Final Fantasy movies have always had a reputation for being a bit poor, certainly one for being a bit inaccessible even for fans. Part of this could be put down to an identity crisis and the fact that the movies often defer from the wealth of source material that they never really hit the mark that their visuals do.
Kingsglaive is certainly the first movie from the Final Fantasy universe that I’ve experienced that seemed to make the most sense to an outsider. Having previewed the game it shares a setting with, Final Fantasy XV, it did help that I had a minute amount of knowledge but it isn’t strictly necessary.
This is because the initial plot and setting is a very universal and relatable thing. It’s a very Shakespearian story. The movie starts in a similar place to the game with two warring kingdoms and families. The king, Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (the one hundred and thirteenth king of that name which is either incredibly silly, or these families have a very low life expectancy and little imagination) is fleeing a battlefield with his son Noctis is toe and Lunafreya, who is daughter of a murdered queen. This battle is an attack from Nilfhelm who have attacked this area and take Lunafreya. As the years pass she becomes part of Nilfhelm and as the war becomes costly for both kingdoms and the decision is made to marry her to Noctis, to bring peace to all.
Things take a turn of course and in very Shakespearian fashion, this is all a ruse for a betrayal. The story doesn’t actually follow this though. Their fates are for the players of the game. Instead we follow the king and some of his guard, known as the Kingsglaive. We primarily follow Nyx Ulric who becomes the chosen protector of Lunafreya as the celebration of marriage is brought to the kingdom of Lucis. As a person with strong tie to magic, especially the magic that King Regis uses to help protect the city of Insomnia in a giant energy bubble, Nyx has a certain arrogance and confidence that, as the inevitable happens, betrays him.
I don’t want to write too much about the plot but the story is actually quite easy to follow once you take it out of its video gaming context and in to that “well this is what WOULD have actually happened if Romeo and Juliet was more realistic” mindset. This is becomes alive in the western version because of some excellent casting. King Reigs is very ably played by Sean Bean who is quickly becoming the new Patrick Stewart when it comes to gravitas. Aaron Paul as Nyx helps to give that youthful arrogance and ignorance to the characters limitations. In fact, its that casting that by the end makes the movie watchable.
Whilst it’s incredibly impressive that Square Enix’s Visual Works studio have pulled off, with the helps of many others, it does suffer from the thing that many movies of this type suffer with in that it doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be. It’s a big problem with video game tie ins in that eventually they all try to become the visual super action spectacle of a video game. And whilst its impressive on screen it can become a long drawn out deviation from the narrative. Kingslgaive has that problem, which is also doubled by the fact that it spends a lot of time being an anime version of the Thor movie from Marvel. It doesn’t make it unenjoyable in any way but it does give the movie a bit of an identity crisis.
It also loses the rest of the cast within this. By that I mean that the story becomes very focused on its three characters in Regis, Nys and Lunafreya. The supporting cast including the rest of the Kingsglaive and antagonist Ledolas Aldercapt all get a bit lost because they are treated like video game characters. They serve to be seen and get you from point A-B which is a shame because the dynamic of friendship and loss that a military band of brethren should experience feels muted and forced, whilst the big stellar battle between two old heads never materialises. It’d be like a bit like a massive ruck between Lords Montague and Capulet but the latter sending Tybalt in his stead.
It is however exactly what it’s suppose to be – an incredibly able companion to Final Fantasy XV and something that can be enjoyed in its own right and possibly the most accessible of the Final Fantasy movies to date. If you’re getting the game I recommend watching it, especially if it comes with it. If you’re trying to work out as an outsider what all the fuss is about, then you could do a lot worse than to give this watch. It has its faults but at the end you do come away thinking you’ve had fun, even if you weren’t incredibly sure what was happening.