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This Movie Inspired Final Fantasy 7's Biggest Villain

Inspiration for stories and characters can come from the most unlikely places. In a recent interview on the official Square Enix blog, Final Fantasy 7 Remake Producer Yoshinori Kitase went into the interesting origin of one of the Final Fantasy franchise's biggest villains: Sephiroth. Kitase, who also directed the original version of Final Fantasy 7, explained that the introduction of Sephiroth into the story was inspired by none other than the 1975 film Jaws.

"The way we handled Sephiroth in the original Final Fantasy VII was to hide him, hold him back," explained Kitase. "You may not know this, but I was inspired by the movie Jaws, which took a similar approach of teasing this powerful presence, but never fully showing you the shark until later in the story. We wanted to build him up as this really big, powerful character in people's minds. By only referring to him indirectly, it created this feeling of fear and oppression, so when he makes his first appearance, it's a big deal."

As Kitase mentioned, the shark in Steven Spielberg's Jaws stays out of sight throughout much of the original film, but its presence is still felt all over the events of the story. This was actually a consequence of technical issues during the making of the film. Originally, the mechanical shark used in the movie was supposed to be all over the film, attacking characters on-screen at every turn. However, the shark constantly malfunctioning, sinking during filming multiple times. 

Eventually, Spielberg made the decision to use the shark prop sparingly. The director figured, "It's what we don't see which is truly frightening."

The gambit paid off beautifully, creating a masterpiece of tension in which we don't often get to see the force of nature causing so much terror. Everyone is afraid of this creature looming in the ocean, even if they can't actually lay their eyes on it. When the shark is finally revealed in full for the first time, it's a terrifying moment for everyone involved, because they finally know what they're up against.

Sephiroth is treated much the same way in the original version of Final Fantasy 7. Everyone is aware of him, making references to his importance to the world of the game and the threat that he represents. He's a spectral force on the fringes of the story, which is how gamers know what a huge and terrifying deal it is when Sephiroth finally appears in person. Of course, Sephiroth more than backs up his reputation, being one of the toughest baddies in gaming history.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that we're dealing with a remake of one of the biggest and most beloved video games of all time, the metaphorical cat was already out of the bag in terms of Sephiroth's role in the story. As explained by Kitase, "for the remake, [hiding Sephiroth] doesn't work so well – partly because everybody knows who Sephiroth is! We didn't think it would be as effective to have him held back until later on in the story."

Instead, the development team decided to bring Sephiroth on screen much earlier in the remake. "Sephiroth is this massively overarching presence that looms over the whole Final Fantasy VII saga," Kitase continued. "We wanted to make sure that aspect of him was present in this first game in the project."

Interestingly, this also mirrors the Jaws motion picture franchise in a big way. After the success of the first film, three sequels followed. Since the first film had mostly kept the shark on the periphery, the sequels went in another direction, pushing for more action and more shark attacks sooner in the films' runtimes. This is similar to the way Final Fantasy 7 Remake has brought Sephiroth into the action much earlier than the original.

However, it should be noted that none of the sequels to Jaws were as popular or well-regarded as the original, with much of the tension having been lost in the ensuing installments. At least Final Fantasy 7 Remake has avoided emulating Jaws in this regard, as the new release has mostly been adored by critics and fans alike.

Also, like a film serial, the Final Fantasy 7 remake is being released in episodic installments. The first installment covers roughly the first six hours of the original game's story, so there will be plenty more to come. There's no word yet on when the next installment's release window, but it is currently in development. Hopefully we'll find out soon what to expect from that second chapter, but something tells us it'll be way better than Jaws: The Revenge.