Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie – Conqueror Of Shamballa (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 101 minutes approx.
Originally made in 2006 and first released over here two years later, this spin off from the original FMA TV adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga was conceived as a means to tie up some of the loose ends left by the independently written denouement of the series (as the manga was still running) and explore the futures of the Elrich Brothers whilst creating a new adventure in the process.
It is set two years after the brothers were forced to separate at the Gate of Truth with eldest brother Edward now living in Germany in 1923, working alongside a rocket engineer named Alphonse (who also resembles his younger brother). They happen across a group of travelling Romany gypsies, among who is Noah, a young woman with powerful psychic abilities on the run from the Thule Society, a power hungry occult group looking to find a way to open a gate to a utopian land known as Shamballa. With a little help from King Bradley look-a-like the legendary German film director Fritz Lang, Ed discovers a huge transmutation circle in an abandoned church, realising that Shamballa is in fact Amestris and Thule Society have on their side, the shapeshifting humunculi Envy.
Meanwhile in Amestris younger brother Al has assumed the mantle “Fullmetal Alchemist” from Ed as he continues his search to reunite with his elder sibling once more, having lost all memories of his previous life following his return to his own body. He gets his chance when an army of rampaging zombie suits of armour – including a very familiar looking one – attack the town of Liore. Al steps in and infuses some of the armoured zombies with his own soul, his benevolent nature forcing them to fight against their attacking comrades. Just as the circle is opened in Ed’s alternate universe the suits are sucked up into the void, the familiar looking one recognising Ed upon arrival thus reuniting the brothers. But if the Thule Society has anything to do with things, it will be a short lived reunion.
The plot gets more involved as it progresses, taking in the some genuine events from the history of the period which double as allegorical references later on. The Thule Party did exist and were one of the chief supporters of what was to become the Nazi party. In this tale they use Hitler’s infamous Beer Hall Putsch, a coup against the then ruling Weimar Republic, as a diversion while they open the gate to Shamballa, which they invade with their army of armour suited zombies, paralleling Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Fritz Lang’s involvement comes again from a real life incident with some added dramatic license to fit it in with the plot. Partly Jewish, Lang was offered the role of the Nazi party’s head of filmmaking (famously taken up by Leni Riefenstahl) which he declined leading to his emigration to the US and the demise of his marriage to screen writer and Nazi supporter Thea von Harbou. In 1928 when making his seminal sci-fi classic Frau Im Mond, Lang was approached by a young scientist who had built a rocket and convinced Lang to invest in it and use his film to publicise a public launch. The rocket idea was later used and developed by the Nazi’s during WW II. In this film, the “other” Alphonse is the rocket scientist and after the Thule’s view his rocket launching demonstration at a fair, they persuade him to lead a rocket building project of theirs.
Feature length spin off films from successful TV series are always a gamble and Conqueror of Shamballa probably had more at stake than others since it not only had the reputation and quality of a huge successful show to live up to, but needed to deliver a satisfactory after story of the lives of the Elrich Brothers following the end of the original TV adaptation. Therefore this is not a good way for anyone to introduce themselves to the FMA franchise, taking prior knowledge of the show’s history for granted from the onset. For those who did follow the original TV show this is a real treat, taking what you already know and neatly subverting it to force things along more challenging paths, such as Ed still sporting his automail limbs but unable to use his alchemy, while Al can use his alchemy but had forgotten everything else. A number of familiar faces show up including Winry, Rosa, Colonel Mustang and his military team but their contribution is relatively minor. If there is one area of improvement needed, it would be the lack of character development for Noah and German Alphonse, neither of whom get any background exposition, instead thrown into the mix for what they can provide, and in Noah’s case, no explanation as to how and why she has psychic powers.
As befitting the budget for a feature length film the quality of the artwork leaps out from the screen right from the opening frame with a “big time” feel to it. The attention to detail in the backgrounds, buildings and the classic German architecture is flawless, while the actions scenes are fluid and believable – all of which will be highlighted in this much delayed Blu-ray release of this title, which is part of a two disc box set with the recent FMA: Brotherhood spin off movie The Sacred Star Of Milos (also both released on DVD).
Also making the long awaited jump to Blu-ray are the final three instalments of the Brotherhood TV series so all you FMA fans wanting that HD upgrade better start saving those pennies!
True Dolby HD: English Language 5.1
True Dolby HD: Japanese Language 5.1
Making Of Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie – Conqueror Of Shamballa
Japanese Director and Staff
Japanese Director and Actors
US ADR Director and Actors
Ratings – ****
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