DIREC­TOR Takeshi Nozue CAST Lena Headey, Aaron Paul, Sean Bean

PLOT The king­dom of Lu­cis stands alone against the all-con­quer­ing Ni­fl­heim Empire. Af­ter years of war, King Regis (Bean) is of­fered peace if he weds his son Noc­tis (Ray Chase) to Princess Lu­nafreya (Headey). But can the Em­peror be trusted?

FI­NAL FAN­TASY IS an in­sti­tu­tion. Since its in­cep­tion back in 1987, this Ja­panese saga has grown into what is ar­guably the world’s most re­spected gam­ing fran­chise. De­spite a slight wob­ble of late, it is syn­ony­mous with cin­e­matic sto­ry­telling. How­ever, if your only ex­pe­ri­ence thus far has been its ac­tual movie out­put, though, you’ll prob­a­bly have a very dif­fer­ent im­pres­sion.

2001’s Fi­nal Fan­tasy: The Spir­its Within’s at­tempt at pho­to­re­al­is­tic CG sto­ry­telling was ahead of its time, but the ground­break­ing tech­nol­ogy came sad­dled with a be­wil­der­ing story about alien ghosts. 2005’s Fi­nal Fan­tasy VII:

Ad­vent Chil­dren fared slightly bet­ter, but still made about as much sense as a badger’s tea party. All of which brings us to the cu­rios­ity that is

Kings­glaive — part movie, part pro­mo­tion for up­com­ing game Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV. Jump-start­ing the events of the game, Kings­glaive drops us into the mid­dle of a war in which the tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced Ni­fl­heim Empire butts heads with the magic-im­bued king­dom of Lu­cis. Where Ni­fl­heim re­lies on ro­bot­ics and smoke-chug­ging air­ships with colos­sal phal­lic can­nons, the Lu­cian forces are spear­headed by an elite cadre of emo-look­ing nin­jas: the Kings­glaive. One such fighter, Nyx Ul­ric (Paul), is re­as­signed to palace se­cu­rity in ad­vance of the royal wed­ding, where he sniffs out an Im­pe­rial plot to take the palace from within and steal the crys­tal that pow­ers all of Lu­cis’ magic.

As far as Fi­nal Fan­tasy plots go, it’s all sur­pris­ingly in­tel­li­gi­ble: jin­go­ism, ex­pan­sion­ism, a lit­tle dou­ble-deal­ing and the theft of an ar­cane crys­tal thrown in for good mea­sure. Byzan­tine plot de­vel­op­ments are kept to a min­i­mum and the di­a­logue, aside from be­ing so wooden you could build a fence with it, suf­fers no last­ing in­jury in its trans­la­tion from the Ja­panese.

This lack of stu­pe­fac­tion is largely down to the plot’s sim­plic­ity — save the princess, slay the vil­lain — which is it­self a re­sult of try­ing not to tread on the game’s broader story. The fo­cus is in­stead on es­tab­lish­ing a rich, tex­tured world in which magic and tech­nol­ogy co-ex­ist. In the Lu­cian cap­i­tal of In­som­nia (the city that never sleeps?), Tokyo-in­spired high-rises nes­tle against or­nate struc­tures that wouldn’t look out of place in Riven­dell. Mean­while, the Kings­glaive use magic to tele­port but only when they’re not be­ing shut­tled around in Tran­sit vans — or, in an egre­giously in­con­gru­ous bit of prod­uct place­ment, Audi R8s.

The most tax­ing part of the story is keep­ing a grip on the char­ac­ters’ names. Between Regis Lu­cis Caelum, Lu­nafreya Nox Fleuret, Lib­er­tus Ostium and Em­peror Iedolas Alder­capt, you’ll need to rely on the stock char­ac­ter archetypes to have any hope of re­mem­ber­ing who any­one is.

What Kings­glaive lacks in depth of char­ac­ter, though, it more than makes up for in spec­ta­cle. The en­tire film looks sump­tu­ous and the set-pieces are fre­net­i­cally giddy en­coun­ters. In the city-wide fi­nale, as giant stat­ues trade blows with a flame­belch­ing de­mon, while Nyx warps from pil­lar to post, deal­ing acro­batic death, it’s hard to worry that his mo­ti­va­tions lack emo­tional weight

Kings­glaive is not the Holy Grail of Fi­nal Fan­tasy movies we were promised back in 2001, but nor is it a fea­ture-length cutscene. Its pur­pose may ul­ti­mately be to drum up ex­cite­ment for Square Enix’s up­com­ing game, but re­gard­less of whether you plan to pick up a con­troller and con­tinue the story, this is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ride set in an exquisitely re­alised world.

VER­DICT Mag­i­cal may­hem un­bur­dened by plot­ting. Es­sen­tial for those buy­ing the game, a pleas­ant in­dul­gence for those who aren’t.

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