The following post contains some spoilers for a ten year old movie. Assuming people coming to this site have some foreknowledge, you probably won't mind. But for those who don't have a clue, well, here's your cue to back away, watch the thing (honestly, we know how you will) and then come back and see if you agree with me, unless you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.
Geostigma? Check. Cloud Strife? Check. Sephiroth? Check. Giant Griffin-like creature? Check. A complicated story that many know but few understand? Check. These are all the story elements needed to tell the story of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. And I couldn't explain it to you if I tried.
Why, then, did I decide to watch? Out of curiosity, I guess. I saw the original theatrical cut around 8 years ago, when I was largely ignorant of the FF series - besides the first two games that I played so long ago - and when the credits rolled (I believe I was with a group of friends) I was stunned. It looked crazy beautiful. The action sequences were inventive, well animated and cleverly shot. The story was...confusing, to say the least. I admit to frequently asking myself, 'what the fuck is going on?'.
I'd never played any of the games in the FFVII franchise - not the original, nor its many spinoffs. I had the best intentions to do so, but other things kept getting in the way, and I didn't want to get sucked into the 40 or 50 hours I knew it would demand of me because I wanted to be productive in life. I guess I should've just played the game.
I would have been fine not watching it again, but damn E3 had to ruin that by announcing that the true HD FFVII remake was indeed happening. The hype machine had cranked up once again. From then on, my mind was on the movie. 'There's a director's cut you haven't seen! Now is the perfect time! 25 more minutes! Come on, come on, come on!' FINE, I yelled to myself. (I tend to spend a lot of time alone, so talking to myself is a thing. Deal with it.) I scored a copy (*wink wink*) and sat down for 126 breathtaking minutes.
First impressions? Even a decade later it looks mind-blowing. It feels modern, like it was fit for the here and now. New scenes added real depth and complexity to the story, re-done scenes made things a bit grittier and at times bloodier. The movie they always intended to make. I loved it.
And I was still confused. Sure, I understood a little more of the plot. A deadly alien virus called the stigma has infected a majority of the population. (This cut features a random dude drenched in the plague dropping dead in a puddle of water and stigma. Really brings the message across: this shit is bad.) Cloud is infected and basically given up on life, because gravitas. There are three crazies (they call each other brothers) who claim the stigma is a gift from Mother so all her children can be with her. There's a lot of stuff crammed into two hours, but at heart it's a continuation of the game, and a bunch of other short OVA's act as follow-ups. It's basically a middle chapter in a much bigger picture, which is why it's so hard to fathom.
Who is Zack? Some dude that has Cloud's sword talks to him near the end, pumping him up so he can have the strength to battle and hopefully defeat Sephiroth. Still, who the hell is he? (Turns out the PSP game Crisis Core has the answer.) And what's up with the Shinra corporation and its president? What do they have to do with the whole thing between Sephiroth and Jenova (apparently God, since the trio of bad guys Loz, Kadaj, and Yazoo - no idea about them either - keep calling her Mother)? And where do Cloud and his friends play into this? Or those two guys in suits? And was that seriously a cat riding a tiger-like animal?
So dope. It truly is a companion piece to the game, as I feel it was meant to be. Still, despite being confused about certain aspects of the backstory, the film's plot was amazing, and this director's cut elevates it even more, adding more side scenes that, while they could be cut if necessary, add an element to the story that cuts some of the confusion and increases the reward. But even so, you'll get the most out of the movie if you're truly knowledgeable about the FFVII universe.
And that's where the remake comes in, and where they could score (make lots of dough) with how they sell it. When it finally comes out, a genius idea would be to make an ultimate FFVII collection containing the games, the movie, and all the OVA's in one package. Then it would truly be the Complete FFVII saga. Then watching it after playing the game would be more rewarding an experience. Until that happens (more like if), I say definitely watch for an engrossing, visually-stunning experience. But if you want the whole shebang, everything neatly wrapped up in one simple package - well, go watch a shitty Hollywood movie with a neat little beginning, middle, and end.
The following is the sole opinion of Stephen and in no way represents the opinion of the site or its other writers.
If you would like to follow him on twitter to tell him how much he sucks or rocks, or how weird he is for talking to himself you can follow him @blablabiya