Attack On Titan: The Movie Part 1 (Cert 15)
1 Disc (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running Time: 99 minutes approx.
With the enormous global success of the Attack On Titan anime, a live action film adaptation was inevitable; sadly so is the prospect of not meeting the high expectations of fans of the franchise, and rightly so.
Therefore it is necessary to stress straight away that this film takes many liberties with the story, the characterisations and much of the mythos pertaining to the unique setting. Hardcore fans may complain, but Attack On Titan’s original author Hajime Isayama apparently gave the film’s makers carte blanche to make the film they wanted to.
If one can approach this with an open mind and not as an eager fan with every details of the anime or manga etched into their minds for comparison, they might not be so disappointed with the results. But I stress – *might*…
An initial problem is this first film only runs for 99 minutes meaning much development and exposition has been hastily abridged or excised completely due to these time constraints. This puts a huge burden on the second film to carry the greater weight of the story.
Following a brief history recap of the attacking titans and the building of the city walls for protection, we meet the three main protagonists – Eren Jaeger (Haruma Miura), Mikasa Ackerman (Kiko Mizuhara) and Armin Arlet (Kanata Hongô). An unexpected Titan attack takes place, lead by a colossal Titan which dwarfs the city walls, allowing the “regular” titans to gain entry. During the rampage the trio are separated and Eren is forced to hide as a female titan attacks a helpless Mikasa as she tried to save a baby.
Well, I did say they had taken some liberties with the story….
Skip forward a few years and Eren and Armin are now part of the Titan Survey Corps, an army of young fighters equipped with the latest technology, who are sent out to help with the defence of an outer city, one which is purported to be protected by a Goddess Titan Slayer. I wonder who that could be?
Only the central details have been carried over from the source material because this reimagining is more of a kaiju/horror film and on that front it works very well, despite the impression given by the changes outlined above. And that is what makes this quite a remarkable and polarising film that it is neither fish nor fowl in terms of what the fans will be expecting from it.
Therein lies an intrinsic problem – the people most likely to watch this film are the loyal fans who will be the most critical of it and thus the most disappointed. This is exacerbated by the changes made which seem unnecessary, even if it is to hurry the story along. Most of the key points remain but are introduced in a different manner, which is likely to cause confusion for both fans and newcomers alike, since the anime had more time to make the audience understand why these things happen.
Changing the characters’ personalities is arguably the most egregious interference for the familiar viewers, undermining much of the main themes of the original story. Without wishing to give too much away, Eren, the rage fuelled boy who would be the loudest voice in trying to engender diligence and a lack of complacency towards the Titans’ attacks, is instead presented here as a non-believer of the Titans’ existence! Instead he dreams of fantasy world beyond the walls of blue oceans and singing birds in the sky.
Mikasa is the other character who should have been exempt from change. While she is still a skilled fighter the events mentioned earlier led to her complete personality transformation, making her barely recognisable from her animated counterpart. Again anyone coming into this for the first time won’t notice this but for everyone else this will be a jarring alteration to accept.
Of the support cast, many have made it across to this version – Sasha the Potato Girl (Nanami Sakuraba), excitable science nerd Hans (Satomi Ishihara) and Eren’s brash tormentor Jean (Takahiro Miura) – with Hans naturally being instantly recognisable while the others just feel like token appearances to appease the fans, but welcome ones all the same.
The actors do as much as they can with the script, the support displaying more personality and energy than the leads, keeping close to their anime predecessors. Haruma Miura seems unsure of how to play Eren while Japanese based Korean-American actress Kiko Mizuhara pretty much pouts her way through her turn as Mikasa. Kanata Hongô is just there as Armin. One ironic piece of casting however is legit karate badass Rina Takeda as a snivelling wimp!
Another key concern for fans is the Titans themselves and how they fare. The special effects are great in isolation, less so when combined. In lieu of the budgetary limitations TOHO had at the disposal, we have a mix of CGI and practical effects, such as working models of Titan limbs and mouths. The main Titans are a curious mix of made-up actors rampaging the city a’la Godzilla with the actors clearly shot in front of a green screen.
They are effectively eerie due to their human facades while their feral behaviour is nightmarish; proving to be the most disturbing is the baby titan about which I’ll say no more. The Colossal Titan is all CGI and to hide its shortcomings is enveloped in a strange cloud of smoke and fire. The flight sequences are well shot and often exhilarating but the composite images aren’t as smooth as they could be.
Attack On Titan is both infuriating and impressive depending on your level of familiarity heading into it. Newcomers will find a creepy and different take on the monster horror movie, while devoted fans will need to approach this with a VERY open mind and low expectations of a direct adaptation to feel their time has been rewarded – but we all know how fickle fans can be.
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Rating – ***
Man In Black