Category Archives: Unsolicited Comments

Unsolicited Comment: SuperButterBuns’ Kingsglaive Reviews

In these video, SuperButterBuns reviews Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. She discusses its poor characters, strange pacing, inconsistent themes, lack of explanation, and general nonsense. Ultimately, however, she gives the film a 7/10 for its pretty graphics, fun action, and relation to Final Fantasy XV.

While I agree with (her love of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and) the 75% of her reviews in which she discusses Kingsglaive’s many problems, I’m not sure how she arrived at her conclusion. One of her favorite scenes is Regis’ tense conversation with Niflheim’s ambassador right before the Crystal is stolen, which I agree is the best scene in the movie but don’t think excuses it from everything else it does wrong. She claims that Noctis and the gang tied up the movie by introducing the game post-credits. She also appears to take it on faith that the game will explain the elements of the movie that the movie didn’t, which makes it a good film for fans. Basically, it got her excited for the game and provides empty action and visual entertainment. Therefore, it’s a good movie…?

It’s interesting what fans who’ve followed Final Fantasy XV since the Versus XIII days bring to this movie. From ButterBuns’ perspective, Luna and Regis were automatically cool characters from how they were portrayed in the game’s promotional materials. She admits that Luna mostly just looks like an idiot in the movie but continues to believe that she is a cool character. Buns has an affection for Regis’ character and found scenes with him the most interesting. This I find shocking because, to me, all I see in Regis in the movie is a heartless, selfish king of a kingdom no better than Niflheim’s.

ButterBuns also had an interesting interpretation of the scene where Luna jumps out of the airship. To Buns, “Not all miracles are made by magic,” was a major theme in the movie. Luna jumping out of the airship could have illustrated this theme if only Nyx hadn’t “rescued” her with magic. Luna’s confidence in her ability to reach the ledge would have demonstrated that magic isn’t everything. What I focused on in this scene was Luna saying, “I do not fear death,” and then throwing herself out of an airship, which contradicts her supposed importance to the Noctis and the future. While the theme ButterBuns perceived would make this movie interesting, she herself admits that it isn’t shown very well in general. If it were, then Nyx wouldn’t have used magic at the end of the movie. Instead, he only spends a brief time in the middle of it without magic. Then, miracles are made by fancy cars. 🙂

There are a few other minor points I disagree with. I also went to college for film and animation, but I completely disagree with Buns’ assessment that this film, in general, is well edited. The realistic graphics don’t make up for the poor cinematography or hyperactive video editing in my opinion. And Kingsglaive is a giant step backwards in terms of storytelling from both Advent Children and The Spirits Within.

Overall though, SuperButterBuns is entertaining and makes a lot of good or at least interesting points about what makes this movie good and bad. I DEMAND AN ADVENT CHILDREN REVIEW!

Advertisements

Unsolicited Comment: Antz – AniMat’s Classic Reviews

Another AniMat video response? I found some of his theories interesting and wanted to comment on them. So sue me!

In this video, AniMat reviews Antz. Having spent some time with Antz’s story and themes for The Philosophy of Antz video, I found it strange that AniMat proclaimed its story as barely present. He describes Z’s life as a worker ant who falls in love with a princess as a separate story from Z’s desire to leave his colony and travel to Insectopia. These sound less like separate stories and more like Act 1 and Act 2 of the movie. Act 1 introduces Z, the colony, and his feelings of not belonging. Z falls in love with Bala because it appears to him that she’s rebelling against her position in society, too. In Act 2, Z rejects the colony’s collectivist ideas and travels to Insectopia where he and Bala can be their own ants. The overall story is about Z finding his place in a society of overwhelming conformity. The film ends with Z proving the value of individualism in society. He finds his place here, in between the militaristic conformity of the colony at the beginning of the film and the complete independence and solitude in Insectopia.

AniMat also criticizes the characters for being avatars for the actors who portray them. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is pointing out that the actors were cast into roles that they are good at playing. People who don’t know the actors certainly wouldn’t think better or worse of the film because of them. I can’t see Daniel Radcliffe as anyone but Harry Potter, but I’m not about to criticize Horns for that. Similarly, Sean Bean and Lena Headey make Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV reminiscent of Game of Thrones, but I’d sooner criticize the movie for having morally reprehensible characters. Someone who’s very familiar with Woody Allen or the other actors in Antz might have trouble seeing past them, but that isn’t a mark against the script, the characters, or even the film. For someone like me, who recognizes only the actors’ names for the most part, I only hear the characters in Antz, and I thought they all worked well in carrying the film’s story.

Unsolicited Comment: Why Do People Think Animation is for Kids?

In another video from AniMat, he poses a theory about why people have misconceptions that animation is just for kids. He claims that everyone has a desire to be independent. Because the majority of animated films target children and families to maximize their profits, adults want to distance themselves from them to reinforce the image of their independence. It’s like virtue signaling except you’re showing people you’re an adult.

He claims that CGI films target kids and families to make up for the cost of making these expensive films. I’d actually never thought of this explanation for why we don’t see more adult-oriented CGI movies. It seems obvious, but thinking about it more, I’m not sure how true this claim is, at least for CGI-animated films. Just looking up some random movies (e.g. Madagascar, Star Wars: Rogue One, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Frozen, Inside Out, Despicable Me, The Polar Express, Gravity), the cost of making 3D-animated films seems about the same as it is for making films that are mostly live action. Smaller studio animated films are in the $30-$75,000,000 range. Pixar, Disney, Robert Zemeckis, and Square Enix films are in the $100-$200,000,000 range. The Matrix is in the high eight-digit range. Marvel movies are in the $100-$200,000,000 range…

I suppose you could argue that you can buy a camera, get volunteers together, and make a decent live-action film for next to nothing, but it’d be much more difficult to create a high-quality CGI-animated film in the same way. Live-action films that don’t use CGI can also be much less expensive (e.g. The Fault in Our Stars – $12,000,000, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind – $20,000,000). This doesn’t explain how today’s most popular, nine-figure-budget, live-action films are comedies, dramas, or action films and target everyone from children to specifically adults when mid-eight-figure-budget animated films have been almost exclusively children’s/family comedies from the start.

The common story, as depicted in documentaries like Life After Pi and horror stories from former Sausage Party animators, is that animators are grossly underpaid, so these numbers probably don’t reflect the actual time and effort people spend to make these films. The point is, however, that I don’t think the case can be made so easily that animated movies aren’t as diverse in content as live-action movies because they’re expensive to make. They probably should be expensive, but they’re not.

I’m not sold on the idea that adult signaling is the reason animated films are perceived as children’s entertainment either. With the popularity of cartoons like modern My Little Pony, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls; adult-oriented comedies like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and almost everything on Adult Swim; and movies like Despicable Me, the idea that cartoons are only for children seems like an outdated one. People in their 20s-30s and older willingly discuss their love of these films. I’ve certainly heard people express outrage at discovering, say, the R-rated Starship Troopers: Invasion movie is a CGI animated “children’s” cartoon, but acceptance of adults watching animated films seems more common.

I think there is a stigma around children’s/family CGI animation though. As much as I love CGI, I have no interest in watching most of them specifically because they look like generic children’s/family films. Though I enjoy them for their rarity, experimentation, and occasional ridiculousness, most adult-oriented CGI films have badly told or outright terrible stories. CGI is such a young medium that filmmakers still don’t seem to know what it’s for and how to use it. You’d think taking filmmaking techniques from 2D animation and live-action films and applying them to CGI would translate easily, but they don’t. The result has been many terrible and generic films and failed experiments and perhaps even this false perception that, in general, CGI movies are mindless films that only a child or an idiot could enjoy.

Then again, when I was little, I preferred A Bug’s Life to Antz. Now, as an adult, I prefer Antz (a film I suspect would be rated PG-13 if it were released today) to A Bug’s Life. So maybe something about the content of these films just tends to appeal to children more than adults.

Unsolicited Comment: What does Advent Children mean to you?

I recently started an argument with Final Fantasy VII fans about Advent Children on a Final Fantasy forum. We discussed the sense and nonsense behind Sephiroth’s reincarnation, why Cloud should or should not be emo, the companion novella On the Way to a Smile’s effect on the film’s story, and how Square Enix may or may not be made up of malicious capitalists. Is Advent Children magical art or awful trout? You can find it here. Prepare for wall-of-text arguments and Final Fantasy VII jargon.

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. 😛

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children – What We Had To Watch Response

(To those of you who stumble across this, I realized belatedly that my response to this video wasn’t a YouTube comment. Now I’m too lazy to change it. 😛 Normally, I don’t do comments or responses, but I really appreciated this video’s insight.)

Hi, Il Neige! Thanks for the thoughtful review of Advent Children! People don’t examine this movie’s merits and flaws enough. I’m a CGI movie enthusiast, and I really appreciated your insight. There are a few things I want to point out though. I apologize for the novel, but I like talking about this stuff.

It seems some of your complaints come from the idea that Advent Children is supposed to be something that it’s not. You say that Advent Children doesn’t expand the lore of Final Fantasy VII. Does it have to? I feel like Advent Children serves multiple purposes. It has fan service, but it also just tells a weird story about a guy struggling to accept his past and find his place in the present. While it services fans of the games and maybe sells Dirge of Cerberus, it tells a complete, character-driven story that I think anyone can watch, analyze, and pull meaning from. You spend a lot of time in this video simply talking about Advent Children’s themes and characters but go on to say that you wish it were something else when I think what you described is a really interesting story that’s worth telling. Who cares that it doesn’t expand on the universe that it takes place in? Final Fantasy VII is simply the medium that this story is told through.

You say the problem that plagues all video game movies is that they’re not interactive. Does this make all action movies boring because you can’t tell the characters to attack one another? The fact that they’re not interactive is a weakness of the movie medium, not of Advent Children or of video game movies in particular.

You also say that Advent Children looks realistic but simultaneously defies physics akin to live-action anime. Does anyone in this movie actually look like a real person though? I would argue, no. Nobody looks real. They’re a bit too perfect and alien to be real, and I don’t think the goal was photorealism. The look and style of the film doesn’t stray that far from the look and feel of Final Fantasy cut scenes. It just looks a little nicer.

I would also say that Advent Children isn’t anime though. Do you think of video game cut scenes as cartoons? Where is the line between acceptably realistic and cartoon CGI, and why are there categories? CGI is a different art form that, while it can take inspiration from other mediums such as video games, live-action movies, and cartoons, has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, making something explode in CG is extremely easy while making characters hold hands is extremely difficult. Making something explode with 2D animation is very difficult, but making characters hold hands is trivial. We can forgive the poofy explosions in 2D animation and guns that jump from a table to a character’s hands in video games because they get the idea across. Putting blood and dirt on a character may not be as simple with CGI as it is to put makeup on an actor or paint on a cell, but Advent Children still shows the impact of violence in other ways.

A lot of your complaints come from the idea that most of Advent Children’s fight scenes are just visual spectacles, but I don’t think this is the case. They build the physical limitations of the world and its characters. The first fight scene introduces motorcycle chase scenes and gravity defying action, which we see for the rest of the film. Cloud getting his goggles shot off shows that the characters can withstand a lot of damage, and they do for the rest of the movie, but it also implies that they can be hurt. The fight between Loz and Tifa shows that the characters can also jump really high and have super human strength. This fight scene and the next one between Cloud and Kadaj’s gang shows that the bad guys pose a threat, even to the people who saved the world two years ago and have super human abilities. The fight with Bahamut shows that together, Cloud and his friends can defeat the bad guys. The motorcycle chase scene between Cloud, Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo uses every single element that we’ve learned about from all previous fight scenes: high jumping, motorcycle chases, sword fighting, super strength, etc. The final battle with Sephiroth places itself on an even higher level by giving Sephiroth the ability to outright fly. He doesn’t need to high jump.

The fight scenes also one up each other by heightening the stakes. In the first fight scene, Cloud is only fighting to save himself. In the next scene, Tifa is fighting to save herself and Marlene. In the scene after that, Cloud fights to save a bunch of children. In the scene after that, Cloud and his friends fight to protect the citizens of the city. After that, Cloud fights Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo to prevent the resurrection of Sephiroth, which could lead to the destruction of the world. Finally, Cloud fights Sephiroth, a god-like being, to save the world.

You mention that the camera work defies basic filmmaking techniques. I’d argue that the movie actually follows the 180 degree rule really well, and for the most part, the shots are wide to show the action and where the characters are located in relation to one another and in the scene. Its camera shots are interesting and would be very difficult to recreate in a live-action movie or anime, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. This isn’t a terrible action movie that uses shaking camera angles, two-second-long shots, and closeups to hide its crappy choreography. Advent Children’s use of disorienting camera angles, mostly during Cloud’s fight with Sephiroth, seem to be used to show Cloud’s emotional state: frantic, confused, and scared.

There’s also reason to emotionally invest in every fight scene, even before Vincent reveals the details about Sephiroth and geostigma. While we don’t understand why Cloud is attacked in the first fight scene, neither does Cloud. He’s just trying to survive and figure out what the hell is going on. He’s immediately a character we can sympathize with and root for because we don’t know what’s going on either. We can care about Tifa and Loz’s fight because Tifa is a friend of Cloud’s, she doesn’t know what’s going on, and she needs to protect an innocent child from this creepy guy in black leather. In Cloud’s fight with Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo, he’s weakened and caught off balance from the moment he enters the fight. He came to save the kids from creepy guys in black leather, but his own memories and fears get in his way. We don’t need to know about geostigma’s origins or Shinra or Kadaj’s motivations in order to sympathize with these needs to survive and save children from creepy dudes. The movie simply hasn’t explained the more abstract concepts yet.

You argue that there aren’t any stakes because there aren’t implications that the characters can be hurt. For example, how can we believe that Cloud will die of a gunshot after surviving rocks falling on top of him? Keep in mind that Cloud saved the world two years ago only to be struck down by an incurable disease. Despite all the strength these characters have, they’re still human. Cloud doesn’t actually receive an injury from rocks falling on top of him, but it does drain his energy and fill him with fear. This moment, where he must fight a god-like being while trying not to be crushed by large falling rocks, actually begins Cloud’s downfall in the fight. When he escapes the falling rock pile, he collapses and doesn’t regain strength until the memories of his friends re-empower him. Shots of his face during and before the rocks fall shows his desperation and fear.

Most of the implications that characters can be severely hurt or die comes from their emotional and physical reactions. For me personally, I find this much more powerful than movies that kill the majority of the supporting cast and thousands of civilians to try to convince me that its emotionally sterile and apparently invincible protagonist is somehow in physical danger. Cloud’s never stabbed, shot (without protection from sturdy glasses), or exploded until the end of the movie, but he does tire quite easily and is controlled by his emotions and illness. This means that for most of the movie, we’re left in suspense as to what his physical limits are until it reveals that he’s vulnerable to stabbing, bullets, and explosions. The only reason he survives these things is because his friends, particularly Aerith, help him.

Sure, maybe more people could die of geostigma to show that it’s more of a threat. And maybe having Loz, Yazoo, Reno, and Rude survive an explosion for the sake of visual flair was a bad idea. But how would killing Cloud or anyone else in the movie serve its themes? Cloud is already lamenting the deaths of two people. Why should he need to lament anyone else’s? At the end of the movie, Cloud chooses his friends and life over his memories of Aerith and Zack and acceptance of death. Sephiroth’s survival symbolizes that the Lifestream’s cycle of life and death, peace and peril will continue as it always has.

Finally, you say that the final fight scenes contradict the movie’s themes and ideas. Cloud’s friends disappear after the fight with Bahamut despite their presence being an important part of Cloud’s strength. The reason for this is probably because choreography is hard. As is, it’s stunning that so many characters fight Bahamut at once while still looking awesome and not degenerating into a confusing punching, stabbing, and sword swinging fest. One of the reasons that it works is probably because Bahamut is so large. The movie’s solution to needing to keep Cloud’s friends around without pouring time and effort into creating the circumstances and choreography for them to continue to fight is as elegant as it could be. Ultimately, the movie is about Cloud, and the majority of the film’s effort focuses on that. His friends are still with him on the sidelines during his fight with Kadaj, and when they completely disappear during his fight with Sephiroth, it heightens the danger because Cloud is apparently by himself again.

Considering how thematic this movie is, what we see on screen sometimes seems more representative of its ideas rather than of what is actually occurring. While it doesn’t make sense that Cloud’s friends would leave him to fight Sephiroth on his own, the final fight scene represents the idea that Cloud overcomes his doubts and saves the world with the help of his friends (i.e. his memories of them). As another example, what happens in the final scene of the movie is objectively ridiculous, but it perfectly conveys the idea that Cloud and the world have healed.

Anyway, if you made it this far, thank you for reading! Again, I really appreciated your treatment of this film and thought I would just bring another perspective. I think the fact that we can even argue about themes, characters, and filmmaking techniques with an action movie, video game-based movie, and fan service film is impressive. I’m looking forward to your Advent Children Complete review!