The Blu-ray exclusive Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete can be summed up in about one sentence: 26 extra minutes and it still doesn't make any sense.
However, because you're paying for this Blu-ray just to get an extended sneak peek at Final Fantasy XIII and because I sat through the film twice to try and wrap my head around whatever new plot points they'd thrown in — I'll break it down for you in 15 minute format.
If even that's too long for you, just know that the sneak peek is footage we've already seen in demo footage and teasers, plus a couple of extra scenes at the end where Snow and Lightning get into an argument about something called Focus and whether or not Serah (the woman Snow drops at the end of the demo, perhaps?) is alive. Other than that, the extra 26 minutes in the film are mostly expository scenes about Denzel — the orphan that's living with Cloud and Tifa — and if that's not enough for you, the Blu-ray also includes an anime called "On the Way to a Smile" which gives you even more exposition on his sob story.
Other things you may want to know before buying Advent Children Complete are that the subtitles are still the closed-captioning for the dub instead of accurate translation. There's another FF7 retrospective that uses footage from Crisis Core and that cell phone game that never came out in the United States. The anime Last Order isn't on the disc, sadly.
Oh, and the Blu-ray looks pretty amazing.
SPOILER ALERT The opening scene is the ending scene from Final Fantasy VII if you sat through the credits. Red XIII and his inexplicable progeny (since Red XIII was supposedly the last of his kind) race up to a destroyed Midgar, implying that Cloud's efforts to save the planet from "rock falls, everybody dies" syndrome were unsuccessful.
RED XIII: Rawr!
Next scene is set in people-infested Midgar, so apparently Cloud's efforts were successful. Sort of — a lot of people seem to be suffering from some disease called Geostigma that makes them seep black tar or green boogers. Gross. Two orphan children huddle together with a Moogle doll in an alleyway, watching some hobo vomit up black tar and die.
Meanwhile, in Seventh Heaven, which now appears to be a delivery service instead of a bar…
DENZEL: Hey, Marlene, is my face still seeping black tar?
MARLENE: Who are you again? And why do you live in my house?
We cut to a scene out in the wilderness around Midgar where the sword Zack inherited from Angeal and later gave to Cloud is rusting in the dirt. The title crawl finally rolls and Cloud, perched on an expensive-looking black and gold motorcycle, checks his voicemail.
TIFA: Reno wants you to pick something up from Healen. By the way, we're out of milk.
CLOUD: Can't talk right now, babe, about to get attacked by Sephiroth rejects for no apparent reason. Luckily, I just installed this sword dispenser in my motorcycle!
After a random motorcycle/sword fight, the Sephiroth rejects — Loz, Yazoo and Kadaj — call off their attack and Cloud, left with nothing better to do, heads for Healen. Reno and Rude appear for five seconds of much-needed comic relief and then Rufus Shinra rolls out in a wheelchair and blanket, apparently horribly scarred — but still alive.
RUFUS: Hi there. I'm...
CLOUD: What the? You're dead!
RUFUS: ...not dead. Anyway, so, this whole mess is really all Shinra's fault…
CLOUD: Seriously, how are you alive?
RUFUS: …and you may have encountered some Sephiroth-looking guys…
CLOUD: They scratched my bike!
RUFUS: Can't a man finish a sentence?! Sephiroth…
CLOUD: (looks like he's about to cry)
RUFUS: …might not be dead. Lifestream tomfoolery, you understand. Anyway, about those kids you live with...
RUDE: I think he took it well.
RENO: Took what well? I was locked out of the room the whole time!
The next scene is set in the church where Aerith hung out in better days (y'know, the ones where she wasn't dead). Cloud appears to have set up house in the ruined building beside a patch of flowers. Tifa and Marlene enter the church and find his sleeping bag next to a big box. If you want to see what any of this looks like, check out this Korean music video.
MARLENE: Look, Cloud's stuff is here. Let's wait for him to come back!
TIFA: Well, we could be waiting for days. But he owes me rent, so why not.
We cut back to Healen where Reno and Rude perform more comic relief.
RENO: Boy, sure wish Tseng and Elena were here.
DOOR: (seeps ominous black smoke)
Now the scene cuts to a new segment with Denzel that provides some back story. Filthy and seeping black tar, 10-year-old Denzel wanders around a ruined Sector 7 outside Aerith's church. He spots Cloud's shiny bike with his cell phone in it.
DENZEL: (deliriously attempts to dial his dead parents)
DENZEL: (checks missed calls section)
DENZEL: (calls Tifa)
TIFA: Cloud?! You never call! How long does it take to get a dozen eggs, anyway?!
DENZEL: (has a black tar seizure)
TIFA: Oh, crap, you're not Cloud.
CLOUD: (comes out of the church) Oh, there's my phone!
The new scene ends with Denzel blaming himself for Cloud never coming home. Then Yazoo speeds by on a bike, reminding us that the Sephiroth rejects are still relevant to the plot. We cut back to Healen where Kadaj — the Sephiroth clone with the woman hips — has evidently laid out Reno and Rufus and is now whining his little white-haired head off at Rufus about Jenova.
KADAJ: Where's my mummy, I want my mommy!
RUFUS: Oh, you mean that head that we keep in a jar? I dropped it. Out of a helicopter.
KADAJ: That's too bad. I killed your henchmen.
RUFUS: I have more.
KADAJ: You mean these guys I laid out on the floor here?
We cut back to Aerith's church where Marlene and Tifa are still waiting for Cloud. Loz — the biggest of the Sephiroth clones — slams open the door and Marlene, who must be near-sighted or something, runs toward him.
LOZ: Hey. Wanna play?
TIFA: (throws down, gets arse kicked)
MARLENE: (gets kidnapped, along with Cloud's box which contained materia)
Now we get another new scene of Denzel; but unlike the previous scenes which didn't do much to clear up the cluttered plot, this scene shows how it is that Denzel winds up with the bad guys.
YAZOO: Hey little boy. Want some candy?
DENZEL: Will it fix my head?
YAZOO: Just get in the truck.
Meanwhile, Cloud finally returns to the church to find his material box gone and Tifa collapsed among the flowers. He runs to her side.
TIFA: Oh Cloud, you do care!
CLOUD: You let them take all my materia?!
Cloud passes out. They're rescued by Reno and Rude, who take them back to Seventh Heaven.
RENO: So, the Sephiroth rejects took your kids.
CLOUD: Guess I'll pull a Hamlet and delay.
TIFA: Oh Christ, this again?! You always dilly-dally, shilly-shally!
CLOUD: Dilly-dally, shilly-shally?
The next scene is the Sephiroth rejects gathering the sick children around a pond in the Forgotten City, which is like Sin City, but with white trees instead of hookers. In a bizarre hazing ritual, Kadaj has the sick kids get into the pond with him and drink the water.
KADAJ: Hey kids. My mum says you're sick and you need to drink the water to be cool. You wanna be cool, right?
DENZEL: I do, I do!
MARLENE: (who was kidnapped by Loz for no real reason) Hey, I remember you. You live at my house!
Eventually, Cloud shows up on his sword-dispensing bike and hallucinates Aerith giving him a pep talk that's way more effective than Tifa's. Then he wipes out on his bike so as not crash into a brainwashed Denzel. Fifteen minutes of fighting ensue wherein Cloud drops his cell phone in a pond and passes out right as Vincent shows up to save him.
Vincent takes Cloud to some other part of the Forgotten City to explain what we already know: that geostigma has to do with the Lifestream. Then he explains that Tseng and Elena aren't dead and that they've found Jenova's head. Marlene shows up, apparently having freed herself from Loz with no assistance.
MARLENE: Gee, thanks for the rescue, Cloud. Can I borrow your cell phone and call Tifa? She's the only who really loves me.
CLOUD: I dropped it in a pond.
VINCENT: A cell what?
MARLENE: I feel safer with the vampire than with you, Cloud. You suck!
CLOUD: I do suck. I'll work on that.
CLOUD'S PHONE: (falls to the bottom of the pond, playing voicemails from Reeve, Yuffie, Barrett and a bunch of other characters that haven't gotten cameos yet)
Now we actually get to the fan service portion of the film where there's fighting and stuff. It starts when Yazoo and Loz decide to pull down a statue in the middle of Midgar because they think Jenova's head is inside it. But the fighting doesn't start yet because Cloud still has to drop Marlene off at home.
MARLENE: So...let me get this straight. You've been wandering off in the wilderness trying to find a cure for Denzel, plus it turns out you have Geostigma, too, and you're convinced that you can't be with people because you can't take care of yourself and you don't want to burden others?
CLOUD: Uh, yeah. I guess.
MARLENE: Seriously, you suck.
CLOUD: I said I was working on it!
Now we actually get to fighting. Dog-demons attack the bystanders in the plaza where Loz and Yazoo are working on pulling down the statue.
TIFA: Denzel! What are you doing with this riff-raff? You're coming home with me, young man!
Meanwhile, a block or two away, Kadaj has a moment with Rufus in some half-constructed building that Rufus should not have been able to access in his wheelchair. Kadaj summons an evil Bahamut to tear up the monument because I guess his brothers are going too slow. Then Reno and Rude show up and fail to be effective while verbally sparring with Loz and Yazoo.
YAZOO: Mother wouldn't approve of you.
RUDE: Tell your mum thanks for last night.
LOZ: What did you say?!
RENO: He said your mama's a ho' and she like it nasty!
More fighting ensues, but we can stomach it because finally get some cameos from the rest of the FF7 cast as they shoot, spear, gun, shuriken, and claw at evil Bahamut. Cid's got a new ship, Yuffie still hasn't hit puberty, Cait Sith... is, well, Cait Sith. And Vincent has decided to buy a cell phone. Denzel meanwhile has another flashback to his dead parents and then Cloud shows up.
At this point, you might expect Sephiroth, but there's still a good 20 minutes of fighting before that can happen. Denzel — in another "explosive" new scene — defeats a fire hydrant, while the real heroes completely defy the laws of physics to perform the ultimate alley-oop on Cloud to defeat evil Bahamut.
Cut back to the half-constructed building where Rufus reveals to Kadaj that he's actually not a cripple! Also, he's had Jenova's head in a box the entire time. He flings the box over the side of the building and Kadaj shoves him off before jumping after the box. Elena and Tseng make a long overdue comeback to save their boss with hammock-dispensing guns.
RUFUS: See, this? This is what I pay you for.
ELENA: You don't pay us anymore, sir. You don't have any money.
Kadaj snags the box and takes off. Cue second over-long motorcycle chase of the movie. People smash bikes into one another and somehow flying them through helicopters. Some freeways get destroyed and there's a bit of business with homemade bombs. It's all very Die Hard.
Finally, Kadaj is singled out from the Sephiroth reject pack and ends up in Aerith's church, where he discovers the box is apparently empty. After a minor freak out, he winds up blowing a hole in the ground beneath the patch of flowers. This causes a Lifestream wellspring to flow into the church, which cures Cloud's Geostigma and gives Kadaj a case of hives. They escape via motorcycle to battle outside on a roof somewhere.
The rest of the FF7 cast in Cid's new ship flies to Cloud's aid.
YUFFIE: I'll throw him some materia!
CID: I'll drop bombs on him!
VINCENT: No. This is Cloud's battle.
TIFA: Yeah, Cloud can handle this on his own.
CID: (flies the ship away)
CLOUD: Uh, guys? Guys?
Meanwhile, Kadaj shoves the contents of what wasn't an empty box into his chest and turns into Sephiroth. For the next eight minutes, this is the best movie ever.
Cloud finally sustains enough damage to perform a limit break and hallucinates Zack.
ZACK: Hey, buddy. You want me to beat the boss for you?
CLOUD: Nah, I got it. (Limit break)
SEPHIROTH: I'll never let you go, Cloud.
Sephiroth turns back into Kadaj who mercifully has only a few lines before fading away into sky-sperm. A Lifestream rainstorm then cures all of Midgar's Geostigma cases. Except Denzel, who's at home, presumably grounded for being brainwashed.
YUFFIE: Yay, we won!
CAIT SITH: Yay, we won!
TIFA: I told you he could do it!
CLOUD: (gets shot)
LOZ and YAZOO: Ha ha! Gotcha!
The remaining two Sephiroth clones fade into sky sperm and Cloud goes into hallucination mode where a wolf drools on him and a disembodied hand strokes his forehead.
AERITH: Why does everyone call me that? Do I look old or something?
CLOUD: Am I dead?
AERITH: Don't be silly. You're the main character of Final Fantasy VII. How's Square supposed to milk more money out of this franchise if you're dead?
Cut back to Seventh Heaven where the phone rings again. Denzel actually picks up the receiver this time, but still can't manage a simple "hello." He hangs up and takes off to the church with Marlene, that orphan girl from the first scene and all the other children of Midgar to Aerith's church. There, they find Cloud floating face-up in the Lifestream pool. The entire main cast gathers in the church to watch Cloud baptize Denzel with Lifestream. Then Cloud hallucinates dead Aerith and Zack one last time before the closing credits and has a sudden epiphany.
CLOUD: I'm not alone. I see dead people.
Roll credits for 11 minutes.
Special thanks to Michelle!