Movies based on video game franchises can be quite hit or miss. In some cases, these movies are probably better left forgotten. Other times, the movie does justice to its source material. While Final Fantasy: Kingsglaive probably won’t convert anyone who’s already predisposed to dislike genre movies, it has enough going for it to both draw in casual video gamers and scifi or fantasy viewers, as well as providing a peek into the world of the Final Fantasy XV game.
On the technical side, the visuals are stunning. The Final Fantasy games have a reputation for pushing the technical envelope of computer graphics, and Kingsglaive scores well in this regard. The settings are richly textured and detailed, and there are plenty of wide angle shots to really give the feel of a world that exists in some other place. The action scenes are fast paced, and the CG allows the use of camera angles and other shots that would be difficult or expensive to do via live action.
If there’s a weakness in the graphics, it would have to be the character expressions. Although the overall character designs are still richly detailed, and work great as stills, when you get to some of the closeups of the face, you can get drawn out of the movie. Facial expressions have traditionally been the Achilles heel of CG, and while the movie does a respectable job here, it’s still not always particularly believable. The main characters are rescued by the strength of their voice acting, allowing you to hear the emotion, even if you can’t see it. The same can’t be said for some of the secondary and incidental characters, where you sometimes have to fill in the emotion yourself, since neither the visual or the aural delivered.
Unfortunately, the non technical elements are a bit less strong. Perhaps the worst part is the dialogue - a fair amount of it was cringeworthy and lacked any kind of subtext, with characters expressing directly how they feel instead of showing it action. Especially noticeable in the beginning was the large exposition dialogue dumps setting up the characters and the background of the movie, exposition that might be acceptable in a video game but would be immediately criticized in a first year film class.
The story itself, while decently executed, is a bit stereotypical. You have the damsel in distress, the brooding hero who will sacrifice anything (he literally says so in one of the early scenes), and other spoilers which won’t be revealed, but which will be immediately recognizable when encountered. The characters are somewhat flat, and while serviceable, exist mostly to drive the plot. All this is to say, really, that the story elements haven’t really been elevated beyond its video game roots, to the level that might be expected of a standout movie.
One area where the video game roots are really felt are in the scene cuts. They come a little too quickly, and some of the early scenes don’t really get to develop and transition properly. You can feel that after each scene, the game is now telling you to take control of the character, whereas in a movie there would be some more time to allow the scene to breathe a bit. I believe some of the scenes were originally meant for the game, and the first half of the movie does have the sense of watching game cutscene after game cutscene, without proper escalation or transition. Fortunately, this problem mostly goes away by the second half, and as events hurtle towards the climax, the pacing becomes much better.
Generally speaking, the movie is a solid effort, but there was too much to cram into two hours. Many of the scenes are quick cuts simply to move the action forward, and even then a lot of the connect the dots are left for the viewer. It feels like it would be better suited to an episodic TV series, where there would be a lot more room to explore the world, develop the plot points, and delve more into the character stories and backgrounds. Arguably this is what the game is for, but for viewers who don’t plan to play the game, this is an unfortunate gap in the experience.
While the movie does have some noticeable flaws, overall it’s still an enjoyable experience and a fun couple of hours. It’s a big step up as far as (non hollywood) video game movies go, and it’s also a big step up from some of the low budget scifi movies you might see on cable TV. If you’re looking for an intricate plot with complex character development, you should look elsewhere. But if you accept it for what it is - a popcorn action movie with great visual effects and an action joyride - this movie can hold its own with other large action movies. You will not be disappointed.