Friday, September 2, 2016

Kingsglaive Review - Royal Beauty

At long last! After ten long years we finally got…the movie that prologues the game that we’ve been waiting for. It’s the film that nobody really expected but people that were willing to shell out $15 on Youtube got. But much like a surprise pair of socks for Hanukkah it’s really up to the viewer on whether or not Kingsglaive is worth the money.

Note: scroll down to the bottom for the TLDR Version.

Another Note: this review contains very minor spoilers. I’m going to assume that you at least know a bit about Final Fantasy XV, otherwise you probably wouldn’t care much about the movie to begin with.

For the less informed, Kingsglaive is essentially a pseudo-prologue movie to the upcoming Final Fantasy XV game. From what can be gleaned based on the events of the film and the trailers and demos of FFXV, the bulk of Kingsglaive takes place a few days before Final Fantasy XV’s story begins. It opens with a quick recap of events from 12 years prior to the start of the movie, in which we learn that King Regis of Lucis pretty much prioritizes his son over everything else. The story then jumps to present day and the Niflheim Empire’s latest attack on the Kingdom of Lucis’s soil. From there we watch the events of the few days prior to Final Fantasy XV’s beginning unfold, probably with a little bit of overlap with the game’s intro. I say “probably” just because the game is not out yet, so nothing is for sure, but it seems as though Noctis and company’s little road trip starts off about halfway through the movie.

Speaking of Noctis and company, they can barely be considered to be in Kingsglaive. This is instead a story that focuses more on King Regis (papa Noctis) and Nyx Ulric (member of Regis’ royal guard).

Let’s start with the things that pretty much anybody can agree on: dang, that was gorgeous. Right from the movie’s get-go we are treated to a visual spectacle in the form of a large battle taking place between the King of Lucis’ royal guard (the titular Kingsglaive) and the standard bad guys the Niflheim Empire (more on them in a bit). This is a battle that involves humans teleporting with spectacular sparks of electricity, crumbling castle walls, collapsing stone bridges, and massive “daemons” charging onto the battlefield shrouded in tornadoes of fire. That last one was especially sweet. And although the fight scenes are undoubtedly meant to be the highlight of the movie, it is actually outside the action that the animation truly shines.

The character models are incredibly well-crafted, sometimes bordering on photorealistic. And what makes them even closer to perfect is just how much detail went into some of their movements. The hobbled walking of King Regis on his cane is perfectly done. When characters speak, the bobbing of their Adam’s apple corresponds perfectly with their words, with characters even taking noticeable gulps of in between some sentences. The visuals are just done so dang well, which is especially convenient because they help to detract from the film’s greatest weakness, and that is the plot.
King Regis has the potential to be an interesting enough character and Sean Bean’s stellar job voice acting certainly helps bring the character to life, but the king’s actual screen time is fairly small relative to the entire movie. Lady Lunafreye (Noctis’ betrothed) on the other hand, is a rather uninteresting character with little to no characteristics other than “I have no concern for my own life”. Lena Headey’s voice does not help to bring her to life, but in Headey’s defense she really didn’t have much to work with here. We are repeatedly reminded throughout the movie that Lunafreye is an incredibly important player for the future of the world and it is imperative that she marry Noctis, but no reasons are really given as to why. We are kind of expected to just roll with this fact even though no explanation for her importance is ever given. Sure she is a princess, but does marrying Noctis give Lucis some sort of political advantage? Does she have some sort of special powers? Is Niflheim just curious if black-haired Noctis and white-haired Lunafreye will produce a grey-haired child? We don’t know. It is likely a topic to be discussed at a later time (in other words, in the actual game), but if we want to examine Kingsglaive as a standalone movie it becomes a rather gaping plot hole. On a similar note, the Niflheim Empire sucks, no doubt about that, but there really is not indicator of why they suck, why they are so aggressive towards Lucis and Tenebrae, or why they insist that Noctis and Luna tie the knot. But again, I imagine that this is another chunk of juicy plot that they don’t intend to reveal until the actual game comes out.

That leaves us with the main protagonist of Kingsglaive, and that is Nyx Ulric. As a character, he is rather one-dimensional. He is introduced to us the rebellious-but-looks-out-for-his-friends archetype and that doesn’t change throughout the movie.  Though his general likeability makes Nyx a passable lead, he doesn’t ever really give is a reason to root for him other than the fact that he’s the good guy with the most screen time. In truth, he feels sort of like the partner character of another movie or video game who ended up getting in the most scenes by mistake.

That’s not to say that there is no plot at all though. By the end of the story I was very interested to learn more about the Lucis line of royalty and I have to admit that there was one plot twist regarding a certain villainous character that made both me and my viewing partner exclaim “Oh jeez!” But the subplot of a rebellious faction within the capital city of Insomnia was never thoroughly explored and most of Nyx’s fellow Kingsglaive members were equally as one-dimensional as he was.

But in the end, Kingsglaive does what it probably set out to do, and that is to make everybody want to play the darn game when it finally comes out in September. I mean November. Darn it. Anyway, the combat sequences in the movie were a genuine delight to watch, and seeing King Regis’s use of that funky magic that just makes weapons appear out of nowhere like the Unlimited Blade Works made me very excited to utilize those same powers as Noctis in Final Fantasy XV. Likewise, the story’s conclusion does leave me with a genuine interest in what will happen to the prince of Lucis and his friends on their journey, as the events of Kingsglaive are likely to have some massive consequences for them. That being said, if we knew nothing about the upcoming Final Fantasy XV game, then this story would have felt very incomplete.

In summary, Kingsglaive is a much like an appetizer at a nice restaurant. It only tastes good with the expectation of more to come. Without the main course coming up though, it would feel rather unsatisfying.

Kingsglaive Review – Royal Beauty TLDR Version:
-Holy cow that was some gorgeous CG.
-The voice acting was inconsistent.
-For people that view this movie as a standalone movie, it has a pretty weak plot with some good action peppered around.
-For people that view this movie as a prologue to much larger story to come later, it’s pretty darn good but still has some flaws.
-See appetizer analogy.

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