Critics Had No Clue How To Review Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV landed in theaters briefly before heading to Blu-ray and DVD. The film stars Aaron Paul, Lena Headey and Sean Bean in a lengthy standalone prelude for Final Fantasy XV, the JRPG due out later this year.

If you read any of the reviews for the near two-hour film you would likely step away thinking it’s one of the worst movies ever made. But don’t let the Rotten Tomato meter fool you or the Metacritic score deter you; many of the critics either weren’t paying close enough attention to the film itself or already had their low-score checklist primed and ready, well before firmly planting their butt cheeks into the cushioned theater seats.

Jeannette Catsoulis from the New York Times seems to imply that those who haven’t played the games might result in “brain addlement”. The review is a barely-there piece where Catsoulis admits trying to describe the film is “too ludicrous for words”.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

But is it so much more ludicrous than the speeder bikes and ion drives of Star Wars? Or the hyper-drive systems and multi-use phasers from Star Trek? Is it so far fetched from the dragons that breathed fire in The Lord of the Rings or the Hobbits occupying the Shire just outside the reach of Mordor’s touch?

I went into Kingsglaive with little to no expectations and practically no details about the backstory of this particular tale. For the longest I didn’t even know that the Kingsglaive was the name of the king’s elite fighting unit trained and equipped to defend the kingdom.

My biggest worry was that the film would be too dense and would suffer from information overload. But surprisingly it was paced well enough for just about anyone paying attention to catch on. I do think some of the editing during the fight and action sequences got a little sloppy with all the fast cuts, but it was a lot more solid than critics had let on.

The New York Times piece doesn’t exactly explain what’s so “ludicrous” about Kingsglaive that makes it so much more hard to swallow or a film in which you cannot suspend your disbelief in order to be entertained, especially compared to other sci-fi fanfare.

Now I will admit that the uncanny valley rings about as loud as a sledgehammer on a shaolin temple gong. Even though the dead-eye effect is better than what appears in games like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, it’s not quite good enough to look real at all times, creating visual dissonance. Sometimes the main character Nyx could pass for an actual human on-screen, but other times the supporting thespians looked like 3D scans of real humans that didn’t get enough sub-surface light passes; but to digress and move onto a better point, I have to give credit to Square’s animation and modeling team because everything looks fantastic.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

The improvements from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children are obvious, and this time around the writers spent a lot more time giving us world building nuance and plenty of identity for the kingdom for which the disgruntled and battle-weary Kingsglaive fought. The city of Insomnia felt like some kind of realized mix between medieval-fantasy and contemporary modernity. It has a style all its own and the lighting team lovingly crafted the kind of visuals in which the cinematographers had a field day filming, nearly giving viewers wide panning shots of the sprawling city that seemed to reach out and make love to the screen.

To his credit, writer Christian Holub from Entertainment Weekly actually seemed to understand and appreciate the visual world building that went into Kingsglaive. Holub actually seemed to watch and follow the film. In the end he calls it a “pretty hollow film”, rating it a C+, giving potential movie goers little to take away due to skimping over the epic battles or the fact that the writers managed to squeeze down a rather complex political situation involving multiple machinations from various characters into a fairly easy-to-follow story.

This was the sort of film that could have easily gotten lost in itself. The character and city names are sometimes harder to pronounce (and remember) than cities in Thailand after taking several shots of tequila, and trying to remember the motivations of some of the characters could have become muddled without consistent reminders of their allegiance. Yet the story does a fine enough job of introducing newbies and veterans alike to a story ultimately motivated by fearful refugees, bitter soldiers and power-hungry megalomaniacs.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

Obviously, the film has some loose ends given that a lot of the side-plots seemed to be built up to lead into the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV, but at the same time – even as someone such as myself who wasn’t too read up on the characters and plot of Kingsglaive – I was able to catch on just by following the film and letting it tell the story from start to finish. Character motivations and story threads – even some of the thin ones – seemed to make sense by the time the credits rolled.

Andrew Baker from Variety called the plot “stupefyingly written” with a “borderline nonsensical plot”. What about it was exactly nonsensical? Well, his major gripe was a scene involving a tracker that Nyx and Luna (the two main characters) didn’t immediately get rid of. The two were desperately trying to figure out how things had turned out so bad and a crucial element of the plot had occurred that left Nyx stumbling to reorient himself. I was forgiving of his lapse of coming up with an immediate plan to get rid of the tracker given their situation. But did that make the plot nonsensical?

Nonsensical is having Batman try to mercilessly kill Superman because… well… because Superman was kind of really reckless in Man of Steel. Now that’s a nonsensical plot.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

I also wonder if Baker thought The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies was “stupefyingly written” because the Dwarves decided to take back a castle guarded by a fire breathing dragon who loved gold (for reasons unexplained) instead of just settling on any part of the vast amount of land they covered in order to get back to the place guarded by a fire-breathing dragon? I mean, we can point out “nonsensical” plot points in otherwise brilliant movies all day long, but would I really say any of those points are enough to completely deter people from seeing the aforementioned films? Not really.

Britton Peele from Guide Live is a bit more adoring toward the movie, possibly due to his background in video game journalism, but still rags on the final end sequence, writing…

“[…] 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.”

Without giving too much of the plot away, there’s like an entire dialogue sequence that precedes the final battle that literally explains the justification for the battle itself. Crazily enough, that dialogue sequence followed another scene where a character met an untimely fate that tied into the dialogue sequence that explains why the final battle has to take place. In fact, the battle actually ties up a very important plot point regarding a very important plot device in which the movie kind of centers around after the halfway point (after another character meets an untimely fate due to said plot device). Literally, everything after the halfway point kind of leads up to justifying the final battle.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

Andrew Webster from The Verge decided to be the cool kid from the block, going against the grain where many of the other critics who gave the movie a poor rating at least admitted the plot did a fine job of easing newbies into the world of Kingsglaive. No, according to Webster the plot was too muddled for newbies.

In fact, while the other critics said the movie was too shallow, following tropes and cliches from sci-fi and fantasy a little too closely, Webster states that “narrative that tries to do too much” and later reaffirms that position by writing “the Kingsglaive story is too muddled to ease viewers to this new world.”

I’m actually more confused on what to think of the movie after reading the reviews than actually having watched it for myself. The plot is too muddled for some, too simple for others, too complex for a few more, and too dense for the rest. The only thing one can take away from all of these different opinions is that most of all the major critics didn’t like the story for one reason or another, but none of them can agree on why.

Heck, at least the hate for Batman v Superman was consistent.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV

Travis Hopson from Punch Drunk Critic takes the myopic route, simply steering everyone who isn’t a fanboy away by writing…

“Kingsglaive’s sole purpose is teasing Final Fantasy XV and if you have no interest in spending hundreds of hours of your life playing it, then don’t even bother.”

So obviously fans of sci-fi, cybernoir, cyber-fantasy and magitech wouldn’t be interested? Really?

Originally I saw all the negative vibes emanating from the typical erudite circlejerk and decided to steer clear of the film. Obviously movie critics know best, right? Wrong. As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy films films the only thing I should have steered clear from were critics.


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • Mike88

    Elitist movie reviewers are like progressive fuckers….the movie is mainly for the fan and those enjoy action sequence, a superhero wearing red suspender call superman and they call it a brilliant movie. Fuck these racist elitist movie reviewers….

  • TeenTheBean

    I just wanted to point out that shallow and “tries to do too much” are not mutually exclusive as you suggest. It IS shallow BECAUSE it tries to do to much. There are a lot of “character moments” in Kingsglaive but the problem is that none of them feel real because they aren’t earned. Like for example someone dies and we are meant to feel bad for that person and the person who cared for them but we were not shown a scene that actually showed this connection and made the audience feel it. (Also, two characters are hinted at having a past but this is shown for literally like 2 seconds. The two characters I’m talking about do have a well acted scene later which is helps but is not ideal.) Rather, we were told. This happens multiple times in several plotlines in the movie. It is shallow because rather than showing you the connections between characters or character development, it either does not show it all or takes 3 seconds to describe it. The latter CAN be okay in some cases if A) the actor is very good and B) the writing is excellent, of which Kingsglaive had neither (though I will said the 3 leads did a decent job). That being said, I still enjoyed it. I think they did an okay job with construction. The plot was easy to follow. The film just felt like they took a 3 hour epic and chopped out all of the character related/development scenes. Still made sense thematically and plot-wise but it lacked weight. I will say though it wasn’t as terrible as reviewers suggest it was. The world building and visuals were excellent so if the reviewers weren’t being prejudiced about it being based on a video game, it would have gotten an okay score IMO.

    • Gotta agree with your points, and I do agree that the total score would definitely be an “okayish” score, like C+ or B- but certainly not the single-digit percentage it received on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • sagewisdom

    Of course the critics were harsh against the movie, it’s like their worst nightmare. An animated movie that looks realistic, is based off a video game, being used to promote a video game, and is a prequel in and itself but a prequel not to other movies but a game? Turn that into a movie, label it horror, and they would all agree it was the scariest movie they’ve seen all year.

  • Rizky Arrydesta Suherman

    FFXV kinsglaive is the best FF movie so far! yes its kinda taste, style of storytelling, and also in many ways.. for God sake.. it was a joint collaboration from japan, europe , and USA… so it was japan in taste, america in gruesome merciless and struggle, and graceful in dialogues of europe ….so not everybody will enjoy it

  • Rizky Arrydesta Suherman

    Actually i enjoyed Kingsglaive, it was the best Final fantasy movie so far… It was mercilles, gruesome, and full of struggle… you must let go the mindset of final fantasy “GAME” in order to enjoy the movie… it was carefully made, the clue, the hints, and it actually pushes the audience to think… if you not watching it entirely you’ll miss the clue.. it was placed in visuals, in dialogues, and gestures… like the coordinates left by crowe…i quickly realize it as coordinate as soon as i see the districts labeled by their coordinates… and also the empire hidden agenda as soon as glaucus took lunafreya hand… it’s not the movie plot that;s muddled or was the audience… they can’t and couldn’t let go the “THIS IS A MOVIE OF A GAME” mindset, or “ITS JUST A FREAKI’N HUGE CUTSCENE OF THE UPCOMING GAME” and it entirely ruin the enjoyment… the plot was clearly laid.. “it was set in modern world where magic exist in a form of energy sealed within a hallowed crystal.. and thus.. another country..the nifeheim empire simply wants it! because they have very limited energy source..compared to lucis which powered by unlimited energy supplied by the crystal… ” simple motivation starts the war.. simply an unbalance in energy and power could lead one into a war…(it does in real life) and thus the war began..and the king assembled people (fellow lucist or refugees from other nifelheim invaded country) who could use the crystal power as magic (since not everyone could handle it) thus named them kingsglaives… but it appear..the kingsglaives are begin to lose their position in the war… they are pounded by extreme forces..and the enemy seems always been a step ahead.. (why? because of traitors in kingsglaive) thus king regis of lucis are offered a truce..but something is off from this truce… why? the long lost princes of tenebralis royal family are seems to be alive… thus the empire used this as leverage.. so sign the truce surrender your other territory to niffelheim, and niffelheim will spare the kingdom of lucis and their capital.. and plus they will give the lost princess back as a bonus(in marriage).. but something getting more off.. because why? the kingdom of lucist will have to welcome their mortal enemy to their own abode…(thats why king regis order to kindnap the princess from nifelhem to cut nifelheims leverage…but is thwarted by traitors who put trackers in the hairpin.. and killed crowe who was sent to take the princess back) which reveal their true steal the crystal..and kill the only permitted user of the crystal (king regis and his bloodlines) and thus the ring is needed to harness the crystal power…. its like the key for the crystal… so…the hunt begin for the ring (which lunafreya took) THE PLOT IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT! loose end was intentional for it to be tied in with the game…. come on guys… it was reasonable.. BvS plot is night and day compared to this!!

  • Kukuruyo

    I’ll have to agree with them this time. The movie IS bad.

    Visualy is impressive of course, and the last battle is worthy of watching on cinema screen. But everything else is bad. The plot is stupid and has a plot hole so big it can swallow a planet. It doesn’t make sense overal. In fact the movie made me decide not to buy the game, because if that will be the level of the plot…

  • Eric Cheung

    I was disappointed in the movie as a narrative and mainly the character of Lunafreya, while most of the characters were quite interesting, Lunafreya in the movie was extremely wooden and one dimension, she was the typical “I was born to fulfill my destiny” mono type character, which is a bit worrying considering that she is the central character to FFXV (next to Noctis). A lot of the story would have been better if it was more fleshed out, now I know Japanese film makers do not feed us all the info, but some elements of the plot were introduced, but then never explained, and then that particular plotline just ended. I think that’s the biggest problem, a lot of the ideas would have made more sense if the runtime was more extended, allowing for more exposition. Kingsglaive is much different than Advent Children in that we already know what had happened with the events prior to AC, but Kingsglaive is a prequel to the game which we haven’t even played.

    Visually and score wise, you can’t criticize this film, which is its strongest point.

    I did find some of the lip syncing with CGI was a bit off, I’m very certain that this film was developed with English as its primary language, but some timing was off for the syncs though.

    Still looking forward to FFXV, I hope Libertis and Nyx’s stories are somehow included or mentioned, because they were somewhat interesting characters.

    • while most of the characters were quite interesting, Lunafreya in the movie was extremely wooden and one dimension, she was the typical “I was born to fulfill my destiny” mono type character,

      She did come across as very wooden and one-dimensional, just until I realized kicked that she was the only character to anchor the plot in a steady direction beyond the main bad guy. I can understand the frustration that her character wasn’t more expressive, but it was also her steady resolve and unwavering dedication to her destiny that kept some of the characters tied to the unfolding story. She also helped balance out the unraveling Nyx and Libertis.

      I definitely see where you’re coming from, though, and I’m hoping they explore more sides to her character in FFXV given that they’ll have a lot more than two hours to flesh out the story.

  • C G Saturation

    Recent films have been so crappy that I can’t remember the last time I watched a film.


    Here’s mine after interviewing Takeshi Nozue and the people behind the film during SDCC.

    Preface: I put some big-time spoilers in there, proceed with caution if you did not watch.

    • Spoilers or not, that’s a review worth raving about. Highlights the good, points out the bad, keeps it on point.

      I also agree with a lot of what you mentioned. Parts of me kind of hoped that Kingsglaive really was wholly standalone because then they could have fleshed out a few of the loose threads regarding the Kingsglaive, the deserters, the betrayers and a few other characters. FFXV has a lot to live up to, though.

      • Very much appreciate the compliment! I hate putting in spoilers, but I will only do so if I know that it will enhance my argument. I went in with little expectations… went in with an open mind to see what the FFXV universe was all about. Pleasantly surprised by the photorealism and some good action scenes near the end.

        But man, there’s a ton of stuff I wanted to know more about. 🙁 And yeah, FFXV has a huge mantle on its shoulders and I kind of feel bad for that team, given how much they’re put into this.

  • Nick

    My biggest problem is that I want to see more of Nyx story and play him as the main character instead of switching over to Noctis in 15. The story and character they set up with Nyx is far more interesting, and seeing him finish the fight in the game and using his elite team of Glaives (what’s left of them) alongside Luna seems more entertaining to me than playing as the Jpop emo boy band.

    At this point, after all the events of Kingsglaive took place, I see no point in Noctis finishing the battle. They have already established Nyx as the hero, just keep him as the hero. :/

    • karsarts1021

      It’s true that I’m also not exactly thrilled to play as someone who seems like an bunch of emo teenagers( sorry in advance) and an epic hero. Sure he is somewhat old-fashioned, but who said that old-fashioned is bad? Whether old or new, Nyx is the image of a hero. Personally, I much prefer playing as an experienced adult than emo kids( sorry once again)

      • Nah, I’m right there with you. No need to apologize. Most people see Noctis as a stupid little kid on a boy-band adventure. Nyx was the underdog you couldn’t help but root for. If Aaron Paul did his VO and he starred Final Fantasy XV, it would be a must-buy from me.

      • Malcolm_Ecks

        So this game’s probably going to have FF12’s issue. Good gameplay, huge world, awful story.

    • Liya

      I read in another article that Kingsglaive’s story is based on a discarded story they were gonna used for FFXV. They should have kept this instead.
      The days where FF series have great stories are long gone. But visually, it is still enjoyable.

      • Nick

        I was talking with my brother about the discarded story a little while ago, so I wouldn’t be surprised.I miss the complex old age of the RPG era where you got large team members with complex stories that all fit together into the main plot. FF4, 5 and 6 are still my top favorites, followed by the Seiken Densetsu (Secret Of Mana)series.

        I can’t remember because it was years ago, but I thought the original Versus 13 storyline had Noctis as the villain/Antagonist? The new story seems a bit bland with him. We’ll see. :/

  • C G Saturation

    Weird. I thought the critics and media would be fapping all over it just because it’s Final Fantasy.

    • LurkerJK

      What are you saying, its been cool to hate FF since XIII-1 crashed and burned

      Most of the coverage ive seen of FFXV has been either neutral or negative, ive only seen some ppl in comments excited for it

      • C G Saturation

        I’m way out of the loop. I was often surrounded by people harping on about FF being the best just because it’s FF, so I thought people were still fapping all over it.

        I hate all these people who hate/like shit just because it’s cool to. Makes it difficult to have a legitimate opinion without people instantly assuming you’re just hopping on a bandwagon.

        Personally, I liked 6, had mixed feelings about the general direction in 7 and 8, then tried the start of 10 and thought it was the worst thing ever (for many many reasons, too long to list). I also tried Lightning Returns briefly, and thought it was weird (didn’t care about the story or characters at all). Not a Nomura fan, he seems kinda pretentious to me.

        • FF VI is still my favorite. It completed the arc between IV and V with the Espers/Crystals and had one of the best, well-rounded casts. I liked that so many heroes shared the limelight in that game instead of just one person hogging it all up like in FFVII. I didn’t like Cloud nor did I like Squall… both annoyed me and the stories weren’t so hot to make up for their poor characterizations.

          And yeah, FF XIII was a hot mess. Lightning wasn’t bad but all three games had a story I just didn’t care about. And the cut-scenes were too long and not very interesting.

        • LurkerJK

          1 I played the gameboy version I think they were similar, I remember liking it

          I did not care for 4 (2 in the us)

          I liked 5’s job system, did not care enough about the plot to finish it

          I liked 6 a lot, too many characters tho, I doubt I can remember half, and the ending sucked

          I am particularly fond of 7 but I understand that game was “the first one that did x” in many things for me, there is nostalgia at play, it was far from perfect, ending also sucked, I killed the Last boss with a single automated counter, meh

          8 I liked initially but after a few hours I hated every character, they are all whinny assholes and the drawing system that pretty much discouraged using magic, I don’t how I forced myself to finish it, ending also sucked, time compression wtf (I see a pattern here)

          9 I couldn’t like, it gave me a bad first impression and coming burnt out from 8 did not help

          For 10 I liked the combat a lot, when the character shut up it was a pretty good game, but that effing tidus and I never cared for Yuna either, I got right to the end and never finished it and I got there thx to speeding things up with an emulator, I imagine it sucks too

          12 the emulator did not work well with it when at the time came so I never played it for more than 30 min, first impression was not good

          13 by the time it was available for Pc I had no interest in trying

          13-2 I did try for an hour’s…. Www that combat and the character s might be even worse than 10

          13-3 I didn’t even look at

          My favorite was definitely tactics for both gameplay and plot, of course they had to fuck it up by dumbing down the sequels

          As for 15 I have no expectations, the footage looks meh, and the descriptions I’ve heard about how you play the combat works sounds like the worst iteration of “that game” all jrpgs tend to

  • Thom

    Really liked your take. Still haven’t seen it myself, but the visceral hate from some of the other reviewers is weird enough that I can’t help but wonder about their motives.

    • I mean, it’s not perfect or anything but it’s enjoyable. The reviews made it seem like you would be squirming in your seat waiting for it to end. It does a fine job of balancing story with action, and the voice acting was good enough. Aaron Paul really seemed to get into the character, and Lena Headey helped bring a subtle and refined sense of willpower to the character of Luna.

      Critics were really weird when it came to the voice acting, as they went from saying it was phoned in, to saying it was atrocious, to saying that it was one of the only saving graces for the film. Does make you wonder about their motives.

      • C G Saturation

        So much variation in critic opinion that it makes you wonder if any of them even watched it~

        • Ahahaha… yeah I think in the case of the New York Times review I was REALLY questioning if we watched the same movie. The criticisms made no sense.

          On the IMDB page the people who actually watched the film had the good and bad laid out and it actually makes sense. Most of the user reviews (negative and positive) are quite consistent in what they did/didn’t like.

          I’m not saying all the critics needed to say the same thing, but it would have been nice if there was some kind of consistency in their criticisms instead of a kaleidoscope trapped on a circlejerking carousel of self-congratulatory negativity.

          • C G Saturation


            Every single time I see an NYT article, it’s filled to the brim with such outrageous lies that I don’t think anything they say is even remotely believable.

  • Alex W

    I enjoyed KIngsglaive… but I get where the critics coming from. It was basically just one long stream of cutscenes meant to lead into a videogame. Someone expecting tight storylines and well developed characters is going to be disappointed.

    Thing is, you can’t judge Kingsglaive as a stand alone movie, because 95% of the essential plot and character development will be delivered via game medium. I don’t even know why the RT crowd bothered reviewing it.

  • Moon Strife

    Great Review! Finally a Critic with a brain!