Unlike Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was actually enjoyed by fans of the Final Fantasy series. Ironically, while The Spirits Within played in local theaters, Advent Children was never to be shown in the United States, and people were meant to wait for the release on DVD. However, in the ArcLight Theaters in Los Angeles on April 3rd, 2006, Square-Enix showed Advent Children for a single showing in theaters three weeks before its DVD release.
I felt fortunate to be within two hours drive of the showing, and I took the day off on Monday to go. The showing was free, but there was one catch: Only a few hundred wristbands would be given out at noon, on a first-come-first-serve basis, and these could be exchanged for tickets at 6:00 p.m. The showing was to start at 7:00, but we could be admitted one hour early.
I left the house at 9 a.m., but rain delayed traffic significantly and I didn't arrive until 12:20. I figured 20 minutes didn't make a difference for tickets, but I soon found out that because of the rain, they started giving out tickets an hour early. Again, foiled by the weather. There were absolutely no wristbands left, and no tickets could be guaranteed, but I was welcome to sit in line and wait until six, see who didn't show up, and try to get a seat that way. For some reason, the reality hadn't sunk in yet, and I was non-plussed, assuming that I would get a seat somehow. After an hour or so lunch, I did come back and sit down, preparing myself for a four hour wait. I had a copy of The Glass Bead Game and an umbrella under which to read. Even with four hours to go, the line was stretched out around the corner.
You could tell that everyone waiting was a huge Final Fantasy fan. People had take off from work and school, and had driven hours to come see this screening. Of course, with the Bittorrent release, no one was seeing it for the first time. The first six people in line were a group of guys also from San Diego, who had left at midnight and arrived at 2 a.m. They had sat in line until noon, gotten the first wristbands, and figured it would be no problem to wait another six or seven hours. There were even some people cosplaying as Vincent Valentine, and rather randomly, Yuna. Some fans were holding Moogle and Chocobo plushies, wearing Advent Children t-shirts, and a group of girls were holding up signs reading "Honk if Final Fantasy own yours soul." The best part was that cars actually honked.
If you've never been to a convention full of nerds, perhaps you have yet to realize that they really are the best kind of people. Aside from the overt displays of fandom, nearly every other person in line was playing on their Nintendo DS wirelessly with each other. The group of two guys and a girl ahead of me in line also had DSes, and after they had stopped playing, I noticed they were discussing classes, computers, and then video games. For some reason, one of the guys appeared to be a particularly enthralling storyteller, and my attention was diverted from my book. I noticed that the three of them were eating some Japanese sweets, and one was remarking that this particularly one did not taste much like candy at all. After four years of Japanese, I could read the label sufficiently enough to tell them that it was a throat lozenge. They thanked me for the heads-up and offered me some strawberry filled chocolates. I asked if anyone would mind if I played some Advent Children music on my portable speakers (how handy), and the answer came back a resounding "YES." Two other girls joined us. It started to rain, so we all sat down and put our umbrellas together to keep the speakers from getting wet, and played our favorite Final Fantasy songs in, what we dubbed, the Nerd Cave. A Monster truck came by a while later, giving out free Monster Energy drinks, newstations came by to interview us, and several cars slowed down to ask us what we were waiting for, and drove away confused or disgusted.
After hanging out and talking about Final Fantasy for a while with my new nerdy friends, some lowlife, wristbandless scum offered to pay for someone's. He was assured that everyone attending was too much of a fan to give up a once-in-a-lifetime chance for $50. At that time, I let it slip out that I also didn't have wristband. After a moment of disbelief, a nice girl I met named Jessica offered her parents' tickets to me, as neither of them were crazy about going anyways. I got one ticket to get me in, and the other was to be saved for a scrapbook. I was so unbelievably ecstatic, and even more so when I saw how beautiful the theater was.
We waited inside the theater for an hour and a half, and the suspense was awful. My friends and I got front row seats in the center, with an expanse of carpet separating ourselves from the screen. Like the gamers we were, a dozen DSes shot up into the air, and everyone joined Mario Kart games. The rest of us took pictures, and speculated on how awful the English dub would sound. Soon, the voice actors and creators were given seats in the back balcony, and we rushed up to get some autographs early. My new friend Diana got her copy of Kingdom Hearts II (which she had bought that day) signed by Steven Burton, the voice of Cloud Strife in KH, KHII, KH:CoM and Advent Children. We asked him if he had played it yet, to which he laughed and responded "Only up to the part that I do the voice acting for."
Finally, we got back to our seats, and an announcer came out. She thanked the fans for waiting out in the rain, and told us that before the movie, there would be two previews. Sure enough, as the curtains pulled away to reveal a huge, curved 90 degree screen, a trailer came on for Kingdom Hearts II. Despite the game having been released the week before, and subsequently beaten by most of the people in the room, the cheering was deafening. The graphics looked stunning on the enormous movie screen, and the sound was thundering. After that, a Dirge of Cerberus preview came on, playing the song Redemption by Gackt. Every time Vincent Valentine showed up on screen, the fangirls in the front row began to scream and squeal. As this was a preview of the first-person shooter game starring him, this occurred frequently.
The cheering continued on through the beginning of the movie, until everyone fell silent for the dramatic and somber opening that Marlene narrates. The voice was sweet, quiet, and natural. Even Tifa's voice (done by Rachael Leigh Cook) sounded appropriate when she answered the telephone for the delivery service, and scenes that displayed many voices in succession, such as the drowning of Cloud's cell phone, induced no wincing. The movement of the characters' voice was not changed from the original, but you hardly noticed, even on such a large screen, unless you stared and focused on it. The audience was highly interactive with the movie, as true fans are, cheering for the heroes, booing at the villains, laughing at the antics of Rude and Reno, drooling over Cloud and Vincent, and even oohing when Denzel says "You son of a bitch."
But most incredible was the fight between Cloud and Sephiroth; it looked absolutely incredible on a movie screen. I couldn't resist getting out of my seat and laying down on the few feet of carpet between myself and the godly screen. Advent Children surrounded me completely, and the screen curved at my feet, covering my peripheral vision. The sound system literally shook the floor under me as a tower of stone tumbled down on myself (and Cloud), and the Black Mages' version of One Winged Angel rattled my poor little brains until I saw swords everywhere. I felt as though I was watching the movie for the first time, feeling every emotion that I had initially magnified and intensified one-hundredfold. I couldn't anticipate what was going to happen next, despite having seen it a half dozen times; the loud speakers took care of that.
And it was all worth it, if just to hear Tifa say "Dilly dally shilly shally" and the Fanfare ringtone echoing through the theater.
But, the cast came out at the end of the show and just blew everyone away. First the Japanese producers and directors, such as Tetsuya Nomura and Takeshi Nozue, came out to say a few words about the dedication of fans, and even politely apologizing for the weather. Then the English voice actors, Steven Burton (Cloud), Rachael Leigh Cook (Tifa) and Mena Suvari (Aeris), came out, clearly unprepared for a speech, and talked about how badass their characters looked on screen. The announcer returned and announced prizes to people in the audience with marked seats. Eight people received PSP accessories, calenders, and signed programs. A lucky two received a PSP in addition to the rest of those prizes, one of which was sitting in the seventh seat of row FF. After the showing, we were able to get autographs if we hurried, but security guards took the stars away pretty quickly.
As soon as we stepped into the lobby, we were very much rewarded. At the door, they handed out bags with free Advent Children soundtracks and posters. Most people took a few, and I got two myself. It was an incredible night, and I exchanged information with all the cool fans I had met. It was certainly a day to be treasured, not for the prizes and giftbags, but for a chance to enjoy the company of Final Fantasy nerds who had literally trekked to Los Angeles for the same reason.
Dirge of Cerberus tidbit: