So I was lucky enough to attend the only UK premiere of Kingsglaive, the movie covering the events prior to the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. First, I’m going to give a massive shout out to PlayStation Access for arranging the whole thing, and then I’m going to tell you what I thought; I promise it’ll be a bit more substantial than “Holy shit that teleporting,” and “Nyx Ulric is very pretty.”
As always, spoilers ahead.
Square Enix hasn’t had a whole lot of luck with animated movies. The Spirits Within nearly bankrupted the company, and Advent Children wasn’t met with the best graces from fans. Kingsglaive, from the start, was treading dangerous waters, but you can’t deny their skill in the animation department. The environments and character models are exquisitely detailed, down to the braids in Nyx’s hair and the street signs advertising the Bank of Spira. There’s been nothing left behind – you can make out every pore and freckle on the characters’ faces, and it’s disconcertingly hard to remember they’re not real actors. This is what ultimately makes the movie – the flashy action scenes, albeit sometimes disjointed and a little hard to follow, are absolutely sublime. They’re breathtaking to watch and totally absorbing, which is why it’s a little worrying that they’ve been used to paper over cracks in the plot.
We avoided the voice acting problem (though I’m not sure Lena Headey’s quavering voice for the bold Luna was the best choice) but instead, we were left with a messy, choppy plot that wasn’t really all that engaging. Kingsglaive tells the story of the fall of Insomnia, just before the events of the main game, but cuts back and forth in time, showing why the two kingdoms hate each other and the subsequent “peace,” treaty, before finally switching back to focus on the Glaive, which are essentially Lucis’ version of the SAS. The story cuts back and forth in odd places, fading out and jumping from scene to scene without any real build up, which doesn’t really lend itself to a very coherent narrative. I think it’s supposed to be that half of the movie is focusing on Regis, Ardyn, and Luna, whilst the other half is Nyx, Libertus, and their commander. Even though it’s a two hour long film, they really don’t get the development they need to make us care about them, which leads me to the most egregious example of this: Crowe.
Remember how Crowe was in all the trailers, got her own character artwork, and was generally hyped as being one of the main cast members? Yeah, she barely makes it past the thirty minute mark, with a vague line of “Oh, you’re like a little sister to me,” from Libertus, which is like a cliché siren going off. About ten minutes later, she’s killed offscreen, with no real reason aside from “Oh, the Empire poisoned her.” That’s it. Bear in mind she was the only female Glaive, and the other females we see… Nyx’s unnamed mother? Dead. Selena, Nyx’s sister, who gets about two lines and an appearance in a photo? Dead. Luna’s mother? Doesn’t even get a line and gets shot in the opening. Noctis’ mother? Never even has a name.
Then we come to the treatment of Luna herself. We’ve been accustomed to the strong, bold princess the game has been teasing us with, who certainly looks like someone who won’t be taking any shit from Nifleheim or Lucis. But all through Kingsglaive, she’s relegated to the damsel role, someone for Nyx and Libertus to save and quip witty one liners to. She passively runs around every scene she’s in, doing as she’s told, and doesn’t once take the initiative to actually do something. I kept waiting for her to kick off her heels and punch a guard in the throat, but nothing happened, aside from spouting a few lines about destiny. She’s just there so Nyx can show off, and I sincerely hope this isn’t the case for the actual game itself. Then again, the pace moves so fast, we barely get to know anyone.
This, I believe, is the downfall of the film. Everyone was crying over Crowe, when I was only mourning her lost potential. The refugee subplot genuinely had the makings of an interesting storyline, considering Prompto was originally one of them, but it told far too much and failed to make an impact. You want to make me care? Show me Nyx’s family getting slaughtered and his village burning, that’ll do it. At the moment, you could probably swap him out for Nathan Drake, for all the impact it would have. Libertus probably had a better amount of characterisation with his rebellion subplot, but it moved far too fast for it to have any real impact. Even Regis was pretty underdeveloped, but alas fell to the Sean Bean curse. And Ravus, aka Viserys, who I actually thought was pretty interesting until the ring melted the flesh off his bones. At least Ardyn made it through?
The absolute kicker has to be the ending. Nyx puts on magic ring, gods give him superpowers but go “Oh hey, you’ve only got until sunrise, and then something bad happens.” So Nyx says a few witty things, curbstomps a few monsters into the ground, probably decimates half of Insomnia’s infrastructure and kills a good chunk of the population, and then…
Nothing? Not even a dramatic closing shot right before we cut to black? No dramatic monologue, just… nothing? We don’t even get told what happens, but considering the ring reduced anyone it didn’t like to cinders, I was expecting something a little more dramatic. Or something of actual consequence, so we could mourn this one dimensional hero. For the sake of good storytelling, I’m saying Nyx turned to crystal, because the FNC mythos was the best part of that series of games, and it’s a beautifully morbid concept. Nyx Ulric, now fancy crystal decoration in someone’s parlour. Probably Glauca’s.
Please note that this is by no means a bad movie, not at all, it’s just a poorly paced one. I think if it had stuck to one plot-line, it could have become something legendary, but it almost complicates things too much for its own good. Should you see it? Absolutely! The animation is stellar, and the voice acting, for the most part, is excellent. The action scenes are great fun, and it’s worth seeing for the titbits of lore we’re getting ahead of the main game. Just don’t go in there expecting much from the girls.