Released before the game, the film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016) wanted to introduce the audiences to the world and backstory of what they could be playing later in the videogame. The problem then rises, is the film in essence required to understand the game, or can the film be watched after playing through the game. Can Kingsglaive be reviewed as a stand-alone film, or is its sole purpose to complement the game, and vice versa?
The title refers to the King’s special guardforce, the Kingsglaive. They draw magic powers from the king and are able to use the same warp-strike as Noctic in FFXV. Should the king perish, the magic of the non-royal Kingsglaive will also seize to exist. Their duty is to protect the King and the Crystal, which is kept in the city of Insomnia, and provides it with a magical forcefield to shield the city from attacks, The Wall. The empire of Niflheim has invaded all other regions except Lucis, and is looking to conquer it, by means of signing a deceptive peace treaty through the marriage of the King’s son Noctis and princess Lunafreya, whom Niflheim has captured.
It is one the most visually impressive films I have ever seen. I did not find anything about the production budget online, but the CGI at times surpasses the most expensive Hollywood blockbusters. And the film is basically entirely CGI. The character’s life-like, photorealistic facial expressions and fluid movements are basically seamless, if not completely flawless throughout the film’s running time of 1 hour 46 minutes. Voice-acting features the likes of Sean Bean, Aaron Paul and Lena Headey, and they do not disappoint. For example Aaron Paul fleshes the protagonist out through his voice-acting, and is not immediately reminiscent of Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. I did not pick up any annoyances on the lesser known actor’s behalf either. Even the character types avoid clichés, and to my taste the way everyone has a very distinctive look is admirable. The faces have the look of famous actors, but still indiscernible enough. The characters have a style and soul of their own even without uttering a word.
Obviously, mere eye candy does not a good movie make. The plot was expected to be the usual B-movie quality, but personally, the dramatic moments worked just fine, and the film was surprisingly funny, and not just in a campy way. Some of the more political themes, such as immigration and the issue of refugees was touched upon, but not too overtly. Overall, the plot moves along in a good pace, building up to the extremely enjoyable final fight. A battle within a battle, a true cinematic pleasure, for both Final Fantasy fans and action movie fans as well. Besides action, the movie encompasses sci-fi, adventure and fantasy.
The film however does not show FFXV’s protagonist Noctis but briefly as a child. The stars of the film are the Kingsglaive themselves. Nyx Ulric, Crowe, Libertus, General Glauca, these names of the main characters do not say anything to the player of FFXV. They are all well established in the film however, and after watching, I am kind of hoping to be able to play as Nyx if Square-Enix would make a DLC involving him.
I will remind you here that I played the game first, before watching Kingsglaive. 30+ hours of time spent in FFXV equals to finishing the story and some of the aftergame sidequests. In my opinion, either way results in a confused state of mind. Playing the game before seeing the movie means you will be surprised by some of the events in the game’s story, and not sure what some of the character’s agendas are. Seeing the movie first will spoil some of the ways the events unfold, however predictable they might seem to some players. These contradictory feelings happen simply because FFXV the game does not introduce or even try to explain the main story in the first 4-5 hours of playing. Once the event that is the main plot of the film happens in the game, it is only shown as a weird cutscene out of nowhere, without other sounds than background music. Imagine the players confusion without having seen the film. Following this, similar confusion would arise I imagine, if the player watched the film first. Spoilers aside, the film and the game feature almost entirely different characters. The attachment to Noctis and friends from lengthy periods of time spent with them in the game won’t transfer to the film. Similarly the bond to Nyx and company the audience makes of course doesn’t make it to the game experience.
The film worked for me as a story of its own, despite all the complaints. The problems it has from the disconnectedness to the game can be overcome, but it remains an intriguing question of what lead to these decisions in both the film, and the game. In the end though, it could have been a whole lot worse.