If you are a fan of Square Enix's Final Fantasy video game series, Advent Children is practically a must see. Even if you're only vaguely familiar with the games, Advent Children has plenty to offer. Unlike 2001's Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within, Advent Children is set firmly in the setting of the FFVII game, which has, over the years, been the franchise's most popular.
Advent Children takes place some time after the end game events of FFVII. There's a helpful review in the DVD extras for those who haven't played the game or don't remember the game's plot. Cloud Strife is running a courier service from the back room of Tifa's bar. He's brooding and angsty, as are just about all of the main characters of Final Fantasy games. The past seems to haunt him, what with the fallout from what happened a couple of years ago. Some of the children in the city have been afflicted with something akin to magical leprosy, and of course, Cloud would like to blame himself for all of it. Then he gets a phone call he doesn't particularly like, gets chased across the desert by three bad guys on motorcycles and realizes that something very big is going on.
While I do claim to be a fan of the video games, I didn't really get into them until FFVIII, so the plot of Advent Children was something of a mystery to me. It's not that it's opaque or anything. What's going on is pretty obvious, but there's no attempt to explain things for those who may be unfamiliar with the game. Advent Children wasn't made with a general audience in mind. It was really for the fans, everyone else be damned. Not knowing everything could have been annoying, but I instead chose to focus on the pretty. And there's a whole lot of pretty.
If you thought The Spirits Within was a beautiful visual feast of computer animation, wait 'til you see Advent Children. It's gorgeous. The landscape shots are so realistic it's hard to believe they're computer generated. The characters look pretty good, too, although not quite as realistic as the scenery. There's always a certain stiffness of movement, especially about the hands, that keeps computer animated characters from being almost indistinguishable from human actors.
What I really found impressive about the animation was the action sequences. The fights are beautiful and stylish and well worth the time spent watching the movie, confused about the plot or not. My only beef with the animation was that the lip flap on the English dub seemed disconcertingly off at times. It had my brain screaming, "Those mouth shapes don't make those sounds!" But then there would be a fight scene, and it was all good.
I think I would have enjoyed Advent Children a whole lot more had I played FFVII. It definitely would have helped to know all the little details and some of the characters who, in the movie, were never really introduced. That doesn't stop the movie from being a fun and pretty way to spend a couple of hours.