KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
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.