Fantasia 2019 review: BRAVE FATHER ONLINE is an adorable FINAL FANTASY movie
Finally a video game movie that makes you want to cuddle.
Let’s eliminate this: Courageous Father Online (like the Japanese TV show it is based on) is primarily a commercial feature film for Final Fantasy XIV. It’s not an advertisement in the same way Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a “commercial” for the world of Pokémon. Courageous Father Online goes even further by establishing a clear correlation between the game Final Fantasy XIV and find an overall improvement in life. The movie wants to make sure that if you play Final Fantasy XIV, you can make friends who you can always talk to. If you play Final Fantasy XIV, you can bond with your family. If you play Final Fantasy XIV, you can meet the love of your life. Final Fantasy XIV has all the answers, apparently.
Yet despite all the naked commercialism of Brave Father Online: Our Final Fantasy XIV Story, I was charmed by the film. The melodrama presents a fantasy of what video games look like, and during its two hour run, I gladly accepted this fantasy because it offers a pleasant quality that most of the media adjacent to video games hardly care about.
Courageous Father Online is based on a Japanese television miniseries titled Final Fantasy XIV: Daddy of Light (which I haven’t seen). Both were produced with the cooperation of Square Enix, which is why the Final fantasy the franchise is painted with an almost religious reverence, but adaptations of FFXIV (like Sony’s upcoming TV series). These are really just dramas about a father and son playing together and learning more about each other in the process.
Akio is a young announcer who loves playing MMOs Final Fantasy XIV to relax. Although he is reluctant in real life, in the gaming world, he has online friends who he shares everything with because he feels more secure in his anonymity. When Akira, Akio’s workaholic father, retires, his new free time highlights Akio’s little knowledge of his stoic father. Suddenly pushed to find out more about Akira and rediscover the joy the two shared while playing Final fantasy together on the Famicom when Akio was a child – Akio comes up with a plan to make his father play FFXIV, hoping that the anonymity it provides will encourage his father to open up.
The best part of Courageous Father Online is that, although it is an advertisement, it still follows the advertising ethic that Akio (an advertiser) follows in the movie: only sell products that you really like. Manufacturers of Light Dad / Courageous Father Online clearly love Final fantasy and RPGs of his ilk, because they get most of the detail right, with a satisfying humorous effect. Everything from the presentation of the game world (the film surprisingly uses cinematics in the engine FFXIV assets) to script observations of the strangeness of the MMORPG exudes authenticity. We get a scene that captures the inanity of naming your first role-playing character, followed by grueling level-correcting edits, followed by a gag on MMO avatars never having to dress for the weather. Courageous Father Online understands what it’s like to be an avid gamer or a novice, and he mixes up those dueling prospects for good jokes.
Yet for all the ways the film is wise for video game mechanics, there are many areas where Courageous Father Online feels naive. And I think it is in a good way. In his efforts to make Final fantasy and its surrounding community as pleasant as possible, Courageous Father Online excises all the toxic masculinity and aggressive control that plague modern video game culture. We are left with a picturesque reality where video games are a source of joy and a means of collaboration and expression. There’s so little room for judgment that the main character is an adult male who plays the role of a female avatar with cat ears, and the movie doesn’t dwell on that at all. It’s just presented as normal, because in the hyper-idealized world of film, it is.
I much prefer this fantasy to the very toxic and outdated take on video games and fatherhood that we got from Steven Knight Serenity earlier this year. Is it weird that Square Enix told an intergenerational Final fantasy story to help uplift future generations of devotees FF Fans? Sure. Hell, it can even be unethical. But I’d be a liar if I said Akio and Akira are sane Final fantasy the ties did not warm my heart.