Kingsglaive itself serves as the backdrop to the game’s beginning, so by reading this odds are you’re not only going to spoil the movie for yourself, but may also be spoiling the beginning of the game itself. You’ve been warned!
This, the third entry in my FFXV Extended Universe review, deals with the most ambitious entry in XV’s universe save the game proper. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a feature-length full-CG movie that takes place within XV’s first few minutes and tells the tale of Noctis’s father and his trusted guards last moments in the magical and beautiful metropolis of Insomnia, and take place during the first 5 or 10 minutes of the game. The overarching story is very pseudo-Game of Thrones, full of conjectures and assumptions that just happen to be true as though they were the only possibilities certain actions could justify. The grand military battle is sloppily motivated, as fantasy wars usually are; Country A has been peaceful due to their magic (In this case King Regis’s ring, which in combination with a large crystal, can be used to generate two things; the New Wall [a large, FF “Wall” spell that surrounds the city, but weigns with Regis’s waning health] and the Old Wall [yet to be explained at this point in the movie]) keeping them safe, and Country B wants this magic in order to further their war effort. Abhorrently beautiful magic warfare ensues until both sides appear weakened enough to justify the game’s beginning; the good guys win just enough to carry the plot over to the game, and the bad guys lose just enough to stall their plans until the game’s climax.
An interesting note to make is that our main cast (Noctis, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus) don’t take part in the movie (save an early flashback with young Noct), even though Noctis is mentioned often. Instead, the story follows around Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad), capable member of King Regis’s (Sean Bean, Game of Thrones) Kingsglaive and short-haired Ben Affleck lookalike, a royal guard that draws magic from the king in order to protect him. Nyx and his merry band of companions possess the scarcely-explained “Power of the King” ability which allows them to teleport to their weapons after they’re thrown, much like Noctis. Nyx begins the story fighting in the field with his companions against the dreaded Tenenbrae Empire, a large, encroaching force of magically controlled living doll soldiers who use monsters (daemons) to do their dirty work. Longtime FF fans will immediately recognize the “daemon” released at the end of this fight to be one of the endgame “Weapon” bosses from VII. It was a really nice touch and added a hint of nostalgia to the moment, as well as immediately gave us a sense of how larger-than-life their battles were. Nyx and co ultimately lost the battle (though spectacularly), but the enemy withdraws instead of finishing everyone off. During their debriefing, the loose threads of the film begin to show. Immediately after the battle, during the debriefing/reconfirming scenes, the cinematography goes from Hollywood-level shot planning and transitions to a blur of fade-ins and outs within the same scene that may not look out of place in a trailer, but felt like something was lost on the cutting room floor in a feature film. A slurry of new soldiers are introduced, most with little or no role for the rest of the film.
Here, the Chancellor enters. There’s almost a tangible instant that the enemy of a FF game reveals themselves, and when Ardyn steps up to King Regis to offer him terms to his surrender, you definitely feel it. He’s honest, sarcastic, and a hell of a snappy (and yet confusing) dresser. It’s a shame how underutilized both he and his master, Emperor Iedolas Aldercapt, are, but it’s understandable in the grand scheme of things. The game itself will most likely give us additional reasons to hate them, so why get us hating them harshly now? King Regis accepts the terms of their surrender and both sides schedule a grand festival for the end of the war.
It’s at this point, away from the warfront and being briefed about a new mission by his superiors that we first see a bit of the underlying struggle here; Nyx and all of the Glaive were born outside of Insomnia, and with King Regis’s surrender agreement giving up all lands outside of the central city, the Glaive are now knights without a home protecting a king without a kingdom. Not only that, but those who live in the city have a particular distaste for outsiders, seeing them as less-than and treating them disrespectfully. Now, this segment in particular bothered me to no end. The plot has one character look into defecting, but over all the Glaive stands for their king. I understand duty, honor, and all of that good mess, but when you’re fighting an impossible fight against an unbeatable foe and your own king gives up your own land... Whatever happened to make Nyx so faithful must’ve been absolutely incredible, and it’s a shame it’s not shown in the movie because some character growth would’ve been nice.
It turns out the new mission was actually a rescue mission; Lunafreya, princess of Tenenbrae and Noctis’s childhood friend, is supposedly aboard an imperial vessel nearby, so Regis sends the Kingsglaive to rescue her during the signing ceremony of the new treaty. As is usually expected when such a decision is made, both sides collapse and an epic war on two fronts commences. With both sides obviously holding traitors, double-crossing and planned back-stabs commence, everything gets destructive and pretty, and before you know it, Lunafreya’s leaping off of a falling airship, saying “Sometimes miracles don’t need magic”. It’s a mess of misdirected scene changes, hastily explained motivations and gorgeous CG destruction.
Eventually, Nyx and Luna arrive just in time to view the King’s (remember: I already said spoilers!) death at the hands of a masked enemy we encountered in a flashback. This leads them back to the road, now running for their own lives and to get King Lucis’s ring to Noctis. On the way out there’s another EPIC CHASE SCENE filled with explosions and shooting and the realization that when Regis died Nyx lost his teleporty powers. Eventually Luna finds herself cornered by her older brother, Ravus (present in the game), who tries on the ring for himself and bursts into flames. He falls off the building, and Luna manages to remove the ring from his finger as he plummets. I hate these kinds of scenes, really. Take something from his hand, maybe, but snatch a ring off of a guy’s finger? Also, while kind of a dick, it was still her brother, and he honestly might as well not have been the way she treated his apparent death. From here, we have another insane chase scene through a massive city. I had another problem here; they were shooting at Luna the entire time, and if she had put the ring down somewhere? It was a massive city and such a tiny ring! Anyway, our masked baddie returns and begins fighting Nyx at the same point that a massive Daemon (Diamond Weapon, if you’re paying attention!) is dropped on the city. Nyx, getting his ass whooped, decides screw it; he’ll try the ring on and is confronted by the ghostly image of the “Protectors of Insomnia”. After massively disrespecting them, they make the decision to grant him the King’s power, but at a price. After taking off the ring and returning it to Luna, who escapes with another character, he continues his fight against the masked guy, summoning The Old Wall, which turns out to be fan favorite summon Knights of the Round. Visually, the fight is incredible, but as far as protecting the city goes... That’s not what happens. The battle is lost but the war continues on with renewed hope as Luna carries on Regis’s legacy to Noctis.
Final Verdict - Now that I’m done recapping the movie, I can get to the nitty gritty; was it good? Even as a hardcore Final Fantasy fan, I can’t give this movie a hard “yes”. It’s not that it’s bad, because it’s not, but if you have no point of reference for Final Fantasy or don’t intend to play the game, it’s a bad representation of the series as a whole. Like Advent Children and Spirits Within before it, Square has a hard time shaking off the bad habits that come from only animating short CG cutscenes for games. If you do intend to play the game, I’d have to say go for it, if only to see the fall of Insomnia before it’s only a radio blurb in the game. Whether you intend to see it or not, I recommend browsing a few YouTube videos of the fights just to see if it’s your cup of tea; sometimes all it takes is the visuals to drive a movie, and Kingsglaive is definitely a contender for this category. Personally I enjoyed it, but I also enjoyed going “Ugh... REALLY?!?!” every time something stupid happened.
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is available digitally on Google Play Video, the Apple Store, Amazon, and pretty much anywhere digital videos can be bought. I got my copy with my copy of XV: Deluxe Edition.