In the next scene, Cloud returns to the Sector 5 church and finds Tifa unconscious. Tifa recovers briefly, long enough to tell Cloud about Marlene. This seems to trigger a response from Cloud’s stigma, which has it weeping black liquid for the first and only time in the film. The liquid falls on Aerith’s flowers below, and suddenly both Cloud and Tifa fall abruptly asleep in the flowers in a dream-like sequence, the wolf from earlier looking over them.
Cloud wakes up later in a bedroom, with Tifa on a nearby bed. Apparently this is Tifa and Cloud’s home above 7th Heaven, and they were brought there by the Reno and Rude, who report that both Denzel and Marlene have vanished. Cloud does not reply.
We cut away again at this point. Sorry for all these jumps, but it’s just the nature of a film to be less linear than a game, whereas gameplay forces the camera to stay with the party from a few minutes to hours and hours. In any event, this cut brings us to the City of the Ancients, far to the north, where we learn Kadaj has set up his base and is checking out the materia Loz stole in the previous scene. He installs one to his armour.
Back in Edge, Tifa wakes, and we begin to intercut between Tifa and Cloud talking and a scene of Cloud driving the Fenrir through the Sleeping Forest, presumably in the future and en route to Kadaj’s base. In the present, Tifa chastises Cloud for isolating himself from her and the kids (and everyone else for that matter), having concluded that he was doing it because of the Stigma. Tifa tries to urge him to stay with his family, but despairs that maybe that only works for “real families,” which was a catching point for her in the short stories. Perhaps to her surprise, Cloud does call them a family, but he continues to be a douchewaffle and says he can’t help anyone.
Just then Reno comes in, saying that they’ve determined the kids are being held at the Forgotten City, and we rejoin Cloud on his bike in the future, before cutting ahead to his destination. Kadaj is giving a speech to the children of Edge (about two dozen of them) across a small body of water – the place where Aerith was laid to rest. Kadaj makes a speech with all kinds of big words they quite possibly can’t understand, saying that the Planet is to blame for the Geostigma being painful, saying that the pain is a byproduct of the Planet trying to fight off Jenova’s remnant in the Lifestream, and as such it is now fighting her remnant in the children. Offering to cure their pain, he steps into the water, causing it to turn black, and he instructs them to step in as well and to drink the water. They do, including Denzel, causing something strange to happen to their eyes. The only exception is Marlene, who is still held prisoner by Loz and not forced to participate. There is no reason for him to have excluded her.
Cloud drives through the Sleeping Forest. If you think back to FFVII, you might remember that he had a dream about Aerith coming to the Sleeping Forest after the events in the Temple of the Ancients. Now that he’s back in the Sleeping Forest, he has a vision of her again. Here in Advent Children, Aerith is voiced by Mena Suvari of American Pie fame, who puts in a much better performance than she did in Kingdom Hearts 2. While I still think I prefer Andrea Bowman for Aerith, Suvari doesn’t deliver anything near the airy performance she did in KH2, where I once described her as “about to float up into the ether and never return.” In the vision, Cloud tells Aerith that he wants to be forgiven. It’s fairly obvious that he wants to be forgiven by her more than anyone else, but she plays ignorant. But before their conversation can continue to any particular end, Yazoo and Loz interrupt in the real world and open fire on Cloud. Nearby, and Kadaj gives an order to the children, directing them as if by mind control to jump in Cloud’s path. Cloud, not willing to run them down, comes to a crashing stop.
Kadaj seems about ready to kill Cloud when Marlene distracts him and Cloud gets back to his feet. Cloud enters a battle mostly with Yazoo and Loz, where (I presume) their use of Materia gives them a magical edge they didn’t have before. After an extended battle, Kadaj joins the fight and Cloud seems about to lose when suddenly a red, fabric shape appears and rescues Cloud, unleashing gunfire on the trio before escaping entirely. Unfortunately, Cloud’s cell phone is knocked into a pool in the process and lost. In the next scene we learn that, obviously, the “red fabric” was Vincent.
Vincent is voiced by Steve Blum, and I suppose that if he shares a scene with Barret he’ll be reuniting with Beau Billingslea, seeing as how Blum is the voice of Spike on Cowbow Bebop. And yeah, he was also on Naruto, but I promised to stop talking about that, so let’s instead mention the fact that Blum has a Guinness World Record for being the world’s most prolific voice actor, awarded in 2012. Vincent explains that he’s been spying on Kadaj, repeating an explanation of the Stigma for anyone who hasn’t caught on to the details (he basically describes the stigma as an autoimmune disease). He says that Tseng and Elena were brought by Kadaj to the City of the Ancients while they were still alive, and explains that he tried to help them, but he’s vague about the results, saying “We’ll see.” He then explains what Shinra really found at the Nothern Crater: “Jenova’s head.” This is what Kadaj is looking for when he and the other Remnants talk about “mother.” Now, as I already said in the FFVII Journal, the people responsible for the movie have said that this isn’t meant to be taken literally, and that Tseng and Elena only found a random assortment of Jenova’s cells and offal, but I still think Jenova’s literal head makes a much tidier explanation given how it basically vanished into a plot hole during the events of FFVII. Besides, “head” is a pretty weird way to refer to some random gore. I can’t help but suspect that something went wrong during development somehow. In any event, Vincent speculates that Kadaj is trying to “recreate Sephiroth.”
Suddenly, there’s a rustle in the woods, and Marlene appears, having apparently escaped Kadaj in the scuffle. Cloud reassures her that Tifa is all right, and Marlene desperately wants to talk to her to confirm, but without Cloud’s phone they have no way to do so (do you even get service up here?). Vincent doesn’t have one, either. By the way, I want to point out that Vincent has a cell phone in Dirge of Cerberus, so everyone probably hoisted it on him after he upset this small child. Cloud tries to pass off Marlene to Vincent, saying he has to go talk to Rufus, but Vincent refuses. Presumably Vincent is turning him down because he’s aware of Cloud’s family issues, but I can’t help but laugh at the idea of Vincent being all, “Ew, children.” Moreover, Marlene gets angry at Cloud, saying that Cloud is never around or there for her, Denzel and Tifa. She runs over to Vincent, even if he doesn’t seem to want her to be there.
In an awkward cut, we suddenly snap back in the time to the previous scene with Tifa, Cloud and the Turks. Here, Cloud once again insists he has to talk to Rufus, and this time it’s Tifa’s turn to gets angry. (During the argument, the two Turks awkwardly argue comically in the background about whether or not they should interrupt.) It’s not really clear where Tifa’s anger is coming from, making me suspect that there might be a localization problem. Don’t get me wrong: Tifa’s family concerns are perfectly valid, but please note that all Cloud has said is that he’s going to speak to Rufus, so in English, at least, he hasn’t said anything about abandoning the kids and for all we know he’s trying to arrange a flight to the City of the Ancients! The film has not connected “calling Rufus” to “giving up.” I understood Marlene’s anger, as Cloud was making it very clear he was going to abandon her like he’s done in the past, and furthermore she was about to be abandoned in a forest with a vampire, but Tifa’s got no ground to stand on in the film as-stands! In any event, Tifa says that Cloud must be scared of the possibility that he might not be able to save the kids, and notes how he refuses to be close to anyone.
After Tifa has said her peace, the Turks leave the room but encourage Cloud to go to the Ancient’s City just like Tifa, and Tifa says: “Which is it? A memory, or us?” Suddenly, Cloud once again enters a vision with Aerith, where she implies that Tifa was trying to say that Cloud’s guilt over Aerith’s death is preventing him from moving on to his new life. The Aerith scene transitions us back to the Sleeping Forest (getting a little dizzy here), and Cloud seems to have a change of heart, agreeing to take Marlene home personally, which cheers her up. Cloud asks Vincent if sins can be forgiven, and then says he’s going to give it a chance.
In an artistic shot, we watch Cloud’s cell phone sink to the bottom of a deep pool, while we hear a number of phone messages. No one here says anything of particular importance, and it’s mostly just here to illustrate Cloud’s estranged connections, but I will use the scene as an opportunity to drop a few more voice actor bios. Reeve leaves the first message, introducing Jamieson Price, another frequent game and anime voice actor, with credits going back to 1979 for The Castle of Cagliostro. Yuffie also calls, saying that children have gone missing from Wutai as well. She’s here voiced by Christie Carlson Romano, the voice of Kim Possible, who got the role in Kingdom Hearts 1 but for whatever reason wouldn’t keep it beyond Advent Children.
At the end of the scene, Aerith’s voice says that she never blamed Cloud for her death in the first place, implying that he has no need to ask for forgiveness, and we once again see the wolf… except this time, as we pass a number of trees, it vanishes.
To the sound of electric guitar, we time skip and cut south to Edge, where it seems that Kadaj and his gang have shackled their brainwashed children to the Meteorfall monument with long chains. They’ve gathered quite a crowd of angry parents and other denizens, but they break it apart with their dog monsters from earlier. Tifa arrives on the scene and spots Denzel through the crowd, but given his condition, he doesn’t respond to her.
Loz and Yazoo seem about ready to pull down the monument when Reno and Rude arrive, and the two villains and announce that they think Jenova’s head is held in the monument and that Reno and Rude are just too low-ranked to know about it. Based on the Turks’ embarrassed but angry reactions, it seems like they realize this is a genuine possibility, and Reno attacks. Meanwhile, we discover that Kadaj has either kidnapped or met with Rufus in a skyscraper construction site overlooking the monument. Rufus asks Kadaj what Kadaj means to do with Jenova’s cells, and Kadaj confirms that Sephiroth is coming back, mostly to exposit about what Sephiroth and Jenova actually are to any new audience members. Kadaj seems upset that Jenova might prefer Sephiroth as an agent over him, but he’s willing to go through with “her” plan all the same, since he wants what Jenova wants.
While Kadaj is trying to be threatening, Rufus strangely announces to Kadaj that he’s never had this much fun, so Kadaj gets angry and decides to use the Materia he placed in his armour earlier as a show of power. Despite that materia being white (maybe blue) when he put it in, it turns out that it’s a Summon materia, which should rightly be red. Using the materia, Kadaj Summons yet another form of Bahamut… who like basically everything else in the film is not identified in any way. Apparently, a lot of the initial release criticism for Advent Children revolved around its plot not making much sense for audience members who had not played FFVII. I’d like to tell those critics that while weren’t wrong, they didn’t need to worry all the same, because this movie often doesn’t make sense even if you are coming from FFVII. In any event, this is Bahamut SIN. Where Cloud found its Summon materia, we will never know.
While Bahamut SIN behaves in a manner that seems to be independent, it must be receiving some instructions from Kadaj because it moves to destroy the monument, knocking out Tifa in the process. Reno and Rude start to bolt, Reno accidentally hitting Rude in the face in the process, and then almost hitting him a second time. Full-time comic relief, folks. They serve virtually no other purpose for the rest of the film. I don’t wholly know how I feel about that, though I admit that a few of their jokes work well enough, if you forget who they are and what they’ve done. Just as they’re about to clear the area, the two of them pass the ring of children and remember what they’re here for. They try to rescue two of the children and are later seen running off with them. How they get them free of the chains is not clear. In the end, however, Bahamut SIN destroys the monument.
Yazoo and Loz chase after the Turks and engage them. Why they aren’t investigating the monument for Jenova’s head, I can’t imagine, but the film’s priority for action scenes isn’t a surprise at this point. Loz continues to ask the Turks about Mother, but it’s fairly clear these two know nothing about it. Like I was implying: this scene isn’t important.
Bahamut SIN continues to rifle through the rubble, apparently looking for Jenova’s head on its own. Just then, Denzel wakes from his stupor only to find Tifa unconscious and shielding him. He’s furious and he foolishly charges the dragon, only to be interrupted by a figure with a mechanical hand, which transforms before our eyes into a chain gun. It’s Barret, of course, and he’s not alone: basically the entire FFVII cast is here just in time for their cameos.
(By the way: in On the Way to a Smile, Barret’s new transforming hand is created by an old man whom Barret claims to the man who created his original chaingun. That’s interesting and all, but within only a few months, Before Crisis would retcon the role of Barret’s original prosthetist to a young woman – one whom we’ll be meeting in the franchise’s next entry.)
Anyway, let’s take a look at the cavalry. Red XIII is here, voiced by Liam O’Brien, an anime voice actor known for .hack and Paranoia Agent, though more of you will probably know him better from Critical Role. Cait Sith has arrived, but just the cat part – and indeed, the Moogle part will never be seen again in the franchise. Cait Sith is voiced by Jonny Reese, aka Greg Ells, a live and voice actor. I’d like to tip my hat to him for being a part of the talented rotating stable of actors on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but others may know him from 24, The Lion Guard, or even the Bratz TV show. He was also one of the voice actors in FFXIV. Cait Sith rides Red’s back, and speaks in an unambiguous Scottish accent from this entry out.
By the way, I’ve been watching this movie again with subtitles on, and it’s clear the subtitles were made from an older version of the script. Here, when Cait remarks “We canna handle this!” in the audio, the caption instead reads “Jings, crivvens!” Wow, they must have really wanted to emphasize his accent after it was mostly missing from the original game!
Barret’s new transforming gun runs out of ammo (or possibly jams), just in time for Yuffie to arrive via parachute, furious about Kadaj getting his hands on “her” materia. Next to arrive is Cid, voiced by Chris Edgerly. Some may know him as Hidan on Naruto, and has been a regular Simpsons voice actor since 2011. Cid explains how they got there by pointing up to a new airship which he named after Shera. The Shera’s origins are unclear, which makes it unfortunate that Cid implies that there’s a story behind it, making everyone who gives a damn want to hear the answer when there really isn’t one solid answer in the first place! To spoil the surprise: On the Way to a Smile says he built it, and Dirge of Cerberus says… something less credible. We’ll get to it.
Last to arrive is Cloud, who tells the others that he took Marlene home and that she’s safe now. Wait, she’s safe at home… in Edge? The city that has a godforsaken dragon doing somersaults through the commercial district? Denzel goes home to be “safe” too, and Cloud promises that he’ll come back to join them once this is over, implying he’s ready to be a part of his family. He then drives off to join the others.
The Final Fantasy regulars all get a chance to show off, except Cait Sith I suppose, who’s mostly there to scream in terror. Finally, Cloud arrives (Barret: “The hell you been?”) and it’s clear from the change in music that the staff didn’t really care about anyone but Cloud being here to begin with.
Kadaj is laughing and enjoying himself from the tower. Judging from the captions, which are once again out-of-line with the finished script), he’s just about to Summon something else (or perhaps give some sort of order), when he makes the mistake of stepping two steps too far away from Rufus. As soon as he does that, Rufus stands on his own two feet and casts aside his blanket, revealing that while he’s not in perfect shape, he’s not nearly as bad as he was faking. Moreover: his right arm works, and it’s carrying the case with Jenova’s “head.” You can immediately see why the film staff was insistent that Jenova’s head wasn’t really a head: the box just isn’t the right proportions to hold one. Sooooo… could this all have been solved in a simpler manner if the box had just been a little bigger?
Rufus quips “A good son would have known!” (killer, in fact quite possibly the best line in the film) and tosses the case off the ledge. Kadaj, furious, seems to order Bahamut SIN into the air, where it will soon attempt to destroy the city. What really happened is more complicated: after cutting away from the heroes in the previous scene, we actually jumped forward in time to Kadaj and Rufus, and now we’re jumping back in time to watch Bahamut try to destroy the city and will later return to Kadaj and Rufus at this exact moment. Does your head hurt yet?
In any event: the giant dragon about to destroy the city. The FFVII cast use an increasingly preposterous system of assists to get Cloud higher and higher into the sky so that he can finish the monster, but they’re too late, Bahamut SIN launches a huge fireball. Cloud travels right through the fireball, and doesn’t honestly seem to mind the fire all that much, but it does seem to affect his momentum (oh, sure), only for him to have another vision of Aerith, as she becomes the last party member to give Cloud a boost, making it a true group effort. Okay, as goofy as the rest of the scene might have been, that was incredibly touching. I’ll let you by with a warning.
Cloud bursts through the fireball, seemingly destroying it, and slices Bahamut SIN from end to end across its back, killing the monster and only doing millions in property damage in the process!