Final Fantasy XV is just a few months out from release, and to ramp up the hype train Square Enix and Sony Entertainment teamed up to create the CGI tie-in film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. The movie features A-list Hollywood actors in the most pivotal roles, attempting to draw more casual crowds into the wonder of Final Fantasy, and hopefully sell them on the latest numbered title. Unfortunately for them, while Kingsglaive is more than worth the price of admission for anyone looking forward to Final Fantasy XV, the average moviegoer isn’t likely to share the enthusiasm or excitement of pre-established fans.
A lot of love has clearly been put into this film by the team behind it, including several callbacks to older games in the series. Iconic monsters such as Final Fantasy VI’s Ultros and Final Fantasy VII’s Diamond Weapon wreak havoc on the world, magic spells such as Lightning, Fire, and Protect are used throughout the film, and the Chocobo Speedy Delivery mail van is sure to put a smile on any fan’s face.
However, these references are all lost on newcomers that might stumble into this neat-looking CGI action flick. While they may still be impressed by the fight scenes surrounding the hulking monster and giant squid, or enjoy the particle effects used during the spell-casting, they probably won’t know what a Chocobo is or why it would make a good delivery service name. Not having the familiarity with the series won’t necessarily hinder one’s enjoyment of Kingsglaive, but it helps to get the most out of the movie if you’ve played at least a few of the games previously.
Perhaps in an attempt to make average moviegoers feel more immersed in the world of the film, there are several blatant product placements that they’re sure to recognize, like Audi cars or Beats By Dre headphones. After all, Final Fantasy XV is touted as being a fantasy set in reality. It’s tough to say how an everyday person would react to this, but speaking as a Final Fantasy fan of twenty years it is extremely bizarre. The Beats By Dre poster in one scene actually distracted me from what was going on because it felt so out of place. It may be commonplace to see everyday brands like that in typical Hollywood fare, but seeing real-life products in something with Final Fantasy in the title is incredibly strange and fairly off-putting.
Incidentally, there are several pieces of Kingsglaive that will be enjoyed equally by all. First and foremost, the hyper-realistic graphics are, at the risk of sounding cliché, breathtaking. Multiple scenes legitimately look like real life, and anyone who claims the CGI in this film is sub-par are just kidding themselves. The fight sequences are brilliantly choreographed as well, offering plenty of flair and pizzazz in the form of teleporting soldiers, mighty spells being cast, and both small and large-scale battles that are equally intense.
The flashy lights and epic battles will only detract from the confusing story for so long though. In the film’s opening moments the audience is introduced to the world and its focal conflict through a flashback prologue voiced over by Lady Lunafreya (Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey), but anyone who hasn’t watched any trailers for Final Fantasy XV or followed the game’s development in any capacity will likely be confused by the time the movie properly starts.
Even dedicated fans who know what they’re getting into will be at a loss from time to time, as new, seemingly important characters are left alone without any backstory, plot progression, or even utterance of their name more than once. They get that one line that sounds really important or foreboding, though, so you expect them to have some relevance or explanation later. In most of these moments, even the greatest of fans are left scratching their heads.
Speaking of characters that are left hanging, there are both good guys and bad guys whose threads begin in Kingsglaive and are obviously left open, ready to be continued in the game. For those who went into the movie knowing it’s all connected, this is a-okay. They’re certainly expecting these bread crumb trails. Taking a look back at that everyday moviegoer though, they’re definitely wondering what happens to the smarmy guy and the old guy who fled the scene but may not be interested in, or even know of, the game coming out soon that will tie it all together.
This all leads to an ending that isn’t much of an ending at all. Fans will be satisfied knowing that the tale will continue in late November when Final Fantasy XV launches at last, while everyone else will either come to the realization that they’ve now got to wait three months to pick up a 40 to 50-hour game to see all the loose ends from this two-hour film tied up while following a nearly completely different cast of characters, or just walk away confused by what they just watched. Either way, it’s not an ideal way to end a movie.
At best, Kingsglaive is a thrilling political drama with fantastical fight scenes and beautiful scenery, and at worst it’s a muddled mess of convolution and serious head-scratchers. If you want to experience the former, you had better have some positive history with Final Fantasy as a series, or at least be interested in Final Fantasy XV. Otherwise it’s probably not worth your time.