Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV – Review (** 1/2)

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Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

Surprise, surprise! The third Final Fantasy movie to date is another visually stunning and action-packed but narratively soulless effort that will do fine enough business with the drooling converted, though it’s a strictly aesthetic, explosive sort of pleasure.

Intended as a prequel of sorts to Square Enix’s highly-anticipated upcoming video game Final Fantasy XV, Kingsglaive follows King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (Sean Bean) of Lucis, who forges a peace treaty with the empire of Niflheim that involves the marriage of his son to Niflheim’s Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (Lena Headey). When it turns out that Niflheim’s higher-ups have more violent ideas, it falls to Kingsglaive soldier Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul) and his comrades to try and restore peace to the kingdoms.

As expected, Kingsglaive is, like just about any Final Fantasy project, jam-packed full of exposition that forces the viewer or player to swallow countless odd and convoluted names, to the point that you may quickly stop caring and just strap in for the gorgeous art direction and fun action.

If taken seriously, this one falls apart pretty fast, but if you’re prepared to pay minimal attention to the narrative and those involved in it and merely soak in the undeniably first-rate visuals, there is a fun time to be had here. There’s no disputing the time, effort and money spent on the insanely lifelike animation, which shines both in the more sedates dialogues and the exuberant, lengthy set-pieces.

It’s just a shame director Takeshi Nozue – who also helmed the previous Advent Children movie – doesn’t have a better idea about pacing, because this one’s hurt considerably by its near-2-hour runtime and abundance of talky scenes sandwiched together without action-packed reprieve. At the same time, the action is all bunched up such that you’ll be left waiting a long time for the payoff, but when it comes, it at least has the courtesy to be gratuitous bordering on total overkill.

The pretty fight scenes will likely make the film at least watchable to most card-carrying Final Fantasy fans, though it’s a shame that actors of this caliber are largely wasted on such piecemeal writing; Paul is a bland grunt and Headey is hilariously miscast as a woman much younger than herself, so it’s really only Bean who gets away unscathed as the wise King. They’re clearly just here for a quick buck, even if something this lavish and meticulously-constructed in so many areas really shouldn’t stink of a cash-grab quite as much as it does.

It’s certainly not a bad film, but one that’s ultimately almost as effective if you peel away the characters and plot and treat it like a tech demo. On the plus side, it’ll probably make you hungry to get your hands on FFXV, because the world-building is absolutely rock solid.

** 1/2

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is available now on VOD

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