When it comes to Final Fantasy games, most gamers will almost always tell you their favorite installment in the series, either debating or exchanging stories about why they feel Final Fantasy VII is the crowning jewel of the series or dismissing it as highly overrated in favor of Final Fantasy X. Final Fantasy is no stranger at trying to extend their property to film by creating an original story with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within or extending an already established video game universe with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The latest entry into the Final Fantasy movies venture is Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.
Kingsglaive begins by telling the story of Nifelheim and Lucis, two kingdoms entrenched in a bitter war over the last crystal in Lucis’ possession. The ruler of Lucis, King Regis (voiced by Sean Bean), along with his Kingsglaive, elite guards who share Regis’ magical powers, are the protectors of the crystal which resides within Insomnia, the capital city of Lucis. Growing weary of the war and conflict ravaging his kingdom, King Regis decides to accept a proposed peace treaty with Nifelheim under the condition that the king’s son Noctis is to wed Lunafreya of Tenebrae (voiced by Lena Headey). When the peace treaty is uncovered as a ruse by Kingsglaive guard Nyx Ulric (voiced by Aaron Paul) to launch an all out invasion by Nifelheim forces on Insomnia, it’s up to Nyx to help Lunafreya escape the city to meet with Noctis and ensure the future of an entire kingdom.
The film serves as the backstory and set up leading into the upcoming Final Fantasy XV video game out in November. The first thing you’ll notice about watching the movie is it’s absolutely gorgeous. From the city of Insomnia to the characters themselves, it’s extremely hard to tear your eyes away from the screen for even a second. It’s all beautifully animated with a shine and sparkle that makes the crystal Nifelheim and Lucis is fighting over seem lackluster in comparison. The city of Insomnia feels like a place I’d really love to visit and explore. The look of it is very modern and it’s really easy to see where the creators might have drawn their inspiration from. Insomnia seems to be inspired by a number of famous European and U.S. cities. The cosmopolitan streets with their sleek and fast cars looks very much like a street in Rome or Paris. In one scene when the Kingsglaive guards are driving back to Insomnia, there’s a bridge that’s reminiscent of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. There’s something very familiar about Insomnia, but completely different at the same time.
There’s plenty of action to go around in Kingsglaive and the fight scenes are one well choreographed, epic showdowns between Nifelheim and Lucis forces. Everything just looks really cool and it’s exciting to watch the battles unfold in front of you. There’s no denying that the best fight scenes are almost always the ones involving Nyx. While it comes as no surprise that the CGI for this movie is on top of its game, the characters also prove to be an interesting bunch to spend nearly two hours of your time on.
With stellar voice acting performances from two well-known Game of Thrones actors and one from Breaking Bad, they played their individual roles well. Bean as King Regis gives the character the right combination of dignity and wisdom as a ruler who has endured and experienced too much to protect his kingdom. Headey as Lunafreya brings a quiet gentleness and determination, which may come as a surprise for those who know her best as the very cold and ruthless Cersei Lannister. Paul, while an odd choice to play the movie’s main character Nyx, is convincing as the brave but unsure of himself hero who serves as a Kingsglaive guard. Many of the characters introduced in the movie are either likable or intriguing enough to want to learn more about them. For instance, the movie scratches the surface of the individual backstories and histories of Nyx and his fellow Kingsglaive guards Libertus and Crowe that it leaves you feeling a bit unsatisfied. What were their lives like before they became a Kingsglaive? How did this group become friends and trusted brothers and sisters in arms? These and many other questions ran through my mind as I watched the movie. The movie may have introduced great characters that draw you in, but the plot does flounder in parts.
Kingsglaive does an amazing job of explaining where the kingdom’s guards get their magic from and how it works. The magic being tied to King Regis means the guards are only powerful as long as the king is alive. If the king dies, the magic dies along with him, making these elite guards ordinary soldiers without the fancy sparks and dazzle. Beyond that, I found certain aspects of the movie hard to follow. With so many characters and so much political intrigue and backstabbing going on, it does get a little confusing to keep up with any of the information thrown at you. By only having such brief insight into each person’s life and personal motivations, while leaving you hungry to know more, it becomes the movie’s weakest link. I’m most confused by Lunafreya’s relationship to King Regis that in the opening of the movie I actually thought Lunafreya was Regis’ daughter. Then there’s Nifelheim’s personal investment in Lunafreya who isn’t a ruler of the empire but seems to treat her as a well-kept princess who is under strict lock and key to use for their own gain to forward their goals. Maybe these details are purposely left out to encourage people to buy and play Final Fantasy XV, but for the casual moviegoer who isn’t a gamer, it will leave those viewers mostly scratching their heads trying to make sense of the details in the plot beyond a peace treaty gone bad between warring kingdoms.
The movie isn’t by any means perfect, but it’s an enjoyable and entertaining romp into a new world with a different cast of people who either have direct or very loose ties to the video game. They make the connection between movie and video game, albeit brief, in one scene at the end of the credits. It’s a nice little link, especially if you’re already hyped about the upcoming game. Would you be missing out if you don’t watch the movie and go straight to playing the game? Honestly, no, but it’s a nice little addendum if you want to further enhance your knowledge and immersion of Final Fantasy XV. I already wanted to watch Kingsglaive the first time I saw the trailer, but wasn’t really sure I’d pay money to see it in theaters. Luckily, the opportunity to see the film came when I scored free tickets to see the movie being premiered at a theater in Times Square. If it wasn’t for those tickets, I probably would have waited until it released on Blu-ray in a few months. Overall, I think the movie is worth watching at least once and it certainly won’t leave you feeling bored the entire time you watch it.
Reviewer Rating: 8.0/10