Yes, for one day only last week there was a screening in select cinemas of the first 2 live action Attack on Titan movies and that is the Christmas gift that every Anime fan was waiting for. Attack on Titan is a mega phenomenon in the world of Japanese Anime and I am no exception to this. I have watched all the episodes of the Anime, I have collected all 16 volumes of The Manga, have the next volume of the special DVD extra pre-ordered, I have a cosplay outfit and I whilst I might have had misgivings of doing a live action attack on time film I have been looking forward to finally getting to see this film. I’d always planned to review this film upon its DVD release but I only discovered a couple of weeks before it came out that this film was getting its release and I quickly snatched up my ticket. I even stayed overnight in Manchester in order to see it, that’s the power of what a good franchise can do.
Attack on Titan has often been compared to other Western Franchises, being called Japan’s answer to The Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones and I would agree, mainly down to the epic story lines, the amazing on going plot and the sheer level of violence. Seriously, if you plan to get into this, don’t get attached to any of the characters, there’s a good chance they are not going to stick around for long. My thoughts on the franchise are that I would consider comparing it to Lost, considering that at this point in time The Manga, we are 16 volumes in at the time of publication, there are a lot of plot points brought up that are yet to be resolved and it’s kind of frustrating, hopefully, however, this is not another case of Lost where the story is being made up as they go along. That’s another reason why I was apprehensive about Attack on Titan live action film, it’s not done yet, The Manga’s not finished and we only have one 25 episode season going, we’re still not even close to having Season 2 come out, but I am open to the idea, especially with the team behind this film.
Both films are Directed by Shinji Higuchi, whose previous credits include the series Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water and one of the writers is Yusuke Watanabe, who worked on the screenplay for Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods. Incidentally there are a couple of disclaimers to go through before I start the review. I am probably going to end up using a lot of terms and names that will be understandable to Attack on Titan fans, which I won’t go in to too much detail with to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to check out Titan at some point, but I am also going under the assumption that a lot of people reading this review will know a lot about the various plot points that have happened in other versions. But I won’t be spoiling the plot of the film altogether or the series. Also whilst I am going to be reviewing these as two separate movies, I am only going to be reviewing them in one review, so expect me to jump back and forth and compare them to one another. How does the first attempt to bring a live action version of Attack on Titan hold up?
The plot of the film basically starts out like The Manga. A hundred years ago, creatures called Titans suddenly appeared and devoured most of the human race. In order to defend themselves, the last of humanity barricaded themselves behind a series of walls to keep the Titans out, this however, has led humanity into a false sense of security. At this point the Titans break through and start destroying humanity all over again and leave them to the brink of extinction. After his home town is destroyed and his friends and family are devoured, Eren (played by Haruma Miura) vows to destroy all the Titans along with his good friend Armin (played by Kanata Hongo) and Mikasa (played by Kiko Mizuhara). As their mission to repair the outer wall goes ahead it appears there may be more to the Titans than they first thought and Eren may hold the hope of humanity in his hands.
Part 1 is really a simple film, it follows most of the first half of The Manga, though telling a few stories out of order and taking bits and pieces from various chapters. Anyone expecting a literal adaptation of The Manga or the Anime may be slightly disappointed and the set up was just not as good in this version. For example, Eren’s parents, a vital part of his character motivation in the Manga and Anime, are nowhere to be found until part 2 and we are still never led to know what is going on, also several characters throughout both films are missing, most notably Levi is nowhere to be found, which seems a horrible decision considering he is probably the second most popular character in the entire franchise! There is also no Ami, which means in part 2 there is no battle against the Female Titan which has now been substituted for the Armoured Titan. Levi’s absence is not too evident in part 1 because he has been replaced by Captain Shikishima, (played by Hiroki Masegawa),who is basically in part 1 Levi, which made me wonder why they just couldn’t call him Levi when it is so obvious they are making him that character, but trust me, with the direction this character goes in part 2 you’ll be glad this guy wasn’t called Levi. What both films do brilliantly is give a sense of desperation to this world, which is what Attack on Titan is known for. The Titans feel legitimately huge and scary which is a great effect that the Anime gave us which has carried over very well to live action. The films also don’t shy away from doing some revolting amount of gore, which again, suits this world very well.
There are only a few major differences. For one thing the technology in the live action film is significantly more advanced than either the Anime or The Manga and there is also a few character changes here and there. For example, Eren starts his career in the military after he believes Mikasa is killed at the beginning of the movie, trust me, at no point do you actually believe they have killed of Mikasa at the beginning, you will never get any one buying into that! Oh yes, I completely believe they are going to kill off Mikasa, one of the most bad ass and one of the most popular female characters in Anime, early on who everyone was excited to see in this film, it isn’t as if I haven’t looked on IMDB and seen she is in the second film! While we are on the subject of her, she really did not get her character down for the most part. There are times where they make her seem like her Manga and Anime counterpart, but there are also times where she if completely off. It’s not the actress’s fault, it’s just some poor writing. Mikasa is probably one of my favourite characters ever and I just didn’t feel satisfied with her in this one. That’s the same with all the characters, they all come to moments where they are nearly there, but they just don’t quite reach the mark. The only one who really stood out for me as being like a perfect representation of her character was Hange, played by Satomi Ishihara. She is really my favourite part of this entire Movie, her off the wall comic relief is absolutely brilliant and we don’t see enough of the ingenuity which made the character great, but that’s a minor nit pick, because she still gets her time to shine. Part 1 also has some severe pacing issues that part 2 fixes. I actually had a conversation with someone outside the cinema who asked if part 2 was shorter than part 1 and I replied, No, I think it just felt shorter, because part 2 is a straight up action movie, which for the most part is actually better because at this point there is no way they can pull off the multiple plot line epic that the Anime pulled off because they simply don’t have time to establish this world and its characters. Several things that were given plenty of time to establish in the first 5 or 6 episodes are almost completely skimmed over, so as a result the plot really suffers. If this was aiming to be an Epic, which it really isn’t and that’s a slight benefit to the film because it means we can take it on its own merits. As a pure action film it does pretty well, especially part 2 where everything is quick and heavy with fight scenes and cool set pieces. Part 2 also makes the wise decision to almost abandon half The Manga and go off on its own merits. Admittedly it’s rather annoying that it feels a lot more simplistic than its counter parts and if offers more of a finality in its ending than I was expecting, but I definitely felt better at the ending of part 2 than I did by the end of part 1. Simply put, the film just doesn’t have time to tell the story and it doesn’t know what to cut and what to leave in or how to really adapt this because The Manga isn’t finished. This was also problem for The Harry Potter films when they were first coming out because those films were being produced before the book series was finished, so the early films didn’t know what was going to be important then or important later. This one, instead of falling into the trap, cuts out way too much to do its own thing and while that does mean I’m not as annoyed with the changes, it also means, I don’t really think it’s a worthy adaptation. On its own it does a pretty decent job, but I don’t feel the love for this one like I did with the Anime or for The Manga. It doesn’t have the addictive nature that those stories have. Seriously, if I didn’t have work to do I think I might have gotten through the first season of Attack on Titan in 2 days! The ending of Season 1 was so good that I actually said I could not wait 2-3 years to see the next season, I am going to have to read The Manga and I went out and brought every single volume of The Manga, this one just doesn’t get me in that pumped up spirit. I think it’s just down to the fact that I didn’t develop much of a connection with the characters, now granted I have heard that there have been a lot of complaints that Attack on Titan has too many characters and we are not allowed enough time to develop them, but I also remember most of the cast of Attack on Titan’s Anime. This one, I don’t really remember much about them and I didn’t really feel much when any of them were killed off because they just feel like they are more of an archetype of certain team members that we have seen in many different kinds of movies and it’s not a spoiler that some of the characters are going to die, it’s an Attack on Titan movie! Of course some of them are going to die! It’s par for the course! This film also skips ahead to certain plot devices in The Manga that haven’t turned up in Season 1 of the Anime and it makes me slightly worried that this might be the direction that The Manga and the Anime are going in and while it may not be a completely bad thing, I did enjoy the fact that these films did take me on a bit of a loop and I had to keep guessing where they were going in relation to what I knew of Attack on Titan. There is a moment in part 2 which made me look around at everyone in the cinema, thinking, “are you all seeing this, I’m not on drugs right now, this is actually happening”. Trust me, if you see part 2 you’ll know what I mean!
Overall my thoughts on part 1’s plot were that whilst it was a decently made adaptation of what we knew of the series, it’s not too great and I wouldn’t really put it up there, especially with the pacing issues. Part 2 on the other hand was a much more brisk, well made film but it still felt rather alien from Attack on Titan, not so much that it was un-recognisable so as a result was a slightly more enjoyable movie in terms of the plot.
With the plot out of the way, let’s talk about the cast. The cast is one of the things that interested me most about the film. I know it’s a Japanese production but it does feel slightly weird that this is an entirely Japanese cast based on a series where there is only one Japanese character, which is reflected in the names. Attack on Titan’s plot almost certainly takes place in central Europe, considering that none of the characters know what the ocean looks like because they have lived inland and they also all have either French, German or Dutch names, such as Eren, Armin, Jean and Marco, who also isn’t in this film! However, I don’t believe someone’s race affects their ability to play a character so I completely went into this cast with an open mind and for the most part they do a decent job. My favorite casting is Satomi Ishihara as Hange, who completely gets the character down. I also kind of liked Haruma Miura as Eren. But a couple of the cast feel mis-cast. Kanata Hongo, for example feels slightly mis-cast as Armin and Takahiro Miura feels mis-cast as Jean, but they do at least play their parts relatively well. Jun Kunimura as Kubai gets to play a menacing character but he almost does it to an absurd degree, so he’s not believable and the same can be said of Hiroki Hasegawa as Shikishima who in part 1 basically is doing a Levi impression and in part 2, well I don’t really know what he is doing, but he is at least half decent, he is probably the best actor in part 2, apart from the actress playing Hange, she is still excellent. Seriously this is one of the best comic relief performances I have seen all year. However, the one I want to go on to the most was Kiko Mizuhara as Mikasa, ok this actress can pull off the role of Mikasa, but she is not written well enough to do it, at moments when the writing is good and the direction is there, she is in complete embodiment of the character and I absolutely adored her performance at times, but at times it was completely off. I also don’t think there is enough of a decent chemistry between her, Erin and Armin, but I think that is more of a writing problem than it is an acting problem because the actors are not given enough direction or time on screen to make you feel all that love and affection that they had in the Anime. These guys are almost bonded together and what made the Anime great was the chemistry between those 3 and the bond they shared. This one is not great at that. The rest of the cast are just decent, they all deliver their lines pretty well and they are all giving their best shot even if they are not given enough to expand their roles, in fact some of them really only have to act like they are dying when they get eaten by Titans.
Now, lets move on to the special effects. The biggest question is, were the effects any good? For the most part yes, the Tiitan’s are actually a really cool effect, as I said earlier they feel menacing, gigantic and a genuine threat and they also don’t look like fake CGI which I was worried they were going to. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t brilliant and at times the effect can fail, but for the most part they are decent. I also really liked the replication of the designs for some of the more famous Titans of the show, including the one named after one of the characters for which I will not give the name away for spoilers for anyone who wants to see Attack on Titan, The Armoured Titan and The Collossus Titan were all brought into live action pretty well. There was no Female Titan however, and I really wished they had gone with her because I would have liked to see what that design would have looked like. This film also doesn’t shy away from showing blood a lot which is all done relatively decent, but it occasionally relies on CGI blood and it’s a lot more fake than the practical effects in this film. By the way, the practical effects are really good in this film. I also liked the design of the outfits, I was really worried when I saw the screenshots of this film that they would look like a lot of people cosplaying as the army from Attack On Titan, but they actually look really good and have enough wear and tear in them in order to make you feel like these guys had been in a battlefield.
Now, lets get to the action scenes, because the action scenes are one of the best parts of the Anime. In short the action is pretty good at times, it’s not great if I am honest, but at times it can really hit it out of the park and really replicate the Anime, which I didn’t think was possible, but at times it really falls flat and looks ridiculous. But some of these action scenes can come off as really horrific or really cool and have the fast pace and flashy moves of the anime. It’s just they are just a bit hit and miss. When they hit, they knock it right out of the park and will have you on the edge of your seat, none of them quite reach the same level the Anime does and seriously, if I haven’t praised it enough, Go Out And Watch The Anime, or read The Manga, they are both awesome. I also think the design of the towns look a lot more post apocalyptic than they do in the Anime but I think the Anime has the edge for the sheer scale and the better looking design.
A lot of live action Attack on Titan movies are movies than can best be described as ok, some moments hit it out of the park, others don’t even get up to bat. Luckily the former out ways the latter for the most part so I can describe these films as ok. Both films have 60% on Rotten Tomatoes at the minute and I think that’s about accurate. The cast does a decent job, the writing ranges from good to bad and the effects are pretty good and the fight scenes do a decent job, especially the Titan fight scenes. There are plenty of issues with it and I would recommend reading The Manga or the Anime instead of this, but if you are a fan of Attack on Titan I would recommend getting these after you have read or seen all of that because I think it’s worth if for pure curiosity sakes. Most of the people in the cinema with me came out with the same response “that was better than we thought it was going to be” and that’s probably accurate. These films could have been much worse and translating Attack on Titan to live action must have been a hell of a task for the studio to do. But it wasn’t impossible and they proved it by doing a half decent movie. But a movie isn’t automatically good just because it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was going to be, it just means it wasn’t bad and that’s the best way I can sum up this film. It’s just not bad, but it’s not that good either. I think part 2 is better than part 1 because it knows what it wants to be and firmly sticks with it and has a more defined plot. Also, don’t try and see these movies in one go when this comes out on DVD because watching these two together is about 3 hours and it’s exhausting to keep it all in. Trust me the months break between the two when they were released in Japan is well worth it.
Normally I would ask for your thoughts on Attack on Titan Part 1 and 2 in this section but I am really doubtful that most people reading this will have seen both last week. If you did, great, leave a comment, I would definitely value any opinions, if not I will happily wait for the DVD to come out for your opinions on it.
“what are your thoughts on Attack on Titan Anime and The Manga?”
I’ve praised the hell out of them, but I freely admit there are some issues with both of them so I will welcome any comments, either positive or negative.
I have one more review before Christmas and this one I am finally pinning down, next week I will be reviewing the new Daniel Radcliffe movie “Victor Frankenstein”, I will be publishing it the day after the Star Wars release on December 18 so half of you will be going to see that film.
Don’t worry, just because I said this is the last review before Christmas doesn’t mean I have forgotten Star Wars, that film is getting reviewed on 1 January 2016. Sorry I can’t get it out sooner, but I want a Christmas break and my boss has banned me from working over Christmas.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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