Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV Review

August 28, 2016

Films based on video games are nothing new – we’ve had decades of terrible Resident Evil movies to show for that. It’s tough to adapt storylines which are intended to be interactive, and producers’ attempts thus far have resulted in some peculiarities (minutes of Silent Hill were dedicated to the protagonist faithfully checking maps).  What has begun to emerge as a better option, through films like Resident Evil Degeneration, Warcraft and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed, is to make a new cinematic narrative that exists within the game’s universe. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV hopes to beat the game’s universe to the punch, by introducing audiences to the world of Final Fantasy XV before the game has even been released. The film has seen a limited cinematic release in Australia, before a streaming release on 30 August, and I’m pleased to say that when compared with Square-Enix’s previous attempts (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), it’s their best film yet. How much that actually means is another story.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV’s main hurdle begins with its opening narration, as a flurry of news reports and images are thrown at the audience as the kingdoms of Lucis and Niflheim are introduced. There is a lot of terminology to come to grips with, which isn’t helped by the overly flowery names everyone has. I only really caught the names of Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul) and King Regis (Sean Bean) since they were said the most often, but browsing the Wikipedia reveals that other characters names apparently ranged from Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (Lena Headey), General Glauca and Titus Drautos. At times it feels like studying a Shakespeare film to pass an exam rather than enjoying a video game action movie.

Simply put, Kingsglaive takes place in the world of Eos – a world that looks very much like present day Earth if anime was real, where the empire of Niflheim is at war with the peaceful kingdom of Lucis. Lucis is protected by a magic force field, summoned by King Regis, whose royal blood in turn is powered by a crystal residing in his palace. After a show of unimaginable power by Niflheim, Regis is coaxed into a devastating peace treaty by Doctor Who lookalike Ardyn Izunia (Darin De Paul), the evil empire’s Chancellor. We see the signing of this treaty and its potential ramifications through the eyes of Nyx, a member of the ‘Kingsglaive’, the King’s personal squadron of elite soldiers, also powered by his royal blood magic and able to teleport around enemy combatants at lightning speed.


This probably all sounds like a lot of plot to take in, and it really is. It’s weird that the new Final Fantasy movie has its heart set on being a political intrigue plot, played with an incredibly serious tone. It’s the Rogue One of the Final Fantasy XV universe, setting in motion the events of the game and with a post-credits scene that literally feeds into the start of it. There is a bit of Star Wars about the plot, especially with the imposing General Glauca, garbed in re-growing armor and bearing a resemblance to Darth Vader. There’s also a parallel with the dreary political machinations of the Star Wars prequels, but where those were overly simple, Kingsglaive tends to be muddled and unclear. Even The Lord of the Rings seems to have a huge influence, with a magic ring that tempts and tortures its owners, becoming a central plot point of the third act.

Bland characterization throughout the film is also a problem, as it becomes difficult to separate out the members of the Kingsglaive from each other – which is something you need to know towards the end of the film when the chocobo poop hits the fan and characters begin to turn on each other. The voice actors do a decent job of handling the dialogue, which doesn’t get anywhere near as cringeworthy as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, although it falls into the same trap as Kingdom Hearts of wallowing in cheesy musings about ‘hope’ and ‘the future’. Sean Bean and Aaron Paul are the best, while Nyx’s friend Libertus is probably the worst.

But, it never feels as unsubstantial as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, nor does the acting become as unintentionally funny as Warcraft. The film does a decent job of exploring the consequences of King Regis’ decision to accept a peace treaty, and the breaking of his subordinates’ trust. On its own merits, Kingsglaive is an overly complex plot, executed competently but really carried along on the strength of its visuals.


The two aspects that Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV will be remembered for, ultimately, are its photorealistic CGI and spectacular action. For the most part, the film looks gorgeous, almost managing to vault over the dreaded Uncanny Valley many other mo-cap films fall into. There are shots where the characters’ faces are obscured by magic or glass where I could have sworn they were live actors. The design of Lucis is overly elaborate, yet reminiscent of many real-world cities, right down the egregious and baffling product placement (there are actually ‘beats’ headphones advertisements in a Final Fantasy film – yes, really). However, sometimes scenes can feel empty – like the arrival of the Niflheim Emperor in a plaza apparenty only merits a light turnout from crowds, and while thunderous applause is heard, nobody appears to be doing anything but standing and looking mildly interested.

The action takes place on a scale so far unseen in any of Square-Enix’s previous films. Giant monsters summoned by Niflheim do battle with Lucis’ own defenses, providing Pacific Rim action on one level, while on the ground the Kingsglaive teleports around their enemies from every angle. It can be difficult to follow at times, but despite their warp-capabilities, the characters move with a weight and heft that the heroes of Advent Children lacked.

Final Fantasy nerds will also appreciate a range of references to several games of the past throughout the runtime, from chocobo jokes, to the FFVII WEAPON-esque ‘demons’ of Niflheim, to cameos by some popular summon monsters at the climax. There’s even an appearance by a much more threatening incarnation of Ultros from Final Fantasy VI.

Would I call Kingsglaive a good movie? For me, the performances and tone kept it from being as cringeworthy as the dialogue threatened to become, and the visuals were impressive enough that there was always something to look forward to. The film does get very silly in its climax, inviting comparisons with the excess of Tekken: Blood Vengeance, but I came away wanting to see the continuation of the story, which Final Fantasy XV will bring. Perhaps it’s not a great movie then, but a good marketing exercise. But one that involves a lot of fight scenes.


Spectacular action
Nice nods to past games
Photorealistic CGI


Can be difficult to follow
Bland characters
Cheesy dialogue

Overall Score: