Can you guess what movie this word cloud generated by http://worldcat.org represents? 😉
I was discussing Gladiolus’ Cup Noodle quest on Final Fantasy XV with some friends recently when one of them pointed me to this wiki. Most of the article explains the product placement in FFXV, but a small section at the top discusses the Panasonic FOMA P900iV, a 2004 phone model released in Japan in conjunction with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. This model serves as Cloud’s phone in the movie. I’ve forgotten and remembered pieces of Advent Children trivia throughout the years, but I don’t think I ever knew this. It gives a whole other layer of meaning to the scene where Cloud’s phone falls to the bottom of the lake.
For many years, this scene, featuring whimsical music underplaying a cell phone drifting to the bottom of a pool that is always as deep as the plot needs it to be, was just silly to me. I still find it funny, even after my close examination of this film over the past year revealed its purpose. This scene symbolizes Cloud losing the one thing that connected him to his friends in the first half of the movie. After this point, Cloud can only interact with them directly. In the final fight with Sephiroth, neither his lost phone nor his friends can serve as a source of comfort or safety. Knowing that his phone is modeled after a real product and that, consequently, at least the first half of the movie is a subtle advertisement for it, this scene is now also a commercial showing off the phone’s sleek design. It also demonstrates that it is not waterproof. 🙂
I’ve heard people say that Final Fantasy XV is a giant advertisement for Cup Noodles, but out of everything negative people say about Advent Children, I’ve never heard them call it an hour-and-a-half-long advertisement for a cell phone. I feel like it should be an outrage that the film is filled with product placement, but it’s not. Cloud’s Panasonic FOMA P900iV, and the prominence of phones and cell phones, in general, is product placement done right. It’s visually subtle but deeply integrated into the story. Even the scene where the film does its most blatant advertising isn’t terribly out of place. It’s visually and audibly similar to another silly scene where Cloud and Tifa pass out in a patch of flowers. While the film has a somewhat bizarre focus on cell phones, its only part of the charm of a film that is bizarre for multiple reasons. Gladio’s quest, on the other hand, just makes FFXV’s story look even stupider and the creators look desperate.
I also recently discovered the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children – Reunion Files, an artbook with interviews from the cast and crew. I skimmed through a free copy available online and immediately purchased it. The interviews I glanced at confirmed many of the things I suspected about this movie and more. I’m not crazy! I swear.
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.
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: 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?”]
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children – This week, I posted a thread “What does Advent Children mean to you?” on a couple Final Fantasy forums. I received quite a few responses on the Eyes on Final Fantasy forum so far. You can find the thread here. It’s amazing how many reasons people come up with to hate this movie for nothing that’s in the movie itself. I thought I knew them all by the time I released What’s Beneath the Fan Service, but no. People hate this movie because Sephiroth coming back to life didn’t make sense based on things that happened in the game (others argue, however, that Sephiroth coming back to life makes perfect sense based on things that happened in the game), every Final Fantasy-related game/thing after Final Fantasy X-2 is garbage, the movie doesn’t have a complete story because On the Way to a Smile exists, and it’s impossible to understand this film in any sense unless you read the novella. Yes, this week I learned that Case of Denzel and Case of Tifa released in 2005 alongside the original film. That doesn’t make Denzel’s backstory anymore relevant to Advent Children’s story, much as Advent Children Complete would like us to believe otherwise, but it changes things slightly… It shows that the Final Fantasy VII franchise did a hell of a lot better creating standalone, FFVII-related stories in multiple media than those in Final Fantasy XV franchise. I don’t know what happens in half of FFVII’s media, don’t need to know, and, indeed, didn’t even know that some of them existed!
My Eliza – The other major thing I spent this week doing was reviewing feedback on my short story from Critters.org. Opinions continued being wildly disparate and contradictory, but eventually, it reached a consensus. Most critters agree that there’s a problem with the ending, which I can totally see. I made it slightly too silly, but I can fix that. The rest of the feedback looks like I can take what I like and leave the rest. I wonder if people were so split about it because they couldn’t see that most of its problems stemmed from the ending?
Other – I didn’t do much else besides write on The Twelfth Hour because I made a trip to Montana to visit friends on the weekend and stayed a day longer than expected. I wanted to get started on editing Speech Therapy this week, but that’ll have to be next week now. What can I say? The Final Fantasy forums are really entertaining!