent Children make their action scenes a spectacle, but what separates a bad action movie from a good one is how well they communicate why each battle matters in addition to making them look awesome. How well do Kingsglaive and Advent Children show the characters’ locations, goals, and thoughts during a fight? Let’s compare the final third of Kingsglaive to three scenes it resembles from Advent Children.

The final third of Kingsglaive features the protagonist Nyx fighting the antagonist General Glauca, the enemy empire Niflheim’s daemons fighting other monsters, Nyx’s friends Libertus and Princess Luna escaping the city of Insomnia, and a parallel scene featuring Niflheim’s chancellor and emperor. The monsters the daemons fight are referred to as the Old Wall, brought to life as a last resort to defend the kingdom of Lucis from its enemies. In the process, they destroy Lucis’ capital Insomnia. Don’t worry. Lucis’ future doesn’t depend on its citizens’ survival. What kind of kingdom needs people?

Libertus and Luna escaping from the city has similarities to the final motorcycle chase in Advent Children. In Kingsglaive, Libertus must escort Luna out of the city so she can deliver a magical ring to Prince Noctis to save Lucis’ future. Their escape is actually pretty uneventful compared to everything else going on in this section of the movie, which is odd considering that Luna and the ring are the only things that matter in it. General Glauca breaks off from his fight with Nyx once to try to stop them, but when a section of missing highway dislodges him, he returns to killing Nyx rather than continuing his pursuit of the most important items in the movie. In Advent Children’s motorcycle chase, the protagonist Cloud must stop the antagonist Kadaj from using Jenova’s cells to reincarnate Cloud’s greatest enemy Sephiroth. Kadaj also has a mostly carefree escape, but that’s because his brothers forcefully separate Cloud from him. This whole scene is about Cloud fighting through Loz and Yazoo to get to Kadaj rather than two guys just killing each other because they forgot their purpose for fighting.

Actually, Nyx and Glauca do have a reason to fight, but it’s not what you think. Glauca says that he wants the ring, but he and Nyx move ever farther away from it, which suggests he has another goal. This final battle actually symbolizes an ethical debate. Is it better to surrender to your enemy to save the people who haven’t died yet, or should you continue fighting for what you believe no matter the consequences? Glauca wants Lucis to surrender to Niflheim to end the war while Nyx believes that Niflheim could never rule a just future. Neither of them are wrong. Both choices are awful, and either choice could lead to a terrible future. Let’s not kid ourselves. Nyx and Glauca are equally terrible people, considering how little they care about the wanton destruction and death surrounding them, and Lucis is just as bad as Niflheim. Lucis’ King Regis hoards his son and magical objects behind a wall while forcing his people to fight a losing war to protect them. The final scenes show this blatantly; his own magic kills his own people. Meanwhile, Niflheim murders thousands of civilians whenever it has the chance.

In essence, Nyx and Glauca kill each other simply because they have different beliefs. That’s right! If someone doesn’t believe what you do, just kill them.

This battle mirrors the battle between Cloud and Sephiroth in Advent Children. (Kingsglaive, you can’t just use Advent Children physics without setting them up first!) Among their differences though, the characters have clear motivations, and we can even sympathize with one of them. [“What I want Cloud is to sail the darkness of the cosmos with this planet as my vessel.”] Cloud must save the planet. Simple! Done! Now we can watch the fight without wondering why we should care about two people murdering one another while a city and its inhabitance falls into ruin around them. Actually, no one in this scene dies. If Cloud fails, everyone on the planet will likely die, but the battle takes place in an abandoned city. Cloud doesn’t even kill Sephiroth in the end. [“I will never be a memory.”] And when Kadaj reappears, Cloud shows him sympathy. He isn’t some psychopath who can murder his colleagues while ignoring the deaths of thousands around him. He can barely handle his memories of two friends who died years ago. Advent Children doesn’t present morally gray questions to mull over, but personally, I prefer its message, “choose life,” to Kingsglaive’s morally reprehensible message, “Kill everyone who disagrees with you and also your allies.”

Finally, most of Nyx and Glauca’s battle takes place on top of a giant monster battle similar to a scene in Advent Children where Cloud and his friends fight the monster Bahamut. The problem with Kingsglaive is that the monsters only add to the visual chaos on screen. Some of the monsters of the Old Wall look and sound like General Glauca. [“Rawr!”] [“Argh! Ugh!”] The monsters on both sides destroy so much with little to no reaction from any of the characters that it all seems pointless. Additionally, Nyx and Glauca’s battle takes place on constantly moving settings: fighting monsters, collapsing buildings, flying airships, falling debris, and racing cars. They can also teleport anywhere within throwing distance at any time. Kingsglaive seems to think that because of this, it doesn’t have to show how the characters move from one area to the next. Nyx and Glauca can just appear on top of giant monsters or airships whenever it looks cool. The movie, however, often has to cut to other useless scenes just so that moving Nyx and Glauca from one place to the next makes some kind of sense. The characters can’t jump from a collapsing parking garage and reappear falling from an office building roof, so let’s see what’s going on with Libertus and Luna. [“That’s not something you see every day.”] Nothing. Great. Why are these guys still here? Didn’t they say half an hour ago that they were leaving? Why do we need to hear this information again?

The battle with Bahamut also contains many fighters, some of which fight on top of the monster. The difference from Kingsglaive is that Advent Children constantly shows the location of the fighters, including the monster, in the scene and in relation to one another. The battle takes place in one area that all looks very similar but has landmarks that even serve as an element of combat. In the middle of the battle, we briefly cut away to a scene where Kadaj discovers the location of Jenova’s cells. This scene, however, exists to break up the action and reveal new information rather than to move all the characters to new locations. When we return, the fight picks up right where it left off. Attacks from the monster also mean something to the characters, especially considering that they’re fighting to save themselves and the city. Not only do we know the characters’ locations, but also, we know their feelings through reaction shots.

Overall, Advent Children’s fight scenes show everything we need to know in an awesome way while Kingsglaive occasionally displays awesome moments in otherwise visually chaotic settings. Both films may appear to be incoherent action fests, but their similarities are only superficial. Beneath the surface, Advent Children uses visual language so masterfully that I find it shocking Square Enix went on to make Kingsglaive, a film so inept that it can barely get across that someone is stealing a crystal without multiple characters verbally pointing it out. Comparing Advent Children to Kingsglaive is like comparing Toy Story to Foodfight!, but if you still don’t believe me, go watch them. Watch them back to back. Then, come back and tell me what you think. Talk at you next time.

[“Shall we take our leave then? The sun will soon set. We need not be here to witness the terrors of the night.”] [“I will return to Niflheim.” “So soon?”]

Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie

I was looking at a list of movies “like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” on IMDB when I found this:

IMDB says it’s rated R, but I don’t quite believe it. NR is more likely with these video game spinoffs. For now, I put it under “R” in the Atypical CGI movie list, but I might move it when I find out for sure. Appleseed was rated R just because someone murdered a child in it I think, so R could still be correct.

Advent Children: What’s Beneath the Fan Service (Part 3)

Hello once again, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children fans! Have you ever read a review of Advent Children and wondered if the author actually watched the movie? How about listening to reviewers parrot common criticisms about the film only to finish by saying that they love it? How can this film be so amazing and so unique and still receive dominantly negative reviews claiming that it is everything it is not?

Advent Children: What’s Beneath the Fan Service is a three-part series in which I debunk common misconceptions about what is arguably one of the most important CGI movies ever made. Part 1 analyzed Advent Children’s story, characters, and themes. Part 2 discussed how the film tells its story through action. Now, part 3 speculates why Advent Children is so misunderstood and argues its importance in filmmaking history. You can find it here.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope this glimpse beneath the fan service gives you the courage to tell people why you love this movie and why they should love it, too. What does Advent Children mean to you?

I’d like to thank Jack Gardner and Extra Life for supporting this series. For those of you who don’t know, Extra Life is like a marathon for charity, but instead of running or walking, you play video games to raise money for a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital of your choice. The official Extra Life event happens November 4 this year, but you can raise money whenever you want year round. Check out the Extra Life website to learn more, donate, and sign up!