Back in the construction site, Kadaj attempts to kill Rufus with his Materia, but apparently hasn’t learned that Rufus is explosion proof. Rufus deliberately drops out the side of the building and starts shooting Kadaj for good measure. Kadaj doesn’t care and drops past Rufus, trying to seize his “mother.” We switch camera angles and discover that Yazoo, Loz and the Turks are improbably having their fight just below the building. We then return to the fall to reveal that Rufus takes one more shot at Kadaj, but appears to miss and instead hits the case (you could also argue that this was deliberate, it’s hard to say). Naturally, this commotion attracts the attention of the Turks and the goons. Kadaj manages to secure the damaged box and hits the ground safely, while to everyone’s surprise, two nets shoot out to catch Rufus: it seems that Elena and Tseng are alive after all, and have just been waiting for their moment! Don’t get too excited, though: they have nothing else to do in the film, and sadly don’t even appear in Dirge of Cerberus, essentially vanishing after this quick, twist cameo – though their roles were mildly extended in the Advent Children Complete cut.
Now that Kadaj has Jenova, he and the other Remnants grab their bikes (which just so happen to be right here? Elena and Tseng didn’t consider rigging them with bombs or anything while they were waiting?) and Cloud, who has just arrived on scene on the Fenrir, gives chase. Yazoo and Loz move to intercept Cloud and keep him away from Kadaj, but Cloud trounces them this time. Frankly they’re lucky that they even stay on their bikes. The battle proceeds to a tunnel, where Loz throws his bike at Cloud wholesale. Cloud destroys it, leaving him and Loz fighting over control of the Fenrir. After this, the fight outright takes to the air and Cloud escapes with the Fenrir, the two Remnants forced to use one bike.
We cut to the end of the tunnel, and find Reno and Rude waiting with dynamite. They talk as though they aren’t likely to survive this, but I’m not sure why. If you have time to blab to one another, you have time to set the dynamite and run away, so what’s the issue? A fair amount to time later, Cloud races out past the Turks, and Reno and Rude set off their explosives as suicide bombs just as the Remnants pass, blowing up all four of them.
Cloud catches up to Kadaj and they have a brief clash, Kadaj cutting Cloud’s sleeve and forcing Cloud to tear it off, revealing his stigma… and his Aerith ribbon, which would have absolutely been significant if the film had explained it in any way. Kadaj, meanwhile, proceeds to the Sector 5 church, where he examines the damaged case. Kadaj looks into the crack in the case and begins to cry. It’s not clear why: my initial reaction was that Jenova’s cells had all “leaked out” during the bike ride and that he had failed in his mission, but he later proclaims that everything is fine, so maybe he was just overcome with joy? Whatever’s going on, Kadaj is soon interrupted by Cloud. They battle, heavily damaging the church and especially its floor, and Kadaj gets the upper hand. He’s about to shoot Cloud with his Materia when a geyser of water shoots up from the damaged floor. This water heals Cloud’s Geostigma and forces Kadaj to retreat, Aerith’s voice speaking to clarify that she’s responsible for this deus ex machina. Oh yeah, people who have never seen Final Fantasy VII must have been loving this.
Cloud chases Kadaj to another location, where they exchange a few lines of dialogue. The key thread here is Loz and Yazoo’s insult to the Turks at the monument, despite neither Cloud nor Kadaj being present at the time? Cloud implies that Kadaj, too, does not know the real plan of the higher-ups, in this case Jenova and Sephiroth. Steve Staley then has a pathetic delivery as he attacks Cloud by reminding him that he used to be a puppet, too. The fight picks up again.
The rest of the FFVII cast arrive on the Shera and decide that they won’t interfere with Cloud and Kadaj’s duel because this is “Cloud’s fight,” since Kadaj is some piece of Sephiroth. And I just can’t stand this logic. Let’s be 3000% clear here: their confidence in Cloud’s ability to stop Kadaj is irrelevant. It is a certain fact that if they helped him out, they would be more likely to defeat Kadaj than leaving it to Cloud alone. Kadaj is trying to resurrect Sephiroth, an omnicidal monster who has already nearly wiped out the population of the planet. By not interfering, the FFVII cast is implying that they believe Cloud’s personal development is more important than the lives of every single person on the entire Planet, including the entire Planet, including Cloud. They would rather die, see Cloud dead, and see everyone else dead, than allow Cloud to deal with his issues at a slightly slower pace. Either the plot has rocketed out of the writer’s control into a nightmarishly myopic moral failure, or Cloud is just honest-to-god so annoying that they’d rather die than face his personal problems for another hour. They’re the heroes. It’s the X-Men problem again: this world-destroying situation is well beyond the personal story Square Enix seems to want to tell, and I’m gonna drag them for it.
You know, I’ve actually been an advocate of smaller-scope narrative games for some time now, something coming up on ten years. It’s something I’d love to talk about someday, but my everyday reasons for preferring smaller-scope games are basically irrelevant to the current discussion. But man. Oh god. Is it something else to watch something like AC march into centre stage with brand new evidence and implode with hubris. In short, if you want to tell a story about the dangerous of environmental exploitation and how blind trust in corporations puts the literal future of the world in danger, tell that story. If you want to tell the story of a man estranged from his non-traditional family, tell that story. Do not – please! – do not mistake one for the other!
And let’s not talk about the very real possibility that the rest of the party stayed behind on the Shera because the writers didn’t have the money to animate them any longer!
Tifa then delivers a line that’s had Kyle laughing for over a decade, implying that basically everyone in the cast is out of shape besides Cloud. Yeah, that’s… that’s great for all of you in a world still full of monsters, a world so dangerous that your humble delivery boy not only had to stay in shape but has to drive around with half a dozen swords in his armoured bike. Good call to everyone, including the robot cat, who can’t fall out of shape and yet lost 9/10ths of its combat prowess via its missing Moogle half.
Sure enough, even though Cloud overcomes Kadaj, this “this is his fight” nonsense proves to be a writer’s empty excuses to force the plot into doing irrational things. Kadaj breaks open the case, collects whatever bit of gristle is still inside, and shoves it into his belly, causing him to transform into Sephiroth. That’s how cells work in the FFVII universe, we’re already three entries into this series, keep up.
After a little posturing, Sephiroth announces that he’s disappointed that Cloud’s Geostigma has been cured, saying he plans to use the Geostimga victims to somehow destroy the life on the planet. The particulars aren’t very clear. Sephiroth then says that he’s going to ride the husk of the planet as a vehicle, just like Jenova did in the past, though unlike Jenova he then starts talking about building a better world on some other planet. Urm… what? Sephiroth never seemed all that interested in making a better world. Shouldn’t he be filling his mother’s shoes as a roving death alien or something? And how does he even plan to build a better world, does he plan to enslave some aliens or make more clones or something? I suppose it doesn’t matter, because it’s not actually going to happen, but it is very odd to me.
Sephiroth calls down strange black clouds to plague the world. Based on what he’s saying, these clouds are somehow made out of the stigma, though it doesn’t seem to have any direct connection to the victims of the stigma. Speaking of the victims, we cut to Marlene, who sees a vision of Aerith, though this doesn’t lead to any immediate effects.
We then watch Cloud and Sephiroth battle. Hey, want to play a fun game? I’m going to sit here and not say a word about the action, and include only plot summation. Let’s see what’s truly relevant in this big finale, shall we?
Five minutes later, Cloud wins. Yup, that’s it, it was a sugar finale, all spectacle with no purpose but spectacle. Sephiroth’s entire presence in the film, after the line about him directing the Stigma from the Lifestream and from there up until his defeat, is completely irrelevant except as a cheap, spectacle-ridden benchmark for Cloud’s growth. Sephiroth’s last words are “I will never be a memory,” but since he plays no role in Dirge of Cerberus, I think we’ll have to disagree with him.
Sephiroth reverts back to Kadaj, but Kadaj is too weak to continue the fight, and collapses. As Kadaj starts dying, he hears Aerith’s voice and it begins to rain. Mistaking Aerith’s voice for his “Mother,” Kadaj dies and dissolves into the Lifestream. Meanwhile, the rain cures the Geostigma in most of the children, and we discover that Reno and Rude are still alive as Rufus is cured as well. On the Shera, Tifa thanks Aerith.
And then, as Cloud is standing around, at peace with the world, he’s suddenly shot through the chest! It turns out Loz and Yazoo are also still alive, if dying, and Yazoo is the shooter. Ironically, Yazoo says, “We’ll go together,” Tetsuya Nomura apparently unaware that that would become a heartfelt, important, and recurring line in Kingdom Hearts starting in KH2, released only a few months later! (Ed. I later remembered that “We’ll go together” debuted in the secret concept trailer for KH2 included in KH1’s Final Mix remake made in late 2002, so maybe the contrast is notable!) In any event, Yazoo and Loz both die and fall into the Lifestream, but launch a magical attack on Cloud with their final breaths, consuming the three of them in another explosion, because god knows we wouldn’t believe Cloud was at risk of dying from a subtle wound, god forbid.
Cloud finds himself in a void of white, which must look pretty familiar to him after all that’s happened over the past three games. There, Aerith appears to him, and he too calls her “Mother,” which she jokes about. Then, to my surprise and delight, we hear Zack’s voice as well. Aw, what can I say? He grew on me in the end, and I miss him a little, and I’m delighted to see him reunited with Aerith. Honestly, I miss him more than the main FFVII cast, if I can be so honest. Zack jokes that since he and Aerith can’t adopt Cloud, it looks like he has no place in the afterlife and that they’ll have to send him back to the living world.
Cloud once again finds himself accompanied by the wolf from earlier (while I didn’t work this out without the help of the Internet, the implication is supposed to be that the wolf is Zack). The wolf fades, leaving him in the hands of six of the formerly stigmatic children in the Sector 5 church, who have immersed Cloud in the pool left by Aerith’s geyser earlier in the film. Unfortunately, as I said when we introduced Geostigma: 2005 computer CGI, even bleeding-edge stuff like this, was still not good enough to depict liquids. Wet things were also out of its power, which means that Cloud comes out of the water completely dry, with perfectly set hair. At least they had enough sense of humour to make a joke out of it in the ending of KH2!
Cloud finds the party waiting for him, along with Marlene and Denzel, Marlene’s hand in Barret’s. Red XIII then has his only line in the entire film that isn’t a battle grunt, saying that there are other children who still have the stigma for whatever reason, Denzel included. I don’t know, maybe they had umbrellas. Continuing our baptism allegory, and serving as a reversal to Kadaj’s dark baptism earlier in the film, Cloud leads Denzel into the water and pours some of it on his head, curing Denzel. The other kids all jump in as though the puddle were a swimming pool, everyone having loads of fun. Except for Cloud. Cloud is not allowed to have fun.
Finally, as Cloud is looking around the church, he sees Aerith, seemingly speaking to two of the children. He watches as she walks to the light of the open door, where Zack is waiting for her. Zack waves goodbye and follows her out. The final line in the film is Cloud’s, surrounded by children: “I know. I’m not alone. Not any more.”
In a post-credit scene, we see Cloud together with his full family: Denzel, Marlene, and the entire FFVII party.
So, Advent Children: …Ehhhhh. The action scenes are more fun than I’m making them out to be, but the whole thing feels so incredibly inconsequential. The villains are especially weak. The three Remnants have a deliberate childishness about them, given their reliance on “mother” and the implication that they were just fractional extensions of Sephiroth, not able to survive on their own. This was an odd decision when it comes to making them threatening, and I’m not even sure that Yazoo and Loz have personalities – except maybe the two times Loz was upset about missing Mother.
But while I’m not impressed by Advent Children, I’m also not all that unimpressed. Like FFVII itself, it hits in the middle for me. The most frequent complaint I’ve ever heard about Advent Children was that it rewound Cloud’s character development to his old mopey self, but I think Cloud’s reasons for being upset are strong enough. Sometimes grief and trauma take a little while to kick in. I think it’s unfortunate that every fan gripe about Cloud’s moping seems to have ignored Advent Children’s happy ending, which leaves Cloud arguably even happier. And I mean it’s really hardcore ignored in the fandom: I genuinely believed from cultural osmosis that Cloud would end the film even grumpier than he started! Maybe walked off into the sunset, all alone like fuckin’ Ryu! Even though fans who hate Cloud’s portrayal in the film have their points (and they do have their points), I think that speaks to the disingenuous way in which these discussions have been held that such a major, contrary piece of evidence has been tossed into an incinerator.
Another frequent complaint I see is that that Advent Children threw aside FFVII’s sense of humour, which existed to balance its drama. Personally, now that I’ve been through both, I think that FFVII’s propensity to make jokes has been overblown by fans in the attempt to strike back at Advent Children’s tone. I do think AC could have done better than a few seconds of Cait Sith wailing and the dedicated comic relief of those wacky mass murderers, the Turks, but let’s be clear: FFVII is able to fit in its back-and-forth tone because it’s 25+ hours long. Once you compress to a two-hour film, there’s less room to stray from the main plot. If FFVII had been reduced to a two-hour movie, I’m not sure how many of its gags would have remained either, since a story about the death of all life on earth, with side stories about characters solving their personal problems, including a prominent (if somewhat dubious) plot about memory loss, wouldn’t have much room for laughs when reduced to that kind of scale. Similarly, I hardly think that AC’s story about guilt and introspection – however naturally or unnaturally that guilt may have arisen – should have been interrupted by gags on the part of the introspective party. Maybe if Cloud had given chuckle here or there, but even this version of Cloud got to slam a door in Reno’s face, you know? While I didn’t get many laughs from Cait Sith and the Turks, I have a feeling that they represent about as much screen time as I would have allowed for comedy in a film of this length if I were in the writer’s chair, even if I like to pretend I’d have written something funnier. To go any further would, in my mind, require a drastic change in subject matter and theme, and that’s just now how I run my criticism. Maybe it’s just me.
When all is said and done, I have no strong feelings, not unlike FFVII itself. I’d certainly like to see the Complete version someday, but that’s a day in the future, when I have money to burn on something I’ve largely already seen and wasn’t that impressed with. When I first-drafted this Journal in 2016, I was even willing to declare Advent Children to be better than FFVII, but that was never on AC’s strengths so much as it was on FFVII’s flaws. At the time of posting, AC’s lack-of-strengths has become all the more obvious to me, and I think I’m ready to put it below FFVII even despite VII’s problems. Of course, I don’t even need to say which Compilation of FFVII entry is my least favourite. That, it seems, is basically universal, and we’ll start talking about it sooner than is honestly comfortable.