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Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete(2005)
This computer animated film picks up where the Playstation Final Fantasy VII video game left off. Cloud, the hero of the game, has retired into seclusion, but when a mysterious and lethal disease known as Geostigma begins to spread across the planet, and three powerful, villainous children appear, he reluctantly emerges to face the new and mysterious threats. Featuring some of the most spectacularly lavish computer graphics ever created, 'Advent Children' continues the complex and compelling tradition that has made the Final Fantasy series one of the most popular games of all time.
For more about Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete and the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray release, see Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on May 27, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Takahiro Sakurai, Ayumi Ito, Showtaro Morikubo, T˘ru ďkawa, Keiji Fujiwara, Taiten Kusunoki
Director: Tetsuya Nomura
» See full cast & crew
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray Review
"For those who loved this world and knew friendly company therein: This reunion is for you."
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, May 27, 2009
If you're a fan of video games, you already understand the excitement that accompanies any mention of a "Final Fantasy" game. A great deal of this fame is directly related to the popularity of the 7th entry in the video game franchise, which many view as the Holy Grail of gaming excellence. Regardless of your opinion of that particular game, it's difficult to argue against the popularity of a title that has gone on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide and spawned a recent compilation of games and feature-length stories set in the world of "Final Fantasy VII".
Marking it's debut as the second entry in the "Final Fantasy VII" compilation, Advent Children is a CGI film that continues the story where the game left off. Released directly to DVD in Japan during 2005, the North American release was delayed several times (much to my dismay) before finally hitting store shelves in the middle of 2006. The original runtime of Advent Children was 100 minutes, but the filmmakers felt they wanted to flesh out the story to a greater extent, and began work on an updated version of the film titled Advent Children Complete. Running 26 minutes longer than the original, the "complete" version of the film is presented on this Blu-ray edition and represents a substantial improvement over the initial cut.
Advent Children picks up two years after the events that transpired in the original game, with the inhabitants of the planet stricken by a disease known as Geostigma. Cloud Strife has become a courier for his long-time friend Tifa Lockhart, as well as protector of two young children that live under Tifa's care. While returning to Edge city one day, Cloud is attacked by three mysterious men named Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, who appear to be looking for something known as "mother". Following a Road Warrior style bike battle that ends just as abruptly as it began, Cloud is summoned by Rufus Shinra who begs Cloud to join him in stopping the mysterious trio that recently attacked him. Weary of Shinra's underlying plans, and lacking the confidence needed to step back into the hero role, Cloud refuses to join Shinra in his new-found campaign to protect the planet and expresses a desire to be left alone. Continuing his quest to find "mother", Kadaj soon makes a stop at Shinra's residence, and we learn "mother" is a reference to Jenova's remains (a powerful creature that decended on the planet long ago), which are necessary for Kadaj to form a reunion that culminates in the return of Sephiroth. Cloud reluctantly returns to the picture when the young children under his care are kidnapped by Kadaj and his goons, who use children infected by Geostigma to create a barrier around a statue they believe to contain the remnants of Jenova. After calling on multiple monsters, and an extended fight between Cloud's long-time allies (from the game) and Kadaj's crew, the climax of the film pits Cloud against Sephiroth in a battle to end all battles.
Advent Children Complete has every element necessary to create an engaging experience from beginning to end. The plot is emotionally dense, the action is explosively over-the-top, and the world in which the story enfolds is rich with creativity. I enjoyed the first incarnation of Advent Children (with the shortened runtime), but this version surpasses the original in every way. I have to admit I was a little worried the plot would drag over the course of two hours, but there's still more action than four typical anime films put together and everything moves along at a nice pace. One of the supplements on the disc mentions the new cut contains over 1000 new edits in the additional 26 minute runtime, and although I don't have the old edition on DVD to compare, I'd say every minute of added content is well-placed in furthering the plot of the film. I'm a little disappointed the original cut wasn't included as well via seamless branching (for comparison purposes only), but long-time fans should feel comfortable that this is the definitive version of the Advent Children tale.
For those of you who've never played the "Final Fantasy VII" video game, I'd still recommend Advent Children Complete as a worthwhile way to spend two hours of your time. Some of the plot elements may be a little confusing, and the emotional impact of the relationships between characters in the film will appear somewhat ambiguous, but the plot of the film still stands as a worthy entry in anime filmmaking and the creators did a nice job paying service to the fans, while maintaining a worthwhile experience for the uninitiated.
As with any review of a CGI-animated feature, I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't take the time to mention the quality of the animation on Advent Children Complete. This is a much different film than Final Fantasy: The Spirit's Within, but the animation quality and character models are still similar in comparison. That's not a bad thing, since I love the realistic animation in both films, but as with the prior film, the animation certainly has it's strengths and weaknesses. On the weakness side, the movement of the characters (mostly walking or running), can be a little stiff and awkward at times, but it rarely detracts from the overall experience and should not be viewed as a major concern. On the positive side, the animation is highly detailed with intricate textures, and the movement and effects during the many fight sequences are choreographed to perfection. The laws of physics clearly don't apply in a film of this nature, but most viewers won't have any complaints when they see the incredible feats on display. If all anime could look this good, the market would be flooded with new recruits grasping for the latest anime release.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 20Mbps), Advent Children Complete is officially the new demonstration disc for my home theater. Detail through the majority of the film is impeccable, with the finest details becoming noticeable due to the increased resolution. There's still some occasional softness that creeps up from time to time, but it appears to be related to an intentional use of visual effects (such as increased brightness from the large windows of the church, or sand blown by the wind in several outdoor sequences) and didn't diminish my viewing experience. In addition to the reference level of detail, colors appeared bold and vibrant when appropriate (flowers in the church and the crimson of Vincent's cape), or muted and drab in scenes of the desolate landscape. Contrast was as good as I've seen on a Blu-ray release, with Kadaj's wooded lair standing as one of many showcase sequences in the film. The deep blacks of the background help elevate the three-dimensional nature of the glowing trees in the forest, and created a wonderful lighting effect that would not have been possible without perfect black levels and contrast.
My only complaint about the transfer (and the only thing preventing it from receiving a perfect score) is the occasional appearance of aliasing on fine lines. I noticed it several times during camera pans and the best example I can provide would be to look at the top of Cloud's sword at the 1:36:50 mark of the film. It may not be noticeable at a screen size of 50 inches or less, but on a 100 inch screen, even the smallest imperfections become apparent.
Overall, this is a reference-worthy transfer with pristine animation and beautifully incorporated action. If you have a friend who loves anime, and questions the validity of stepping up to 1080p resolution, pop in this disc and welcome him or her to the world of Blu-ray.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A perfect audio track offers a blend of spatial effects, music and dialogue to create a viewing experience that completely immerses the listener in the world of the film. I've rarely had the opportunity to hear such a track, but I'm pleased to report the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese track for this film is one of the most incredible audio tracks I've had the pleasure of listening to. Dialogue exhibits an immaculate level of detail in any range or pitch, but I was most impressed with the deep voices of several male characters. The music is equally crisp and efficiently incorporated in a non-obtrusive way next to the on-screen action. On a film that runs the emotional gamut, it has to be difficult to create a musical score that always seems appropriate, and Advent Children contains some truly inspired musical numbers. Lastly, the use of spatial separation and environmental effects were handled with precision across the entire sound field of my home theater. From the subtlety of a ringing bell, to the explosion of a building, you'll notice the tiniest sounds and details in the audio mix, while marveling at the wealth of sounds hitting your ears. I especially enjoyed the battles that took place on the massive bikes in the desert and on the freeway. Those sequences reminded me of the freeway scene from Matrix: Reloaded (without the inclusion of poor CGI), and will likely stand as my new demo material for showing off my obsession with home theater.
For anyone who's interested in the English track (also offered in Dolby TrueHD 5.1), the track is nearly as proficient as the Japanese mix, but I detected a slight drop in non-dialogue volume next to the original language offering. It's not extremely noticeable, and wouldn't have been an issue if I weren't switching back and forth on the fly, but those that prefer the English dub (which is actually quite good) should be aware there's a slight difference between the two tracks.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The supplements on this release are fairly solid, but don't incorporate all of the extras from prior releases. The nicely-packaged Limited Edition DVD release had a making-of feature that's absent here, and also included the anime OVA "Last Order". I've never seen "Last Order", so I can't comment on the quality, but it would have been nice to have a more complete package if this is truly considered the "Complete" version. The list of supplements are as follows:
Legacy of Final Fantasy VII (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 6:38 min): This brief feature is narrated in Japanese with English subtitles. Naturally, the main focus is the 7th video game release and the subsequent series of Final Fantasy VII related games that were created beginning in 2004. The film is briefly touched on, but the discussion of Advent Children is limited to a summary of screening invitations and critical reception.
Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 23:55 min): It's been years since I played the original FF7 video game on Playstation and this interesting feature is a wonderful re-introduction to the game. It contains cut-scenes and in-game dialogue from several key portions of the game, set to beautiful orchestra music from the Final Fantasy universe. It's a little comical to see how far video game graphics have come since the game's initial release, but there's still a lot of charm on display here.
Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Compilation (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 29:43 min): Similar to the prior extra, this feature contains footage from the follow-up FF7 games that were released to multiple platforms from 2004 to present. Since I haven't played any of these games, I was a bit lost throughout the cutscenes and in-game sequences of dialogue, but at least it provides the viewer with a better idea of what they've been missing out on by not playing these games.
On the Way to a Smile-Episode: Denzel (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 28:07 min): I'm very excited about the inclusion of this anime OVA that focuses on the character Denzel and takes place between the events of the game and the plot of Advent Children. Considering the wealth of stories that could be told in the FF7 universe, I'd love to see the production of an entire anime series to fill in the gaps (much like "Clone Wars" has done for the Star Wars universe).
Sneak Peek at Final Fantasy XIII (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 7:12 min): Featuring cut-scenes and in-game footage from the upcoming Final Fantasy video game release, this supplement is truly a sight to behold.
Lastly, there's a collection of five trailers for Advent Children Complete that were shown at various functions between 2007 and 2009. The trailers are presented in 1080i with 2-channel audio.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you couldn't tell by now, I have nothing but praise for Advent Children Complete. The new version is a nice improvement on an entertaining film, and I doubt anyone will be upset by the extended runtime on this Blu-ray release. If you're a fan of the "Final Fantasy VII" video game, this should be a day-one purchase and has likely been on your Blu-ray radar for some time now. If you've never seen Advent Children, you may elect to go the rental route first, but I'd remind you to consider the near-perfect audio/video quality and perhaps take a leap of faith in adding the disc to your collection. If anything, you'll have an eye-popping example of the capabilities high-definition has to offer, with the added value of over-the-top animated action. As an anime enthusiast, this disc is highly recommended.
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