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Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children - Disappointing sequel, here's why

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The Following content is an opinion

Do not allow it to offend or cause problems, such as flame wars. These opinions are also not the official opinions of Final Fantasy Answers, which can be taken to be a neutral point of view.

By now you're all familiar with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.

If you're not, allow me to give you a quick run-through. Basically, there's a disease called Geostigma which is ravaging the people of Edge (a newly formed town), including Cloud Strife. On top of this, three Remnants of Sephiroth, Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz, are on the search for JENOVA. They are attempting to retrieve JENOVA and reunite with Sephiroth in an attempt to destroy the planet.
Long story short, the Remnants bring Sephiroth back who battles with Cloud and eventually is defeated along with Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz. Then Aerith heals the people afflicted with Geostigma from the Lifestream, and they all live happily ever after.

Fairly simple story, and for anyone who is unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VII in particular, would most likely enjoy it. And sadly, many anime fans who had never even touched Final Fantasy VII in their life came across Advent Children and were enamoured with it.

However, for anyone who did play Final Fantasy VII and is a fan of Final Fantasy will know for a fact that this movie is rife with inaccuracies, completely changes character's personalities and appearances for the worse, and pretty much (metaphorically) spits on what is essentially Final Fantasy VII.
Allow me to tell you why.

Characters

Cloud Strife

I liked Cloud Strife in the original Final Fantasy VII. Like, sure, he's no Zidane Tribal... but then again, who is? Anyway, Cloud is the hero of this story.
In the original Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is a somewhat cold and no-nonsense mercenary who has a mysterious past as a First Class SOLDIER. He reluctantly joins forces with Barrett Wallace and AVALANCHE, a terrorist group who are trying to save the planet from the greedy Shin-Ra corporation. Along the way, Cloud finds himself fighting against a new threat: the ex-First Class SOLDIER and man once revered as a hero, Sephiroth.
Along the way, as Cloud learns that his whole life is an elaborate lie, and he's taken on the identity of his old friend and the real First Class SOLDIER Zack Fair, things begin to change. Cloud remembers his old life and unlocks his repressed memories. From hereon in, Cloud is no longer the cold and brooding, emotionless mercenary. His past trauma is put behind him and he becomes the heroic, adventurous Cloud who dedicates his life to stopping Sephiroth from wiping all life off the planet with Meteor. Of course, he defeats Sephiroth, and we watch as the Lifestream and Meteor struggle against one another in the sky above the city of Midgar. It's not revealed what happens, but we're under the impression that everything turned out alright.

Brilliant story. Great ending, if not inconclusive, but that's what I like about it. Left up to your own imagination - does the Lifestream prevail and destroy Meteor, securing the safety of mankind? Does Sephiroth complete his plan even after death and the planet is rid of mankind, allowing nature to run it's course without the threat of man's greed looming over it?

Well, Advent Children answered this question, unfortunately. Turns out Meteor was destroyed, at the cost of Midgar. Oddly enough, Cloud Strife seems to have reverted back to his emotionally repressed state that we saw him in at the beginning of Final Fantasy VII. An entire game of character development, gone to waste. Completely undermined within the first ten minutes of a badly written sequel. Now we have to sit through an entire film just so that Cloud can do exactly what he did in the original again... it's ridiculous. There was no reason for Cloud to be brooding and depressed, even if they try and justify it with Aerith's death. If you recall Cloud's line in the ending of Final Fantasy VII:
"I think I can meet her... there."
Yeah, I know it doesn't make much sense. But the gist of it is that he's at peace with Aerith's death. He's not sitting in the corner crying over the death of a woman he barely knew who died two discs ago. By the end of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud has accepted her death. Simple as that... there's no need for him to cry about it two years after she died and block everyone out of his life as a result.

Then there's his relationship with Tifa. For all you Cloud x Aerith fanboys and fangirls, I hate to break it to you - In the original game, they make it very clear that Cloud and Tifa are a couple. The flashbacks to when they were children, Cloud impaling Sephiroth because he harmed Tifa, Tifa helping Cloud both at the Midgar train station AND through his Mako-induced coma, in which she unlocked his memories and all that jazz. If that's still not enough for you, then how about the scene where they have implied intercourse under the Highwind? Or perhaps the fact that Aerith is dead as a doornail, and always will be?
Turns out, Square-Enix doesn't understand or just plain ignores these facts. They'd much rather string us along with the belief that Cloud has romantic feelings for Aerith, and as a result he leaves Tifa in the dark. This was not the case, not in the original and it shouldn't have been in the sequel. I wonder if it was because of the Cloud/Aerith shippers that gave Enix the idea to conjure up a pathetic love triangle which, really, isn't a love triangle considering Aerith is dead? I don't know.

All in all, Cloud was made a farce. He became some sort of life-hating tough guy who would much rather drive his motorbike around while looking broody and then tell his friends how he doesn't care for them instead of actually doing what he does best - save the planet. Like the Cloud he should have been.

Sephiroth

Here's one for ya. The big bad Sephiroth. Villain of the Final Fantasy VII Compilation who's become so hyped-up over the years that he is probably now one of my least favourite Final Fantasy villains. It's a real shame, you know.
In the original, Sephiroth was just plain awesome. Not as awesome as some people might tell you, but this guy was great. Only seen in the flesh halfway through the game, Sephiroth was the ex-SOLDIER who went insane and slaughtered a town of innocent people before taking the head of JENOVA (the creature that he believed was his mother) and ending up in the Lifestream (Cloud threw him off the Mako reactor into the Lifestream during a battle). Sephiroth's belief that JENOVA was not only his mother, but also an Ancient and therefore the rightful ruler of the planet, leads him to proclaim himself a God. He attempts to summon the powerful Meteor, using JENOVA to retrieve the Black Materia for him (the device that allows him to summon Meteor). Then by using Meteor to destroy Midgar, Sephiroth will force the planet into exposing the Lifestream (pure energy) and absorb it, becoming a true God and taking control of the planet, which he believes is rightfully his.
Of course his plan goes awry when the heroes vow to stop him, defeating his new God-like form for good. Or so they thought. Upon escaping the Northern Crater, Cloud Strife senses that Sephiroth is not gone for good. So Cloud travels into the Lifestream through the Northern Crater to face off with Sephiroth once and for all. In a totally awesome battle, Cloud destroys Sephiroth using Omnislash, and the villain bursts into a beam of white light, supposedly being destroyed forever. It's an awesome scene - go check it out on Youtube if you haven't already, or better yet, buy the game and finish it. And that's it. Sephiroth, the once-hero and tyrannical God who threatened mankind as the planet's self-proclaimed ruler was dead, leaving the planet to battle with Meteor as I described above.

Great, isn't it? The original Sephiroth was brilliant. His life was an elaborate lie fabricated by Shin-Ra, but he was too blinded by his insane ambition to realise that JENOVA was never an ancient, and he was never the rightful God of the planet. Tragic villain who meets a tragic end.

Then Advent Children comes along. Remember how Sephiroth died? Remember how Cloud entered the Lifestream and vanquished his presence for good? Yeah, well you can kiss that goodbye. Cloud is supposedly haunted by the memories of Sephiroth, and the Remnants use this to their advantage by somehow bringing Cloud's memories of Sephiroth to life. Makes no sense. So, what Square-Enix is telling us is that the whole effort where I fought Bizarro and Safer Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII means nothing, because Cloud can't forget that he exists? How long will this go on? Because Cloud sure as hell isn't the only person who remembers him, I can tell you that much. Sephiroth was dead. Plain and simple fact right there - but Tetsuya Nomura was under the impression that without Sephiroth, fans would be disappointed in the movie. The real disappointment is that they basically made the original story obsolete because it turns out that their efforts were in vain. Now Sephiroth was "tainting the Lifestream" and giving people Geostigma while biding his time until he could return to the planet and kick the living crap out of Cloud.
It gets worse. His motives are completely turned upside down. All of a sudden, he doesn't give two shits about being the rightful ruler of the planet alongside his "mother" JENOVA. Now all he wants is to destroy the planet and kill Cloud. Where did that come from? I really want to know. It ruins his motives in the original, rendering his entire existence pointless and making him yet another generic "I'm gonna blow up the planet and you can't stop me" villain. Really disappointing that they'd just ignore what is essentially Sephiroth in favour of a more generic and baseless goal. On top of this, we have his change in personality and his sudden exaggerated power; plus Enix's desire to whore him out and milk all the money from gullible fans who are under the impression that Sephiroth could vaporise everything in the universe in the blink of an eye.

So, in the original game, Sephiroth is fairly mysterious. Even when his "human side" is shown, he's still a cold and ruthless soldier, only interested in completing the mission by any means. His reincarnation as JENOVA cares little for human life and will manipulate any and all to further his goals, slaughtering masses of people without remorse or second thought. He's not much for talking, and when he does it's usually scathing and emotionless (albeit a LOT of evil laughter thrown in). He talks down to the party, viewing himself as a God among men who doesn't concern himself with human emotions or affairs. Basically, this guy is insane. Sephiroth doesn't realise that he's a human like all the rest, and he deems it necessary to murder without remorse.
In Advent Children, Sephiroth is some sort of super-villain with his bad one liners (I've thought of a wonderful present for you... Shall I give you despair?) and he's overly cocky and kind of a smartass, like when he sarcastically quips to Cloud "Where did you find this strength?" That's not the Sephiroth I remember from Final Fantasy VII! He's mocking and likes to toy with people. The Sephiroth I remember would kill people in an instant, and surely wouldn't joke around or mock people during battle. And his super strength is unwarranted - this illusion that Square-Enix creates of Sephiroth being able to literally slice buildings in half and whatnot. Ridiculous.

Sadly, they have the fanbase feeding out of their hands. People believe that Sephiroth is this smart-aleck, super villain-esque guy who can and will destroy anything by clicking his fingers, and will never die. He gets worse with each appearance in video games and other related media... I think few actually remember or even know what the original Sephiroth was even about. Real shame.

Rufus and the Turks

First off, two facts that cannot be disputed:

  • In the original Final Fantasy VII, Rufus Shinra was destroyed along with the Shin-Ra building when Diamond Weapon attacked Midgar. You can clearly see it - The projectiles blast through the window and blow up Rufus. He's dead, end of story.
  • In the original Final Fantasy VII, Tseng was killed at the Temple of the Ancients by Sephiroth. You find him dying at the entrance, having been impaled by Sephiroth, and after that scene he is never seen again in the entire game. He's mentioned by Elena once who says he died. No matter how many times people claim it was a mistranslation, I don't buy it. Dead.

So, in the original Rufus and the Turks are evil. Not "misunderstood" like they're portrayed in every other title. I mean these guys are some cruel pieces of work. They kidnap Aerith and intend to interrogate her. They murder Don Corneo for fun. They're assassins and criminals. Rufus clearly states that he plans to control the world through fear and intimidation - not really a good guy. And the Turks aren't the funny, light-hearted comic relief who go on misadventures like everyone seems to think they do. No, they're villains, second only to Sephiroth and JENOVA themselves.

For some reason, Rufus survives the explosion (by "using a secret escape hatch at the last minute") and Tseng for some reason is perfectly fine. And they seem to want to save the world for some reason. Yeah, they spread love and goodwill and help poor orphans... wait, what? This is coming from the man who claims to want to rule the world through fear, so he makes his highly trained assassins help out orphans. Riiight...
Then there's Reno and Rude, who are made to be silly comic relief, similar to the Three Stooges in their mannerisms. What the hell, Enix? These are the guys from Final Fantasy VII who ruthlessly tracked down Aerith and attempted to kill the party on several occasions. Sure, there were moments when they showed their human sides, like when they were off-duty at Wutai or when you find them at Gongaga and Rude professes his crush on Tifa. But overall, they're not meant to be funny. They're meant to be trained killers.

But no, people prefer them to be the love-spreading warm hearted company who want to save the world. Oh, man... ruins a perfectly good group of antagonists (who frankly should have been abolished after the death of the Shin-Ra executives and the destruction of their city and company).

Aerith Gainsborough

Here's one that really pisses me off. Aerith was never one of my favourite characters to begin with. I felt she was overhyped and sort of annoying, not really that much of a goody two-shoes, and I wasn't sad when she died. So you can imagine my annoyance when she was portrayed as some sort of Goddess of the Planet in Advent Children.
They make her way more powerful and influential than she was ever meant to be. Instead of the great struggle between Meteor and the Planet, which proved to everyone that the Planet was in fact a living being and could feel pain when it was exploited by the Shin-Ra company, and did have the ability to fend for itself and fight back against Meteor, Square-Enix decided that it would be much better if Aerith was responsible for destroying Meteor which rendered the planet pretty much useless and without a mind of it's own. Holy failed which left the Planet to fight for itself, which it did. But no, it was all Aerith all along. Really annoying that she somehow has more influence over the Lifestream than anyone else, and she can make magical rain appear out of nowhere which cures everyone's Geostigma and brings everything back to normal. Newsflash, just because she was the last surviving Cetra, doesn't make her the ONLY Cetra. She shouldn't have any more influence over the planet than any of the other dead Ancients, but apparently because she's Aerith she's allowed to save the world from beyond the grave.

And they paint her in this sort of holy light, as if she's Mother Mary or something. Aerith was just Aerith - she was a normal woman. She got jealous, she could be happy or sad, she could get angry and she did humorous things such as dress Cloud up like a girl to infiltrate Corneo's mansion. When did she become and all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Goddess who could come to people in holy visions and had the power of divine intervention? Why is she all magical and pure, as if she's the second coming of Jesus? How come she has power over the Lifestream? WHY CAN'T DEAD PEOPLE JUST STAY DEAD!?

Other characters

These characters were either too minor in the movie or they didn't have enough reasons to warrant my dislike in order to write a full section on them, so I'll just sum them up real quick.

  • Tifa: She's all sad and depressing in this movie. Where's the awesome Tifa who kicked ass in Final Fantasy VII? And why does she let children tend the bar?
  • Marlene: This kid is just annoying now. They made her some sort of mini-Aerith who's all holy and wise, despite not really knowing Aerith in FFVII.
  • Remnants: These guys just sucked. Like, I dunno, maybe think of an original villain instead of making three Sephiroth replicas?
  • JENOVA: She died in Final Fantasy VII. Hell, I remember killing that bitch myself before I fought Bizarro Sephiroth. I ask again, why can't characters stay dead?
  • Denzel: Am I supposed to feel sorry for this idiot who gets into a truck with a bunch of strange men and then joins their cult? He was annoying and stupid.
  • Cait Sith: Only issue with him is his voice. I never once imagined him to have a Scottish accent, considering he is essentially Reeve Tuesti...

And there you go. That wraps it up for characters. Really disappointing that they got good characters and either reverted them to their most basic state, or just removed what made them good because they wanted them in the movie but needed a different motivation for their existence.

Also, people who are dead need to stay dead. Like, seriously, stop bringing back characters who ran their course purely for fan service. True fans would prefer it if Square-Enix didn't mess with characters, not to see all the characters slapped together in a badly written sequel for the hell of it.

Story and Style

The story itself wasn't terrible. Like, if it wasn't a Final Fantasy VII title, it might have been bearable at least. But the fact that they call it Final Fantasy VII is just pathetic. What was a part Sci-Fi, part Steampunk world is turned into some sort of post-apocalpytic shit hole named Edge. Why do people live in Edge when there are heaps of settlements around the world they could live in? God only knows. Regardless, it wasn't a Final Fantasy VII feel. All the character designs changed to be more modern. And it just plain didn't work. What happened to cool places like Cosmo Canyon and the Northern Crater? We only got to see the Temple of the Ancients... rip off.

As for the story itself, they really couldn't think of anything better than to rewind the characters and make them relive the same old character development that we already saw. Pointless and boring. Some stuff just didn't make sense, like the existence of JENOVA, the fact that Aerith can make magical rain that cures Geostigma (why did she take so long to cure people?), Sephiroth appearing from Cloud's memories to destroy the planet for some reason...
Things just weren't thought out well. As I said, if I knew nothing about Final Fantasy VII before watching it, I probably would have liked it. But as a fan of the original, I just couldn't enjoy the movie after they dragged the original through the mud like that.

And the brilliant ending of Final Fantasy VII was ruined. Red XIII running up to the top of the mountain and looking over the ruins of Midgar, now an abundant forest, was awesome. It was symbolic that although we don't know what happened to the heroes, life still goes on. Perhaps mankind didn't survive Meteor, and nature reclaimed the world. Whatever happened, life goes on, and all is at peace. But no, all is not at peace, because two years after all that, the heroes have to deal with more shit. Can't they have a happy ending? Is that too much to ask?
Apparently so.

Conclusion

It saddens me. A great game, ruined in one fell swoop. People seem to like Advent Children more than the original, because it's more easily accessible. Any random anime fan can pick it up and watch it, and that's perfectly fine. They're allowed to enjoy it. But if they don't even bother to play the original and still proclaim themselves a fan of Final Fantasy VII, or think they know more about the story and characters than the rest of us, that just sort of ruffles my feathers. If only they knew the reality of things, that it's not a good representation of Final Fantasy VII.

It was a mediocre movie if taken out of context. It was a terrible movie in my opinion. If you were a fan of the original Final Fantasy VII long before Advent Children or the god forsaken Compilation ever existed, but still enjoyed Advent Children, please tell me about it. I'd really love to hear another perspective. If you're an Advent Children fanboy/girl and you want to direct your abuse at me for disliking this movie, please keep it to yourself. Or better yet, go play the original Final Fantasy VII and then come back and tell me what you think. I know for a lot of you, you'll most likely deem it terrible because the characters aren't the same, the graphics are bad, or the gameplay is turn-based, but trust me - it's a MUCH better narrative than Advent Children will ever be.

Thanks for reading.

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