Kingsglaive

As mentioned in the introduction, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a full-length feature film that serves as a prequel to the game. It was released in July 2016 in Japan, with a limited theatrical run in western territories in August and a digital release on streaming platforms later that month.

I didn’t bother to watch it. Honestly, my interest in FFXV was very low by that point (mostly because of the female party members thing and my lack of interest in the boy band), and while I thought it was hilarious they were going all in on a movie, I figured it wouldn’t actually spur my interest in the game. I’d been watching the Brotherhood anime OVA episodes as they came out, and I had been fairly underwhelmed. I didn’t expect the movie to change anything.

All of this is to say that when I did finally sit down to watch the movie (shortly before starting the game), I had about the lowest possible expectations you could imagine.

Imagine my surprise when it was awesome.

I mean, it was still a Final Fantasy movie, don’t get me wrong. It’s still super ridiculous and silly. But unlike certain other FF movies I could name that focus more on flashy battles than exposition and required an actual remake just for basic plot cohesion (I love you, Advent Children, but you know what you are), this movie actually took the time to slowly set the stage so that when things actually kick off, you’re invested.

And what’s more, Kingsglaive did something I had considered impossible: it made me fall in love with FFXV’s female lead, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret.

Nobody was more surprised than me.

Luna narrates the opening, which sets up the plot and establishes the long war between Lucis and Niflheim. Tenebrae is just a small piece stuck in the middle, and twelve years ago, while the Lucian royal family was visiting, the Niflheim army attacked and took over. King Regis managed to escape with his son, Noctis, and tried to take Luna with him, but catching sight of her brother left behind she decides to remain.

In the present day, the war between Lucis and Niflheim has reached a breaking point, so that when terms of peace are offered, Lucis has no choice but to accept them unequivocally. The terms are such: Lucis will forfeit all territory save the crown city, Insomnia, and Noctis will be wed to Lunafreya to seal the deal.

Yet even though she is introduced as a pawn in a political move, Luna refuses to stand around from the moment she appears on screen. When the scene shifts to Tenebrae, we see that she’s already packed and intending to depart of her own accord, and it’s merely the presence of Niflheim troops (and her brother, who now serves in its army) that stops her escape.

As such, Luna ends up in Insomnia. She meets with King Regis, and though it’s not said aloud, it’s clear that she holds no ill will against him for the events in Tenebrae twelve years prior. Above all else, it’s clear that Regis seeks her safety:

Luna: Prince Noctis isn’t here, is he?
Regis: No, my dear. He is not. I am too old to fight this war. I have no choice but to receive the empire and accept their treaty. Even so… I had hoped to hold the wedding elsewhere, somewhere safe. I sent one of my glaive to see you there, but— it is not too late. I can ready an escort. Please, go to my son.
Luna: No. Wherever I go, the empire will follow. It would only place the prince in greater danger. It is my duty to protect the prince and see his destiny fulfilled. These twelve years have not changed that.
Regis: And what of your destiny?
Luna: My duty is my destiny, your majesty. I’m prepared to accept whatever may come to pass.

On the whole, Kingsglaive never actually talks about what Luna’s duty is, or why she’s so adamant about protecting Noctis. This is most likely because the film came out several months before the game did, and Square wanted to keep its plot under wraps as long as possible. Unfortunately, this makes Luna’s motivations in the film unclear and, frankly, a little absurd when viewed outside of the game. Literally not once is the word “oracle” mentioned despite being a huge facet of Luna’s character; she’s instead treated as simply a princess of a now-occupied country.

In all honesty, this is a typically Square plot choice. When you view this film as the two-hour prequel to a full-length video game, it works fine, because you naturally expect any lingering questions to be answered in that video game. Viewed in isolation, however, and it’s fairly ridiculous. The critical response to the film makes this obvious. (See: Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes.)

That doesn’t mean this movie isn’t fun, though. Like I said above, I absolutely enjoyed it, and it’s what made me fall in love with Luna’s character. Small moments built up over the course of the film culminated in a character I wanted to see more of, one I ended up playing the game to find out more about.

On the eve of the treaty signing between Lucis and Niflheim, a party is held atop a hotel with all of the visiting dignitaries. There’s some stilted conversation between King Regis and the Niflheim emperor (awkward), while Luna approaches one of the Kingsglaive, which are basically the elite strike team of Lucis and who use the king’s magic to protect the kingdom. This particular glaive, Nyx, is the hero of the film, and had escorted her to see King Regis previously. Hilariously Luna says they were never introduced, meaning he drove her all the way into the city either in silence or without telling her his name.

Their conversation is brief, and concerns another glaive, one who had been sent to escort Luna out of Tenebrae but who was killed en route. Luna expresses her condolences, and Nyx gives her the hairpin the glaive was carrying for Luna. (Side note: still not over Crowe. Still bullshit.)

Interestingly enough, this entire sequence is a callback to Versus XIII — specifically, this trailer. The content of the conversation is completely different, and Nyx and Luna aren’t Noctis and Stella, but it’s a nice homage to those original ideas for the game that never was. You can even see the portrait of Etro in the background, and wide shots show the same fish tank.

Later that night, there’s an interesting moment where we see Luna alone on a balcony, where she makes a plea:

Luna: Please, wherever Noctis is, keep him safe. That’s all I ask.
Glauca: To what god do you pray? You, the slave of fate and destiny.

I find this quite interesting because at no point in the film or game do we ever see Luna directly indicating her piety for a particular god — the Astrals, in the FFXV world. My best guess, though, is Bahamut, based on this passage from the Cosmogony in the game:

In the distant past, Bahamut, the Draconian, descended to the mortal realm and graced the people of Tenebrae. From among them, he handpicked a pious maiden and bestowed upon her the power of the Stars and his trident. Using these gifts for the good of all, she became the first Oracle—she who joins heaven and earth.

If the Oracle were to worship any of the Astrals, that seems like a good bet!

Come the treaty-signing ceremony the next day, Luna is nowhere to be found. Nyx conveniently realizes that the hairpin he gave her is a homing beacon and finds she’s some twenty miles out of the city, along with a number of Imperial airships. Yes indeed, we have a kidnapping plot!

Thankfully, it’s not wholly about Luna; it ties into the greater plot of the film, and indeed the entire thing has been building to this. The Kingsglaive is drawn out of the city just as the Niflheim empire makes its strike on the city, and the situation quickly turns chaotic as members of the Kingsglaive turn on one another.

In truth, Luna spends part of this sequence as little more than a damsel in distress, although there’s not much she can do when she’s unarmed against heavily armed soldiers and a tentacle monster (hi Ultros). Once she gets an opening, though, she doesn’t just sit around and wait for Nyx to save her; she jumps right onto another airship and starts trying to pilot it herself despite not actually knowing how. It effectively shows that she’s not about to just sit around and let all this happen to her; she’s an active participant.

Even then, though, she’s still got a mission.

Luna: You must take me back to King Regis.
Nyx: Are you out of your mind? Insomnia’s a war zone.
Luna: I have a duty. I cannot neglect it.
Nyx: Yeah, I heard all that before.
Luna: Then you know we must hurry.
Nyx: Hurry to do what? Get yourself killed?
Luna: I do not fear death.
Nyx: Oh, enough with all this brave princess act! Just pray this thing will make the trip.

Then she jumps out the airship because it won’t get there fast enough. I’m pretty sure that’s the moment I fell in love with her.

This doesn’t mean she isn’t foolish, though. Nyx calls her out on it with his “brave princess act” line — had he not been there to aid her, she would have gotten in a lot more trouble. Luna has a duty, an important one, and she knows what her destiny is, and frankly I think she’s made somewhat naive by that fact, at first. She knows her role, but there are a lot of obstacles in the way, and as a princess who’s been locked in a tower for a long time, it’s quite something to be out in the world and faced with reality. It doesn’t make her any less resolute (if anything the opposite is true), but it does temper how impulsive she is as the film goes on.

Of course, when they do reach King Regis, they only have a few moments with him before we get to the moment we all knew was coming as soon as Sean Bean was cast. (I mean, honestly.)

Still, it’s a lovely callback to Regis leaving Luna behind at the beginning of the film, and though it’s been foreshadowed the whole time it’s executed well. I actually really like Regis as a character; it’s hard to convey a character with complex motivations like him in so little screentime, but I think it was portrayed fairly well in the time given.

Regis imparts the Ring of the Lucii to Luna, and bids her to see it to Noctis. Luna promises she will.

Escaping Insomnia is easier said than done, though: all the Imperial forces left in the city are now after Luna and Nyx. During a brief moment where they hide from their pursuers, Nyx asks why everyone’s so eager to get their hands on this ring, and Luna explains that it offers untold power, so much that it corrupted even her brother when he tried it on. Nyx, whose own magic died with the king, remarks on his own helplessness, to which Luna counters:

Luna: True power is not something that is found by those who seek it. It is something that comes to those who deserve it.

The words are very obviously meant to reflect Nyx’s story, but they actually reflect Luna’s and Noctis’s, as well. Luna certainly never sought to become the Oracle, but accepted it and all the burdens that came with it nonetheless. Noctis, in turn, spends all of FFXV coming to terms with the power and responsibility that comes with being the heir to the Lucian dynasty — something he was born into, and actively avoids for as long as he can.

They’re soon interrupted, however, as the Imperials are tracking Luna’s hairpin, and Nyx takes it to draw them away. He feints their robots off, and when he drops the hairpin Luna catches it and throws it into an airship’s engine, causing the robots to fly into it and explode. Once again, she’s not simply waiting around for Nyx to save her; she’s there doing all she can.

Nyx manages to make contact with the captain of the Kingsglaive, who sets a meeting point. When they get there, though, Nyx is shot by one of the traitorous glaives, and is left prone on the ground as the traitor goes to take the ring from Luna.

Luche: There’s nowhere to run, princess. The ring. Give it to me. So many dead over so simple a thing. But why? For what?
Luna: Power. Untold power, beyond the control of someone like you.

Personally, I think Luna makes a conscious choice here to tell him why the ring is so desperately sought; she knows its power and purpose, and that he would never be able to use it. A moment later he puts it on and is immolated, leaving the ring in her grasp. It’s an act of self-preservation, but it doesn’t mean she’s not horrified by what happens to him; she’s far from heartless.

Nyx, on the other hand, is able to make a covenant with the ring. It doesn’t come without cost: he is able to wield the ring’s magic, but only until the sun rises. It allows him to offer Luna and his friend Libertus enough protection for them to escape the city.

I don’t think Luna is fooled by his blitheness; she’s well aware that power demands a price, but she’s kind enough to keep up the ruse that Nyx will find them again.

Eventually, Luna makes it to the edge of Insomnia. She parts with Libertus, mostly to write him out of the game. I mean, given she’s unarmed, it would have made some sense for her to have an escort.

Snark aside, I imagine Luna knows her journey will be a solitary one, at least to an extent. I also think it’s likely she expects Gentiana to meet her, considering that’s exactly what happens in the game. Now, why Gentiana doesn’t show up at all in the film, I have no idea. I guess it’s just not what Gentiana does. (It’s not like Gentiana makes it clear what she does do.)

All in all, Kingsglaive isn’t without flaws. The writing is quite shaky at points and it follows the Final Fantasy cinema tradition of style over substance. But it piqued my interest in Luna, and made me very interested to find out more about her. And while the game didn’t quite deliver on that promise, I’m still very fond of Luna’s role in the film.