Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete is at the same time blindingly brilliant and horrendously dull. The computer animated spectacle — and make no mistake, it is a spectacle — takes place two years after the events that occurred in the video game Final Fantasy VII. The game's success — it was hailed by many as a masterpiece of gaming — encouraged the creators to go out and spawn spin-off titles in the same universe and then to create Advent Children direct-to-DVD and now to create an updated and expanded Advent Children for Blu-ray.
Starting with the good, the animators in Advent Children Complete have created a world that is ultra-detailed and in some shots one might be convinced that what they are seeing is real. Not having seen the DVD version, I can't state how much of a leap forward the Blu-ray release is, but it does look absolutely incredible. The graphics are sharp and clean, the blacks rich, the textures unbelievably well-defined, and the range and subtly of the colors incredible. One could spend the entire two-hour feature marveling at the hair the characters sport. Sadly, the facial expressions are somewhat lacking when compared to the rest of the detail. Additionally, the sound is less outstanding. While it is 5.1 channel, for battles that seem to range all around the viewer, the effects seem, disconcertingly, to remain fixed mainly in the front speakers.
As the film is based on a video game, or at the very least an outgrowth of one, the fighting scenes are what truly stand out in it. They are certainly in no way whatsoever realistic — the physics of the universe the characters inhabit is vastly different from the physics of our universe — but that doesn't make them any less marvelous to watch.
Then there's the bad — the story. It is a massive disappointment. It's not that it plays out merely as bad science fiction, it plays out as bad science fiction that is completely incomprehensible to anyone who has not played Final Fantasy VII either recently (it came out in 1997 for the original Playstation) or a good memory of it. Without that, the viewer will either spend much of the movie trying to piece together what is happening or simply give up on it and focus on the visuals.
I could try to delve into the narrative here and explain all about Cloud and how he killed Sephiroth, what the deal with Geostigma is, what Rufus Shinra has to do with it all, which is tied up with why the planet they live on is in disarray, who Kadaj is, and why Kadaj is searching for his mother, but it wouldn't really make very much sense. If somehow it did make sense that would be a pretty good indication that I'd spent far too long going into it all or that you knew the whole story before I began explaining it.
Fortunately, the Blu-ray includes as bonus features a nearly 24-minute digest of what took place in the original game and an almost 30-minute synopsis of what took place in Final Fantasy VII Compilation, which is the name given to the spin-off titles in the same world. If one dares to venture into Advent Children Complete with a desire to understand what is taking place in the film they need the requisite information contained in these synopses. Also included on the Blu-ray is "On the Way to a Smile – Episode: Denzel" which gives background information on another of the characters in the movie, and while not essential viewing, it does help one understand Denzel's point of view in the film.
It is not wrong to necessarily expect an audience member to have some sort of background knowledge when sitting down to watch a film or television show but unfortunately, the amount of knowledge required here is just too great for something that is, after all, the first film. What the creators of this movie have ended up with is a truly dazzling and dizzying world both in terms of the visuals and the story — the visuals for how amazing they truly are, and the story for how perplexing and indecipherable it is.
The Blu-ray release also features various Advent Children trailers and a trailer for the upcoming game Final Fantasy XIII. Anyone who has ever ventured into an RPG game will be impressed by what they see there.
Big fans of Final Fantasy VII and its various spin-offs will undoubtedly love Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete and all the extra bonus goodies it has to offer in its expanded format. Everyone else will undoubtedly be impressed by the animation and left dumbfounded at the absurdity of the tale. Essentially, it's just a non-interactive video game, and viewed in that context perhaps it does deliver. Those looking for a movie, though, will not be impressed.