Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)


This sequel movie to FFVII is something I've been wanting to take another look at for ages. I watched it twice in the past: Once in Japanese when it first dropped, without subtitles. Then again in English once that version was out. I thought it was way better when I had no idea what anyone was saying or what was going on. That tells me the action in this is good, while the story isn't. We'll see on this third viewing. One thing is for sure, this probably wouldn't have tanked the company the way Spirits Within did.

Speaking of, spoilers within for FFVII, FFVII Remake, and pretty much anything else associated with this saga.

We start with...that ending scene of FFVII? I thought this was supposed to be hundreds of years later, but it seems to be soon after the game. Everyone's a few years older.

We get a kid's voiceover telling the entire story of FFVII and how Shinra Corp sucked the life out of the planet.

They replay a few key scenes. Especially THE key scene.

Now, Midgar has seen better days. Diamond Weapon basically wrecked the place, then Meteor fell on it. However, a ton of people still seem to live here despite it being a post-apocalyptic ruin.

Here's Tifa, still working at the bar. Are her and Cloud an item now? Unsure.

They talk on their flip phones, until the arrival of...

These 3 silver-haired guys who show up on bikes. They're basically the 3 kryptonians from Superman II.

Two of them proceed to chase Cloud around the wasteland while he fends them off. There are also tons of "shadow wolf" creatures, not sure what else to call them, that get summoned by the bad guys and also chase Cloud around. It makes the scene really convoluted and hard to follow.

The leader of this unholy trio? Kadaj, the new menace facing our heroes. He's the strongest, and doesn't even bother going after Cloud.

Cloud escapes from them (or really, they just sort of back off and let him go), then goes to meet Shinra who have an offer he can't refuse.

Reno attacks him at the meeting place and they have a quick brawl, with Cloud easily fending off Reno like he's nothing.

Nice overhead view here, reminiscent of what the game looked like.

Rufus Shinra gets wheeled out. He's all mangled from Diamond Weapon's attack, but somehow survived. He asks Cloud to help them stop Kadaj and his minions, and Cloud basically tells them off.

Elsewhere, Tifa and Marlene visit Aerith's Church and water the plants in a poignant moment that pretty much outdoes everything else in this movie so far.

This gets us one of my favorite shots of the movie. Tifa looks so cool here.

Elsewhere, the silver crew have arrived at Rufus' location, with Kadaj by himself easily defeating Reno and Rude and leaving them in a heap. Would it kill him to not have hair hanging over his face though?

This movie really nerfs the Turks, IMO. Games like Crisis Core show them as being pretty much on the same level as SOLDIER members. Maybe not the tip-top guys like Sephiroth, but still relatively comparable to the normal members of SOLDIER. Now we've got these new guys just mowing the Turks over.

Great music in this scene though. Just outstanding. Best track in the movie.

Kadaj also slew Tseng and Elena unceremoniously off-camera.

Rufus reveals that Kadaj (and presumably the other two) is a Sephiroth clone. They were created by Shinra with all the others and got too powerful, I assume.

Would it kill him to move the hair out of his face at any point though? Stop trying to look cool!

Elsewhere, Cloud stops by the resting place of the Buster Sword, which is now rusty from years of being rained on.

They don't say it in the movie, but I assume this is the place where Zack fell - who never got any kind of proper burial - and Cloud left the sword here for that reason.

Elsewhere, Loz (of the clone trio) shows up at Aerith's church and has a DBZ Fight with Tifa. Seriously, they go full DBZ here, with him smashing church pews over her and her no-selling it. The power levels in this movie are all over the place. These guys can easily dispatch all the Turks at once by themselves, but one of them struggles with Tifa? Is she like...Remake Tifa with a broken build?

We get a few awesome shots of Tifa leaping off of walls and stuff while flowers fly up into the air. Anyone who played Remake knows that somewhere in the afterlife, Aerith is getting really hot and bothered right now.

Well, he doesn't struggle with Tifa for long, and manages to subdue her.

Ass Count: 01

Cloud arrives too late to help, and finds out that Loz took Marlene away.

In the Forgotten Capitol, at the big seashell, the trio are holding a meeting. They've gathered up a lot of kids with geostigma for some reason.

Wait, have I not gone into geostigma? So basically there's this illness sweeping the land and causing people to develop bad skin rashes. It has to do with a now-tainted (by Jenova) lifestream, and might be an allegory the movie is making for mental health. The geostigma only affects people who have been through trauma. Of the main characters, Cloud is the only one with geostigma. Being a witness to the deaths of both Zack and Aerith ensures that he's not alright, and thus the illness can creep in. You can generally draw a line between mental health and physical health in a lot of cases IRL, so what we have here is a visual manifestation of that.

In other news... Kadaj being all evil. MOVE YOUR HAIR. I'd have more tolerance for this guy if he didn't constantly come off as Dollar Store Sephiroth.

They want the kids to sip Jenova-infused Lifestream, so the kids get to sippin. Here's Denzel, a kid that Cloud and Tifa have been looking out for. He's mostly from the various FFVII novelizations.

Kadaj goes full Vastly Creepier Richie while he watches the kids.

Cloud is on his way to the Forgotten Capitol to save them, when he has a dream-flash of Aerith.

He says he needs forgiveness, and she tells him, in so many words, to stop blaming himself and look forward, literally stopping him from turning to face her. It's probably the best scene in the movie.

Cloud snaps out of it in time to get ambushed by the trio of clones. Turns out his motorcycle opens up to reveal a plethora of swords. This is actually freaking awesome and I wish this made it into one of the games.

Kadaj has a double-bladed short katana. Kind of a katana claw hybrid.

Once again, the power scaling is all over the place in this movie. The combined Turks couldn't beat one of these guys, Tifa fared a bit better but still couldn't beat one. Now Cloud is handily fighting all 3 at once. He still needs a run-in from Vincent to actually chase them off, though.


"I'm BACK" says Vince as he uses his shareholder majority to force his way into the movie.

Marlene was rescued during all of that, but not the rest of the kids.

In a flashback, Tifa starts ranting at Cloud about his feelings and stuff while he stands there with his back to her and Reno/Rude just sorta sneak out.

Alright, it's pretty clear now that these two aren't actually together in this movie. They were together, after the events of FFVII, but in the intervening time Cloud shut himself off from everyone to deal with his grief.

lol, Reno and Rude during this domestic quarrel

Tifa asks Cloud what he wants to hold onto. Her? Or a memory?

And we go back to the present.

He can have both. Most of the weight on him is less about losing Aerith and more about feeling responsible for it. But he didn't do it.

He's gotta cast aside the horrible feelings and realize that he did a lot of good for her too. ...at least, I think he did. I don't know, maybe he was too busy being aloof for most of the game.

In situations of self-blame like this, I carry the words of Fitz from the last episode of Highlander: "Your fault? Laddie, if it weren't for you, I would have died 200 years sooner, and those 200 years meant a lot to me."

Elsewhere, the Trio have their army of kids gathered at Meteor Square in Midgar.

I gotta say, this movie is actually good when it focuses on Cloud's trauma and Aerith's memory. However, we've gotta have Teh Action and Teh Plot, so it keeps cutting back to these nozzles. The action scenes are quite good though. There's a lot to like about this movie and a lot to not like. I'm on the fence so far.

This new / semi-ruined Midgar has some almost Neo-Victorian architecture in the backgrounds of these shots. Looks more like something out of Final Fantasy VI.

Rude and Reno show up, because they aren't done getting totally jobbed-out yet. I used to think Rude's design in this movie was based off of The Rock, but now I think it might be more Vin Diesel. Or neither.

A shot of the now very-overplayed Sephiroth in flames scene, as Kadaj talks about reviving Sephiroth with all the Jenova cells collected there. He's going to make Sephiroth out of the kids?

He then summons Bahamut, who goes on a rampage. This must be the beginning of the "Bahamut as a penultimate boss" trope that runs through the FFXIII series and other 2010's era games. The first actual game to have it was FFIV: The After Years I believe.

"G...Gojira!" scream onlookers as they run for cover.

Reno and Rude battle the two goon clones. Now they're able to almost go 1:1 with the silver-haired guys. Did Reno and Rude get a Zenkai Boost or something?

BARRET finally shows up. He looks a lot less like Macho Man Randy Savage than he does in Remake, and has a sweet new multi-barreled gun arm.

We also get what are basically cameo appearances by Red XIII and Cait Sith as they bite and thrash Bahamut. Matter of fact, this next part is basically all of the FFVII main characters fighting Bahamut!

Yuffie shows up!

Cid shows up! And immediately thrashes a bunch of minions Musuo-style.

I imagine crowds in theaters raucously cheering each time one of these characters show up. They all pause just long enough for applause.

Vincent battles Bahamut in typical Vincent style, by running around on girders and rafters high above the city. I remember a lot of his concept art had him doing things like that.

Elsewhere, Rufus reveals to Kadaj that he's had Jenova's remains in a box all along. Then he throws it off his tower. Kadaj is enraged!

Now we get the one scene I really remember from back in the day: Every character throws Cloud, giving him greater and greater momentum as he flies up towards Bahamut.

Eventually he has enough momentum to go Full DBZ!

The other heroes watch and hope. Yuffie is scrumptious in this movie, wish there was more for her to do.

Cloud surges towards Bahamut and cleaves him in half. Wow. That must have been a lot of momentum.

Tifa seems impressed.

Then the camera shot swings down to get this angle as she looks up. One thing is for sure, Cloud has probably never seen her from this angle.

Kadaj blasts Rufus off the tower, then leaps after the box. Which is still falling.

SPLIT SCREEN OF DOOM. Will Rufus fall to his death? Will Kadaj catch the Jenova box? WHO IS RENO'S FATHER?


1) Nope, Rufus was saved by a Net Ex Machina fired by Tseng and Elena, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment. I thought they were dead? Nope, they're fine. I guess this is one of those things where death means nothing because everyone inexplicably pops up again at the end. Disney's Doug!

2) Kadaj did indeed catch the box, and took off on a motorcycle.

3) The 1989 Denver Broncos. All of them, I think.

Cloud and Kadaj have a bad-ass motorcycle battle on the highway, with the other two clones running interference. At this point it's basically The Cloud Show, but it was cool to see the other characters in action briefly. The Bahamut summon and all the random monster minions kind of ate up time, but served an important purpose in terms of getting the other characters involved.

Reno and Rude show up at the end of the highway holding sticks of dynamite. They're gonna detonate these and take out the end of the tunnel, collapsing it on Loz and the other minion.

They make it look like R+R blew themselves up here, taking down the two minions in a last-ditch desperation maneuver. However since we've already established that this is Disney's Doug, I'm expecting them to show up fine in five minutes.

Kadaj escapes, and gets all giddy over Jenova's cells.

This leaves Cloud to face him down in some ruins. This is it, the big fight. It'd be bigger if it were Sephiroth and not just a clone of him, though. I remember seeing this the first time and thinking that the whole time.

It's a good fight. Most of the fights in this movie are good, though they lean a little too heavily into DBZ tropes and have inconsistent physics.

They LOOK good though. And this fight has a sweet guitar rendition of Jenova's battle theme.

Cloud's weapons and costume in this movie are all interesting and feel like a legit evolution from FFVII if he had more time to perfect his craft.

Kadaj manages to pour Jenova Fluid all over himself, then instantly transforms into Sephiroth mid-fight. Cloud is totally caught off-guard.

Sephiroth's power scaling seems spot-on, as he easily swats Cloud away and "One Winged Angel" kicks in. Yeah, this is the new best part of the movie.

I like how they saved Sephiroth for the last few minutes of the movie. Makes this fight seem special. Something FFVII Remake should have learned from, because that game blasted Sephiroth all over the game to the point that you get tired of seeing him and there's no mystique built up around him like there was in the original.

As great as this fight is, they leaned too much into the DBZ stuff. Both of them seem to be able to fly with impunity now. Why'd Cloud need all those people throwing him into the sky before? Just more momentum? Cause these guys are jumping off the air constantly like Samus doing Space Jumps.

This is the single best one-on-one duel between them in any medium, regardless of the issues. I'd love to see this re-created at some point in the Remake series. ...wait, they already did, at the end of the first one Cloud has an inexplicable DBZ Space Battle with Sephiroth that's completely out of place and blows that fight way early. Would have meant a lot more if it took place at, you know, an appropriate time. Remake should have ended at the end of the highway, with a fight against Jenova-CONCEPTION or something. No Chapter 18, no time gods, no blowing this fight early, no Jenova-Dreamweaver showing up randomly earlier.

This fight in this movie is fine though.

Now they fight under the crumbling remains of Shinra Tower. This is biblical. It's very similar to the end of Remake, except it makes SOME sense. These things around them are actually happening, they aren't just projections to make the battle look cool, that mean nothing, and all poof in five minutes. Remake really messed up in the final chapter. No I'm not over it.

It has the feeling of two warriors fighting it out at the end of the world. Pretty unsettling scenery.

Cloud has a new super move Seph doesn't know about. It's similar to Noctis' sword-summoning power in FFXV. Like a proto version of it. A bunch of swords break off from Cloud's main sword and pummel his opponent. He also does a sort of Omnislash type deal with the main sword while this is going on.

Sephiroth sprouts his one wing...then just sort of dissipates into the air, turning back into Kadaj.

Not sure I follow. So was this actually Sephiroth, or just a fully-evolved clone form? Was Kadaj in control or was that Sephiroth's real mind? I think it was really Sephiroth manifesting himself back into existence and Kadaj gave himself up as a host temporarily out of some misguided faith.

Either way, he re-becomes Kadaj as feathers rain down. Then he keels over.

Kadaj calls Cloud "brother", because at the end of the day they're both products of the same system, the militaristic Shinra apparatus that has no regard at all for life or the mental well-being of its soldiers.

Cloud catches Kadaj and keeps him company while he dies. Shows what a decent guy Cloud actually is. Though I will say that this movie and Crisis Core do a lot more to humanize him than FFVII or Remake do.

And that's it for Kadaj. He too is lost, like tears in the rain.

Then he seems to see someone reaching down for him, and reaches back. He turns into lifestream particles and ascends into the air. I probably speak for Cloud here that hopefully Kadaj is now free from the Shinra-created torment that plagued him in this life.

The rain must be Holy-infused now because it seems to be curing everyone's geostigma. It's a bit Aerith-ex-machina but at this point it's whatever.

Somehow, Rufus survived all of that, despite being a wheelchair-bound man at this point. And the Turks all survived too. CALLED IT.

We watched Reno and Rude sacrifice themselves to stop the bad guys, yet here they are without much of a scratch on them. And Tseng and Elena are clearly not dead despite the movie making us think they were. Stop pulling your punches, movie. Make character losses actually matter, or don't pretend to do them.

Cloud enjoys the rain. It cures his own geostigma, which is symbolic since it was borne out of his own traumas and he's just now beginning to overcome those.

The camera retreats, up up and away, and I think it's supposed to represent Kadaj's spirit looking down.

Great ending. The last 15-20 minutes really saved the movie for me. Some real gravitas around that final fight.

Annnd that's a wr-

-NOPE, Cloud suddenly gets shot. The movie makes us think it's a fatal wound, not that I'm fooled for a second after all their punch-pulling. Didn't I just tell them to stop doing this stuff?

Turns out the two goons are still alive, barely, after having the tunnel collapse on them. And unlike Kadaj, they're still murderous.

They blast Cloud with some kind of energy beam, before fading away themselves.

...this whole part felt completely unnecessary. Let them be dead in the tunnel and let Cloud have his moment of peace. It was just a last-second jump scare to make the audience gasp and think for a second that this movie was going to have the cojones to kill off Cloud. It's cheap heat. Lame as hell.

Cloud drifts into the Beyond, hearing Aerith and Zack talking to him. They say there isn't any room for him there and that he has things to do.

He wakes up in the church, and the gang are all here. And uh...apparently he's totally fine. I don't know how damaging bullets are supposed to be in this world at this point, but apparently not very. Disney's Doug!

Cloud then heals more kids by pouring rainwater on their heads. Not sure why they all waited for Cloud to wake up to do this, seems like they all could have been scooping rainwater onto The Kids while he was unconscious.

He smiles for the first time all movie, looking at his friends and appreciating their help.

Tifa gives him The Look. I think she has some expectations that he's gonna finally be the guy she wants. Have some respect for his PTSD, though it sounds like it'll be considerably less intense now after this.

Not only was that fight with Sephiroth bad-ass, it let Cloud exorcise one of his demons. Thanks doc, you cured him.

Cloud looks around, and spots...wait a minute, is that Aerith with those kids?

Yep. She walks out, and Zack's there too. She talked to some kids instead of talking to him? ...Sounds right actually.

Her voice echoes telling Cloud it'll all work out, then her and Zack disappear into the beyond.

Cloud smiles, as best he can, for the second time all movie.

So, this was really a movie about Cloud realizing he isn't alone, and moving on. In that sense, it's actually a great follow-up to FFVII, a game about loss. They got the essence of it and they kept the theme. The people who made this "got it" and I can't say the same for Remake where they made sure nothing matters thanks to the Disney's Doug whisper things.

I give this movie a 7 out of 10. The first two thirds were about a 7 and the third act was about a 9, IMO. So I was on track to give it an 8, then they pulled that red herring with Cloud getting shot at the end and I was just over it. Over the fake-outs that I knew meant nothing because nobody actually faced any consequences in this movie except the trio of villains. So yeah, goes from an 8 to a 7 on that last-minute jumpscare.

I think most of the good parts of this movie are in the last 20 minutes or so, which vaulted the movie over the finish line and left me with a lot more positive vibes than it would have up to that point. Very poignant ending, good epitaph for the original game.

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