Sunday, September 04, 2016

‘Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV’ Has a Fascinating Science Fantasy Premise and Stunning Visuals, but Is Drastically Bogged Down by Muddled Storytelling

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is an anime film serving as prequel to the Final Fantasy XV game.  It’s set in the alternate world called Eos, which is divided into kingdoms that hold magical crystals.  However, in recent years, the militaristic and technologically-advanced Niflheim Empire has conquered all of the kingdoms except for Lucis, which is protected by a magical wall raised by its reigning king, Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (voiced in English by Sean Bean.  Yes, the Sean Bean, the beloved actor that played Boromir and Ned Stark), by using the magic of the kingdom’s crystal.  Beyond the wall, at Lucis’ borders, the advancing armies of Niflheim are being fought off by the Kingsglaive, an elite guard made up of recruited immigrants capable of being empowered by the king’s magic.  After years of destructive war, Niflheim sues for peace in exchange for Lucis’ territories outside of its capital and the marriage of its Prince Noctis (the main character of the game) to Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (voiced by Cersei Lannister herself, Lena Headey), former princess of the kingdom of Tenebrae, which has been made an Imperial Province after being invaded by Niflheim.  The plot centers on a Kingsglaive member named Nyx Ulric (voiced by Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman), who gets caught up with Lunafreya and King Regis’ struggles against Niflheim’s treachery.
I was easily enthralled by the stunning animation and the richness of its lore and setting.  As a science fantasy, I love the way it did its merging of science fiction and fantasy – building a world that features modern designs, architecture, fashion, and technologies, but with science fiction and fantasy tropes and elements added to the mix as well.  I found it immensely delightful to see magical characters fighting demons, monsters, robots, and futuristic aircraft, and then in a later scene, they’re in a 21st century metropolis that has roads, cars, televisions, skyscrapers, and street food; or a council made up of people in robes and business suits.  As far as worldbuilding and visuals are concerned, this movie is a joy to watch.

Unfortunately, considering it’s a prologue to the game, it feels like an underdeveloped story, with many unsettled plot points.  The narrative is convoluted and muddled.  The characters and dialogue aren’t much interesting, coming off as flat and cheesy several times – negating the advantage of having such likeable voice cast.  And the pacing is so uneven and the editing disjointed that this movie feels like one of those Youtube videos that compile all of a game’s cutscenes in chronological order (usually, when the cutscenes are combined, the resulting length time is similar of that of a feature-length movie).
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is beautiful.  But it just doesn’t work as a standalone movie.  It’s simply the exciting, glorified trailer for Final Fantasy XV that it is.  And in that context, watching it would definitely incite fans and gamers to play the game.

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