It seems like forever since The Spirits Within came out and shook the movie world up with a movie so utterly divisive: never before had we seen a movie with CGI that impressive, done with an all-star cast, with the kind of budget that was reserved for mainstream surefire successes. It’s been many years since then and we’re finally treated to another feature-length movie from the minds at Square-Enix and it seems that we have yet another movie that’s equally as divisive, which is kind of a shame, because this movie suffers from the same wounds that Spirits Within suffered from: making a movie that could break the mold and truly be groundbreaking if only it weren’t trapped within convention.
Kingsglaive tells the story of a world at war between the nations of Niflheim and Lucis, the latter who has been holding their ground for many a year to protect a crystal, which seems to be the basis for their military strength and prosperity. Niflheim has sought the power of the crystal and a ring that the king of Lucis bears, which is said to bestow its bearer with untold power, should the bearer be judged as worthy by the kings of old. You get a sprinkling here and there of reference to other games in the series in terms of themes but the stories of Ivalice seem to bear a striking resemblance to this one as there are clear kingdoms battling for power and political intrigue just oozing from every scene.
This sets the stage for the Kingsglaive, a kind of extension of the Lucis military that acts as a special forces for that kingdom, whose job in this movie is to protect the king and his people; however, not even the elite Kingsglaive are immune to the forces of revolution and betrayal as the kingdom falls to the culminated efforts of Niflheim and their deception. What this leads into is what can only be assumed as the opening scene for Final Fantasy XV.
This is just another example, like I said earlier, of a movie that could have been great if it didn’t work so hard to fit within convention. Whereas Spirits Within fell victim to trying too hard to be a Hollywood movie that also appealed to gaming audiences who were accustomed to the Final Fantasy franchise, Kingsglaive seems to be a movie that fell victim to trying too hard to aim it towards fans of the franchise within Hollywood conventions: you can tell that the movie had a lot more planned but needed to complete within a certain budget and within a certain time frame. Most of the movie is beautifully rendered with well-done voice acting, with very decent plot progression and fight choreography that is tightly knit into this narrative that explains a lot for people who have been following this game’s development like I have been but then the movie devolves into this mess where fights are all over the place, things are happening with little to no explanation, and scenes are incredibly distracting; but when the movie completes, you realize that those kinds of faults have been present the whole time, they just weren’t as frequent when the movie opened.
This was a movie that I was glad I had only rented; while it was a beautiful thing to behold and it explained a lot about the backstory for the upcoming Final Fantasy XV – as well as what could have been during the development of the game, interestingly enough – it was also a movie that felt as though it fell short of its ambition and was a little pigeon-holed to fit into a certain stereotype. Much like Spirits Within, this movie is chided way more than it deserves and it should be watched once, at the very least, if only to be digested as supplementary to the main game itself. I personally think that games based on movies are doomed from the start but I think that’s only because adaptations from other mediums suffer one fatal flaw: trying to fit hours and hours and maybe even days worth of content and ambition into a single feature-length film. It’s hard to do and even when it’s done well it often falls short of what it was intended to be. Hollywood has a weird way of doing that to projects like this.