#1 Posted by JazGalaxy (1576 posts) -

Yesterday, I went to the movie theatre with my girlfriend to see Les Miserables. It was her choice, but I wasn't adverse to seeing the film. I don't like musicals and I tend not to even like movies very much, but I do love stories and I will never turn down giving a medium a chance. I tend to hate musicals and movies because, in my opinion they tend to do a terrible job at what it is that they set out to do.

It suprised me a great deal that, within the first five minutes of the film opening, I was completely hooked. I was immediately drawn to the characters immediate struggles against the realities of life. Every characters plight was believable and relatable and their pain and anguish seemed real rather than manufactured. Even when the third act started to get boring as the plot slowed to a crawl, I was still more emotionally involved in the film than I have been in anything for a very, very long time.

When we were leaving the theatre, my girlfriend asked me what I thought. I told her that I thought it was fantastic and that, honestly, it reminded me of Final Fantasy. She had no idea what I was talking about, only knowing Final Fantasy to be some video game, but I was saying it more to myself than to her anyways. I made the same comment to my brother when I called him, afterwards, to discuss the film as we usually do, and he immediately knew exactly what I was talking about.

The thing is, it certainly doesn't 'remind me of any recent Final Fantasy games, which have all be as close to garbage as a high budget game is allowed to get. But, it reminded me of the best final fantasy games of days gone by. or maybe even less of what Final Fantasy IS and more of what I've always thought Final Fantasy was trying to be.

Beautiful music. Young people making desperate decisions as fate closes in around them. Passionate love stories. Freedom fighters swept up in a revolution. Examining the nature of religion and one's purpose in the world.

I'm not sure what, exactly, I want to discuss, but I can't get the thought out of my head as my mind has been chewing on Les Miserables for 2 days, now.

Do you feel like Final Fantasy has ever achieved what it sets out to do? Can it ever achieve the level of something like Les Miserables if you find the film/musical/book as inspired and moving as I did? What's holding Final Fantasy back from being that?

I think part of what holds FF back, for me, is it's constant desire to be "cool", in it's modern incarnations. From characters overly made-up hair styles, to characters who wear clothing that is completely non-functional/impossible, the games comes across as extremely pretentious and concerned with artifice. It becomes almost impossible to take the characters seriously.

On another subject for discussion, I think it's interesting how much Square used to look to the theatre for influence when it came to FInal Fantasy vs. the new games looking to movies, seemingly, for much of their cues. I thoroughly enjoyed the old choreography and blocking that characters used to do to convey information taht the graphics simply weren't sophisticated enough to portray. Similarly, it was great to see the heroes and villains do monologues befitting Shakespeare to convey the emotions they were feeling.

Where would you like to see Final Fantasy go in the future? Do you like it how it is? What do you think it would take to fix it if you don't?

#2 Edited by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

I love the Les Mis stage show, but I honestly will probably prefer my favorite Final Fantasy games to the Les Mis movie, if what I've heard about it holds true.

The biggest problem with Final Fantasy for the last several iterations has been character design. This really has been a problem since 7, at least; Nomura's characters get involved in really, really interesting plots, but they're not especially compelling in and of themselves. Their motivations are limited, their evolution is stunted, and they're generally very static. I'm not sure that's all on Nomura; a job like "character designer" could be about actually creating the party or be about deciding what their outfits will be. For characters that exist in a long-form narrative, they're too one-dimensional to hold up, and that causes us to distance ourselves from their fantastical (if interesting) plight.

It's more noticeable in the post-FFX games because the plot and the gameplay aren't as strong as they were before.

#3 Posted by JazGalaxy (1576 posts) -

@Little_Socrates said:

I love the Les Mis stage show, but I honestly will probably prefer my favorite Final Fantasy games to the Les MIs movie, if what I've heard about it holds true.

The biggest problem with Final Fantasy for the last several iterations has been character design. This really has been a problem since 7, at least; Nomura's characters get involved in really, really interesting plots, but they're not especially compelling in and of themselves. Their motivations are limited, their evolution is stunted, and they're generally very static. I'm not sure that's all on Nomura; a job like "character designer" could be about actually creating the party or be about deciding what their outfits will be. For characters that exist in a long-form narrative, they're too one-dimensional to hold up, and that causes us to distance ourselves from their fantastical (if interesting) plight.

It's more noticeable in the post-FFX games because the plot and the gameplay aren't as strong as they were before.

I find this point of view interesting.

My personal takeaway from les Miserables, which this is my first time seeing, was that the characters were very one dimensional and that was very much to the credit of the overall story. Fantine, seemingly, only cared about seeing that Cossette was taken care of. Javier only cared about seeing his narrow view of Justice fulfilled. Jean ValJean only cared about redeeming himself, etc. It was how these one-note characters were all layed on top of one another that created the complexity and the drama.

That's just my take on it, though, as I'm still digesting it. It's been 2 days and my brain is still chewing on it. I was really taken by it, and my brother did say the stage show is better. I think I would have a hard time adjusting though. I think I was probably taken by a lot of film affectations more than people familiar with the story would be. For instance, how the scenes of the revolution looked so similar to scenes one would see in revolutionary-era oil paintings was incredibly arresting. I found myself being swept up quite convincingly in the passions of the revolution. I wonder if I could feel that same way in the stage production.

I agree that Testuya Nomura is what's wrong with Final Fantasy. I say that, though, being completely guilty of being one of the people who was blown away by the images of Final Fantasy 7. Specifically, and ironically given this conversation, the image Barrett and his adopted daughter in the broken down old church with one shaft of light illuminating a bud growing in the earth between cracked floor boards. Even the cover of Cloud facing down the Shirnra building were so incredible at the time, it was impossible to find any fault with Nomura and his way of looking at the world. But then came Final Fantasy x ,and all was lost. That was the first Final Fantasy game I had no interest in playing, due largely to Tidus ridiculous costume. There was just no coming back from that

#4 Edited by Blackout62 (1328 posts) -

Well this is not what I was expecting. I had "Do You Hear The People Sing" cranked up as fighting music to defend Les Mis over FF, but no, it's just reflection. This is not a time to use "vs" in your title. Now you've got me in the mood to overthrow the French government.

#5 Posted by Mirado (990 posts) -

@Little_Socrates: Go see it. I've seen Les Mis (the stage show) four times; twice on Broadway and twice by a touring company, and I thought the movie was perfectly serviceable. It's actually quite brilliant in spots: the way it is shot is amazing (I actually saw Les Mis and Django back to back, and Les Mis actually out-shoots Tarintino by a good margin), the set designs are obviously miles ahead of what you can get on a stage and the majority of the actors do quite well (Anne Hathaway is a great Fantine, Isabelle Allen knocks "Castle on a Cloud" out of the park, and they even got Colm Wilkinson to play the Bishop (which is a bit of a step down from Valjean, but hey, he made it in the film.) Even Hugh Jackman makes it through Valjean's role with his dignity intact; something I honestly didn't think was going to happen.

There are a few flaws: Russell Crowe looks the part of Javert, but the role is meant for a baritone or (more preferably in my opinion) a bass-baritone, whereas he is clearly....not. His songs are probably more disappointing to me then they actually are, but I'm looking at this like I'm guessing you would: from a stage perspective. (In the same vein, Enjolras suffered from sub-optimal casting as well.) Also, they made some weird cuts and alterations: two songs are tossed ("I Saw Him Once" and "Dog Eats Dog", the latter of which I find to be a real shame as I think it alters the Thénardiers a bit too much, even giving for the fact that it never was going to match up exactly. That's about as low of a low point as the play has, and it's a shame they cut it) and some are shortened, but what's more baffling is that they rearranged some lyrics for no real reason. I can't recall specific examples but I know there was one scene where two lines were flipped but the rest of the song left alone...

...let's just say more then a few of us were singing along in the theater and we all looked around when that happened as if we'd forgotten something.

Also, they went a bit heavy on the CGI. Yeah, you can't exactly location shoot a place that's changed a bit in the last few hundreds of years, but I think they went a tad much on it.

Ok, that sounded a bit more negative then I thought. Outside of my beef with Crowe and the removal of "Dog Eats Dog", it holds up quite well. You really should give it a look; at worst you're seeing one of the best plays ever made in a less than perfect form....which still makes it better then the majority of both plays and movies out there. If you've got the time, check it out.

#6 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -

I think in general there was a lot more effort in the storytelling when graphics weren't up for it but that's just a mistake on the developer's part and perhaps a preference of my own. 
 
I can see why you made the connection, and I agree, but I can't help but laugh. That's one topic title I never expected to see!
 
Remember when videogames showed us mundane life but gave us the tools to escape it? To get out of that old town and save the world? To take up arms and avenge your family or stolen dog? Nowadays its all flashy and stuff, sadly.

#7 Posted by bemusedchunk (664 posts) -

Les Mis (or as it's translated to english: The Miserables) is amazing.

Probably my favorite play - right up there with A Walk in the Woods.

The cannons going off always gets me going - and the character of Jean Valjean is complex enough to keep the audience interested.

The back and forth between him and Javert is one of the best of it's kind.

#8 Posted by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

@JazGalaxy: I wrote a long-form response, but the comment system ate it for some reason. Basically, I agree that Les Mis has somewhat one-dimensional characters, but even a three hour musical can afford static characters more than a 90-to-200 hour JRPG, especially when Final Fantasy games haven't incorporated storytelling into the gameplay or solved their glacial pacing issues.

@Mirado: Similarly, had a slightly longer response. While I've definitely got interest in the movie, I'm going to try to see Lincoln, Life of Pi, and Silver Linings Playbook before Les Mis, as I'm only in town with a theater for another week. Though, from what I've heard, I probably will mind the acting and music a whole lot less than the cinematography, which I've heard is all extreme close-ups with the singers staring at the camera and extreme wide-angle long shots, with only "I Dreamed A Dream" looking more dynamic than that. It's worth noting I've only seen Les Mis once and never owned the soundtrack, so lyric swaps and the like probably won't phase me. Any other musical and you'd be totally right, but like Dead Poet's Society, it's something I have interest in very sparingly due to the extremely depressing tone of the piece.

#9 Posted by CookieMonster (2416 posts) -

Goku.

#10 Posted by MikeGosot (3227 posts) -

@CookieMonster said:

Goku.

Wat

#11 Posted by Aterons (198 posts) -

Read the book, never watched the movie/play and i don't intend to do it.

The book I had the same impression about as most ( if not all books ) by "glorified" authors, it's oky-ish but over-hyped and definitely I can see why it wouldn't be enjoyable by all ( and not because it's a "hard" book, simply because your standard of "enjoy" have to be pretty low to actually be interested and enjoy reading it )and why some people would hold it to such high standards because of the complexity of the relations between characters and the quality of writing in general.

Now FF, I'm not really into those games so I can't comment much one those, but from what i know it's pretty much

a) guy creates bellow average universe/characters ( but considering the fact that we are talking about 20 century video games it's the same)

b) guy than drags on the series like shit and the games themselves are very dragged

c) series becomes a cluster fuck of ass-shoots and Japanese anime girl with the occasional gay porn protagonist/side-sick/villain

d) people still lick said series ass despite shit like "ending sold in DLC" and the story being bellow average compared to Call of Duty

So that is the only thing that i can see similar between the 2:

-very good for their time story wise

-very dragged out... for the worse or for the better, it's not for me to judge that

-for some reason still get attention in 2012 tho there are 101 pieces of work with better story, character, plot... etc

#12 Posted by rentfn (1277 posts) -

@JazGalaxy: I'm really glad you enjoyed the movie. I'm a huge fan of the musical and wasn't really impressed by the movie version but I'm glad the story came through for people new to it. The only FF I've played is 10. I really enjoyed it although JRPGs are not really for me. The only one I played while I was younger was Earthbound. I was given it as a gift and loved it, don't know why I didn't try other JRPGs. Even though FFX had the goofy clothes you talked about I thought the story and characters were well done. Just wanted to chime in on your post and I hope you will try out more musicals.

@Mirado: I also saw Les Mis and Django back to back. Although I did prefer Django. I wrote a blog about my Les Mis review if you want to check it out. In short I wasn't a fan of the direction, extreme close ups on all the solo songs, and I thought the Live singing was a mistake for this show. The songs pack more of a punch and it was hard to do that in the movie. I also missed Dog eats Dog and am sad they shortened Confrontation.

#13 Posted by Slag (3995 posts) -

I was hoping this was a shocker announcement for a new Final Fantasy Dissdia game.

said:

Do you feel like Final Fantasy has ever achieved what it sets out to do?

yes I do, but I also don't think they are trying to do what I suspect you probably think they are trying to do. My understanding is the FF series designers have always tried their hardest to be the most cinematic game out there. Even so far so as to once create their own movie studio.

So they put the bulk of their efforts into getting the look and sound of the movies. The cinematography, syncing mouths to voices, facial animations, body language, big explosions, crazy anime fight scenes, the beautiful score etc.

But there is a less apparent emphasis on the story, especially in the post Amano years, I'm going to guess because of the higher and higher resource demand for the movie part. And if they got cool stuff they want to animate, the story has to fit that no matter how much it doesn't fit.

the X era I felt was the low point in the series in terms of storytelling (well assuming you don't count FFIII or V), Xii and Xiii while not perfect each featured significant improvements.

The bigger problem I think FinalFantasy has now is their competition has caught up and surpassed them. Where once the stories in Xii and Xiii would have seemed pretty dang awesome, nowadays even simple games like the Walking Dead blow their storytelling out of the water.

When FFVI came out they king of the hill, now they seriously have to up their game to get that kind of respect back.

#14 Posted by Brodehouse (9581 posts) -

Les Miserables is great, and I agree with pretty much everything little Socrates put forward regarding Jackman, Crowe, Dog Eats Dog. I thought Jackman actually did an incredible version of Bring Him Home, worked on me. That song affects me more as I age and get closer to being a father than a son.

I also agree about the theatrical comparisons. This is why I never understood Brad's complaint; Final Fantasy has always been teen fiction whose reach exceeds its grasp. He wants a naturalistic, character driven story; that's not most Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy has more in common with epic poetry than it does character studies. It thrives on the larger than life.

#15 Posted by BabyChooChoo (4282 posts) -

@JazGalaxy said:

I think part of what holds FF back, for me, is it's constant desire to be "cool", in it's modern incarnations. From characters overly made-up hair styles, to characters who wear clothing that is completely non-functional/impossible, the games comes across as extremely pretentious and concerned with artifice. It becomes almost impossible to take the characters seriously.

Ditto. It also just feels like there's someone sitting next to me, yelling "LOOK AT ALL THIS EMOTIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON." It feels so incredibly disingenuous that I actively get angry at characters when I should be liking them or feeling sorry for what they're going through.

#16 Posted by JazGalaxy (1576 posts) -

@Slag said:

I was hoping this was a shocker announcement for a new Final Fantasy Dissdia game.

said:

Do you feel like Final Fantasy has ever achieved what it sets out to do?

yes I do, but I also don't think they are trying to do what I suspect you probably think they are trying to do. My understanding is the FF series designers have always tried their hardest to be the most cinematic game out there. Even so far so as to once create their own movie studio.

So they put the bulk of their efforts into getting the look and sound of the movies. The cinematography, syncing mouths to voices, facial animations, body language, big explosions, crazy anime fight scenes, the beautiful score etc.

But there is a less apparent emphasis on the story, especially in the post Amano years, I'm going to guess because of the higher and higher resource demand for the movie part. And if they got cool stuff they want to animate, the story has to fit that no matter how much it doesn't fit.

the X era I felt was the low point in the series in terms of storytelling (well assuming you don't count FFIII or V), Xii and Xiii while not perfect each featured significant improvements.

The bigger problem I think FinalFantasy has now is their competition has caught up and surpassed them. Where once the stories in Xii and Xiii would have seemed pretty dang awesome, nowadays even simple games like the Walking Dead blow their storytelling out of the water.

When FFVI came out they king of the hill, now they seriously have to up their game to get that kind of respect back.

I think I disagree that Final Fantasy has always tried to be cinematic. I think Final Fantasy alwasy tended more toward attempting to be a musical/play/opera than cinema, up until Final Fantasy x and x-2.

I say this because games like the NES version of Ninja Gaiden were attempting to, and greatly succeeding at, being cinematic. I believe if Square were truly interested in being cinematic, they would have gone in that direction.

#17 Posted by pplus0440 (260 posts) -

K first off nobody played FFXIII for more than seven hours. Almost everyone who completed the game ended up being a fan. Brad for example says he ended up really liking the game. I am on the same page. The story seems pretty bland at the start but by the end you realize that It was pretty dense stuff with a lot of symbolism. If you let a fantasy game turn you off because the characters aren't wearing clothes that are 'realistic' then why were you even interested in fantasy to begin with? It is not supposed to be real.

#18 Posted by Clonedzero (4091 posts) -

i loved les miserables. saw it over the weekend. not shamed to say ive been listening to the soundtrack lately too.

however, ever since i hit my late teens, i can't stand final fantasy. i liked 6 and 7 back in the day, but if i played them today i doubt i'd enjoy it much. the cliched characters, the somehow at the same time extremely convoluted yet extremely simple storyline / plots. the way of the top design of everything, i LOVE fantasy, its just well what the hell purpose does have that stuff serve? why would a miltary build massive expensive battle tanks if a soccer celebrity with a sword he just picked up could beat it? wtf? not to mention they're SUPER linear. its just not my style anymore, but if you like it, more power to you! i hope they make another good one for you, i heard 13 was absolutely awful. (i heard that from fans of the series)

#19 Edited by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

Saw the play years ago, might wait for the Blu Ray to watch it though. Last thing I want is to watch the movie next to Susan Boyle wannabes singing during the film.

@pplus0440: Nah I'm 30 hours in and haven't touched it in almost a year, Final Fantasy used to be my favourite games as well. Really dropped the ball this generation, laughable dialogue and characters are still annoying. Had a tease of a open world with the plains, but then straight back into corridor shooter level design.

And Les Miserables has been around since 1862 and last I remember it had no summons or magic in it, but they might of taken some creative choices with the film.

#20 Posted by Hunter5024 (5538 posts) -

I don't really understand the sentiment in this thread that 7 and beyond is where Square lost the story appeal, 6 has a fantastic story, but 1-5 not so much. I mean if you look at 5 it was clear that they were focusing much more on gameplay than story, and I would argue that it's not until the 6 and 7 one two punch that the series really became on par with contemporary video game narratives of the time. I mean I guess there's kind of an argument to be made for 4 if you really try.

#21 Posted by Slag (3995 posts) -

@JazGalaxy said:

I think I disagree that Final Fantasy has always tried to be cinematic. I think Final Fantasy alwasy tended more toward attempting to be a musical/play/opera than cinema, up until Final Fantasy x and x-2.

I say this because games like the NES version of Ninja Gaiden were attempting to, and greatly succeeding at, being cinematic. I believe if Square were truly interested in being cinematic, they would have gone in that direction.

My memory may be incorrect, but I believe I read in an interview that somewhere that they were trying to ever since the first FF but back then they were much budget constrained given their company's small size.

I read that years ago though, so my memory may be off. Certainly I see your point. There was no real FMV and such until Vii. I'm an old school FF guy myself. Everything after Vi I haven't liked nearly as much.

If I find that interview I'll let you know.

#22 Posted by Slag (3995 posts) -

@Hunter5024 said:

I don't really understand the sentiment in this thread that 7 and beyond is where Square lost the story appeal, 6 has a fantastic story, but 1-5 not so much. I mean if you look at 5 it was clear that they were focusing much more on gameplay than story, and I would argue that it's not until the 6 and 7 one two punch that the series really became on par with contemporary video game narratives of the time. I mean I guess there's kind of an argument to be made for 4 if you really try.

well you have to remember that only 1, 4 and 6 were released at launch in the states. So most US old timers, like Brad and Vinny (or myself), have an impression of the series that isn't necessarily accurate to how it actually evolved.

If you just played those three in order and only those three(Which was how I did it growing up since there was no way to play 2, 3 and 5 until years later), it felt like the series was making radical improvements in story telling with each game. The other SNES "Final Fantasy" game , Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, was perhaps unfairly so hated because it felt more out of place to Westerners than it really was. Compared to what else had been Final Fantasy it felt like a disgrace to the series.

When 7 hit, it was pretty radical change in art direction and theme. A lot of the old time fans really didn't like it or the sudden huge popularity the series had. I think that's a lot of the retro hate Vii gets today. But I don't remember much actual hate for it at the time other than some of the super hardcore.

You can make the same argument about Mario Bros. The real Super Mario Bros. 2 (Which was a second quest for Super Mario Bros.) never released in the states, instead we got a reskinned/reimagined Doki Doki Panic. So to the US audience in 80's and 90's, it felt Mario always innovated/never repeated which isn't really as true as people think it is.

#23 Posted by Kevin_Cogneto (997 posts) -

Is it really up for discussion whether Final Fantasy series was influenced by western opera? I mean come on, it's not even a question.

#24 Posted by Zebracal (74 posts) -

After reading your posts, I will watch it with my girlfriend too since she is begging me to see it.

#25 Posted by Winternet (8004 posts) -

They're both terrible.