GORE IN THE STORE
FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN COMPLETE ****
Directed by Tetsuya Nomura.
Starring Takahiro Sakurai, Ayumi Ito, Kenichi Suzumura, Showtaro Morikubo, Maaya Sakamoto.
Japan 2005 127 mins Certificate: 12
Released on 4K Ultra HD on June 14th, 2021 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Released in 2005 as a sequel to Square’s beloved 1997 Playstation game FINAL FANTASY VII, this long-admired expansion of a Visual Works short film conceived by the game’s writer (Kazushige Nojima) picks up two years after its events, narrowing the focus to Cloud Strife and his loyal companion Tifa Lockhart. Assigned by the Shinra Company’s President Rufus to half the machinations of a trio of assailants (Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz), Cloud winds up embroiled in their search for something referred to obliquely as “Mother”. The unravelling plot connects them all to the remnants of extra-terrestrial antagonist Jenova and children infected by Geostigma in the ruins of Midgar.
At the time, this felt like a smart, accomplished benchmark in video-game-inspired CGI animation and also compelling and visually impressive enough to succeed as entertainment for those not well versed with its origins. The English dub (provided here on an alternate track and featuring Steve Burton, Rachael Leigh Cook, Mena Suvari and George Newbern) was above average and the score by Nobuo Uematsu – a veteran of FF in its various incarnations and keyboardist for The Black Mages – vibrant and emotive. The much-touted Director’s Cut originally teased back in 2006 was finally released to Blu-ray as ADVENT CHILDREN COMPLETE in 2009, and accompanied by a tease for FF XIII. Both Japanese and English-speaking actors were recruited to record new dialogue for 26 minutes worth of hitherto deleted and extended scenes – though certain juvenile actors were recast due to vocal changes in the intervening years.
The film’s age (yes, 2005 can now be considered as a significant period in the past…groan) means that Sony’s new 4k disc perhaps inevitably accentuates some of the flaws of the original animation – the clunkier elements that, back in the early years of the 21st century largely passed us by while we were bowled over by everything else. It would be unfair to judge it by the standards of contemporary animated features in 4k, but the latest incarnation genuinely enriches the movie’s cityscapes and character detail, while superbly balancing the visual contrast of oppressive blacks and greys with the richer primary colours found in its more hopeful moments. The Dolby Atmos track is vibrant in the major set pieces, helping to immerse us further into this world than ever before, while emphasising the richness of Uematsu’s score.
Some will carp at the absence of the original, shorter cut of the film and the lack of new supplements; there are also certain extras on the original Limited Edition DVD not carried over to either this or the earlier Blu-Ray disc release. The main drawing card, however, is the new transfer of the best version of the film. The complete cut contains over 1000 new edits, with various efforts made to enhance the realism and impact of the action sequences. Characters are physically more ravaged by battle and hardship in this version and the confrontations are bloodier – including a battle between Cloud and Sephiroth that ends with a visual cue from the game in which the former is impaled. The opening stretch has notable extended dialogue between Rufus and Kadaj, though the most noticeable distinction between the two cuts is how ‘adult’ this one feels: note the gritty extra detail of life in the city for the homeless orphans or the Geostigma victim puking black gunge as he painfully expires in the backstreets. The ending is also extended as Edge’s orphans descend en masse to Aeith’s church, where Cloud lies in wait. If this is your bag, welcome to the definitive incarnation of “your bag”.