Saturday, September 17, 2005
Beyond Shrek: Final Fantasy VII Advent Children
It has been about ten years since Pixar created the CG film genre with Toy Story. Unfortunately, in those ten years, CG films have largely retreated into a narrow genre of children’s films or a children’s film with adult humor mixed in to make the viewing tolerable for the parents who would inevitably have to accompany little Johnny into the theatre.
What many people did not notice about Toy Story and its sequel was the distinct lack of slapstick humor in the story. What ultimately made both movies so watchable and endearing were the characters and the drama behind them. Toy Story was far more mature emotionally than any CG films that have appeared since. The talking toys are superficially childish but they make people care about them as characters. It makes Andy growing up and forgetting to play with them more real, since we all have had toys in childhood that at one point in time meant to world to us but was ultimately forgotten and left out in a box somewhere. While Pixar continue to make similar films and their work remain incredibly watchable and enjoyable, it is Pixar’s niche, like it is Hayao Miyazaki’s niche to create superbly animated family friendly movies. The irony certainly cannot be lost to me that most of Miyazaki’s family friendly animations contain more drama and thought than your average GC dreck, like Madagascar.
The lack of imagination can be blamed on a number of things. First, the Hollywood system for imitating success means that once Toy Story hit it big, every studio wanted a kid friendly CG film on the market. And once Shrek and Shrek 2 made it even bigger, the studio heads concluded talking animals and slapstick was the only way to go for CG movies. The second party that needs blaming is the Sony-Squaresoft team who had an opportunity to break the cycle in 2001 with a CG Final Fantasy movie but blew the chance with an overwrought imitation of bad science fiction.
Square-Enix’s latest CG effort, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children shows some of the sparks that was missing in their first effort. Based on the highly successful Final Fantasy VII game, the movie is tailored largely to a Japanese audience and to fans of the video game. The CG work is absolutely stunning and in many cases, rivals ILM’s work on live action films. There is genuine drama in the film and Advent Children’s final dramatic scenes between Cloud Strife and his conversation with Aerith (Aeris) Gainsborough proves that CG films can be more than talking animals, slapstick and a who’s who collection of Hollywood voice actors and comedians.
It is too bad that Advent Children will confuse people who have never played Final Fantasy VII and as a film, the creators were too busy paying homage to The Matrix Revolutions and a plethora of live action science-fiction movies to take notice that they had chance at creating a truly great film but let it slip away.