Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV</strong> (2016)

(In French, On TV, December 2018) As someone who was there, agog, at the dawn of CGI movies, it still amazes me that the technology has advanced so much and become so commonplace that there are dozens of well-made CGI movies released every year that fly low under the radar of mainstream audiences. There’s specifically a strong subgenre of Japanese-made CGI movies, often in support of videogames (such Resident Evil) or established franchises (Starship Troopers) that push CGI to near-photorealistic levels and yet go almost unnoticed. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is one of those: an astonishingly realistic animation movie that expands the lore of the Final Fantasy XV videogame into a linear narrative experience. The film’s biggest strength is undoubtedly its visual aspect, beautiful and extremely detailed in creating an environment where a futuristic megapolis can co-exist with Audi car chases, sword fights and magic. You can watch the movie and be reminded of how convincingly we can portray entirely imaged worlds. (We can see a clear line between 2001’s epochal Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Kingsglaive.) The art direction is top-notch, and there are times where (predictably enough) you just want to pause the story and go free-roaming into the city to fully take it in—and that’s where the video-game tie-in becomes crucial. Alas, few will be surprised to learn that the story supported by this visual representation of a new world is significantly less impressive. The problems probably start at the premise: Tied too closely to a videogame mythology, it’s probably not surprising that the story does not really stand on its own—you probably need to have played the game or the series to get allusions and subtleties, and the story itself can’t be better than the one used in the game. But this wobbly foundation is further harmed by a messy script that operates at the limits of intelligibility: the story unfolds for near-incomprehensible reasons, and it often happens that something cool happens, only for our understanding of what exactly just happened lags several minutes (if ever) after seeing what happened. There’s probably a cultural issue here, the film being from Japan, but that doesn’t excuse the sloppy and haphazard scripting. I’d like the direction to calm down a bit and take the time to show us what we need to know—the action often degenerates into visual chaos, and that’s another instance when having too much CGI power can be detrimental. I’m still happy to have seen Kingsglaive if only to see how far CGI can be pushed in the service of an animated photorealistic movie, but the story is frankly a mess, and those plot elements that actually work only reinforce how badly the film does not meet its own ambitions in telling a story.

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