It seems like only yesterday — OK, it doesn’t, because really it was 2001 — that the video game creators of “Final Fantasy” sought to put their vision of their universe and their “story” in a big screen movie.
My memories of “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” are hazy, but not the hate mail. Oh, those video gamers and their fumbling grasp of the distinction between a movie, placed in wide release, and a game that they’re already invested and immersed in.
Animated characters — not remotely photo realistic — fought and chased each other hither and yon in a tale that made little or no sense, with or without the rules of the (badly) computer-animated gamescape it’s all set in.
Fifteen years later, another Japanese-made, “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” makes it to theaters, a quantum leap forward in animation and design, if not a great leap in motion capture technology or in story.
The images are more flexible, more tactile and more mobile, though the faces still lack much expression, and none that anyone could call nuanced or subtle. The settings are striking and photo real, on a par with the fantasy and sci-fi cinema’s state of the art.
But take away the advertorial nature of “Kingsglaive,” ignore its utility as a cheat sheet, prep for the players of various corners of the game world it depicts, and deal with it as a story with characters and incidents anybody not into the game would watch, and it’s the same old “Final Fantasy.” It remains a misshapen mash-up freighted with sci-fi fantasy exposition and a back story so convoluted that a mere two hour movie cannot make heads or tails from it.
This one dwells mostly in the realm of fantasy, a universe of medieval castles and armor and steampunk sci-fi weaponry and creatures, a world where the Kingdom of Lucis faces new treachery at the end of an uneasy peace with the Niflheim Empire.
There’s a magic crystal — of course there is — and the only warriors King Regis (voiced by Sean Bean) trusts to defend it are his Kingsglaive “empowered by the magic of their sovereign.”
There are tusked wildebeest warhorses, and when somebody shouts “Release the DEMON!” they’re talking about war crabs — crabs that spit out a hailrstorm of fireballs.
The stakes are high, and there’s been a lot of intermixing of Lucians and Niflheimers in the “hundred years of peace.” But anti-immigrant backlash rears its head.
“We don’t need any of you immigrants jumping around, playing war hero!”
And since there are immigrants, there’s a “wall.” Who says video game film adaptations can’t be topical?
The dialogue, delivered by actors like Aaron Paul and Lena Headey, who didn’t do the motion capture “acting,” is generic “Get back here alive! That’s an order!” and “You speak of matters beyond the wall.”
There are good soldiers, “immigrants” who must prove themselves, an evil prince, all given tongue-tangling names like Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, should you choose to try and remember them.
Only one name matters for movie fans, the city under threat. It has the silliest city name this side of “Resident Evil” and its “Raccoon City.” They call it “Insomnia,” here. Though this “Final Fantasy” is a sure cure for that.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for fantasy violence and action throughout
Running time: 1:50