Kingsglaive does something that not all video game tie-in movies are able to do: It mostly makes sense.
I say "mostly" because there are still elements of this animated fantasy film that will make you say, "Wait, what's happening?" Other parts of the film will make you say, "That's completely ridiculous." But by and large, this film (which serves as a lead-up to the Final Fantasy XV video game that will be released later this year, though one is not required to enjoy the other) has a coherent plot and characters that mostly have understandable motivations.
The world of Kingsglaive is an interesting mishmash of modern technology and aesthetics (sports cars, cell phones, business suits) with stuff much more medieval- and magic-looking (castles, swords, robes and metal armor). But if you don't spend too much time questioning "how?" the two worlds tend to blend together well enough.
The plot, though, is pretty traditional fantasy - sometimes to a fault. Warring kingdoms (one of them decidedly more evil than the other), an all-important marriage between a prince and princess, power hungry individuals who are willing to manipulate everyone (even family) to further their goals ... it's all here. You've even got an added dose of obvious themes with character names like Regis (he's a king), Nyx, and Libertus. There's even a town called Insomnia.
But where Kingsglaive can outshine your typical fantasy story is in its spectacle. It's an impressively animated film (though the lip syncing, at least for the English voices, can look a little off and gives a bit of an uncanny valley feel), and since there are no live action elements there are no real restrictions when it comes to potential action scenes, even if those scenes are extremely over-the-top.
In fact, some of the muddled plot was clearly a sacrifice made for fancy visuals. The explosive final battle is the clearest example of this, where a fight between two humans (magical they may be) is accompanied by a fight between giants, a la a Godzilla-style monster movie. There's barely any justification for this, and the magic involved is only briefly explained (there's a ring involved, because of course there is). But dang, it sure looks cool.
It also sounds alright. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) takes center stage as the voice of Nyx, but solid performances from Game of Thrones actors Sean Bean (Regis) and Lena Headey (Lunafreya) help keep things believable. It doesn't sound like they phoned in their performances just because this is a video game movie.
For fans of the Final Fantasy game series, there are a few nods, like references to Chocobos and even the appearance of a popular boss monster from Final Fantasy VI. As fans are used to, however, the world of Kingsglaive is not the same world as any of the Final Fantasies prior, so there's not a lot of baggage to adhere to, nor is there anything that uninitiated viewers would need to learn before seeing this movie.
That said, it sort of just ... ends. It did make me want to jump straight into Final Fantasy XV (which was just delayed to November, so that's a bummer), but it made for a less satisfying cinematic experience.
Kingsglaive won't set the world on fire, but it might just be the best movie that bears the Final Fantasy name. That's not a high bar, but it's an accomplishment.
KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV (C+)
Directed by Takeshi Nozue. PG-13 (for fantasy violence and action throughout). 110 minutes. At AMC Valley View Mall and AMC Parks at Arlington. Released digitally on August 30.