Sind Sie das Essen? Nein, wir sind die Jäger! While Attack on Titan fans anxiously await the second season of the hit anime to return from hiatus, many have been looking forward to the upcoming live-action adaptation of the series to tide them over while they wait. On July 14th, 2015 the World Premiere for Part One was held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA. Though the film has been highly anticipated by fans of the franchise, is there any way the film could meet such colossal expectations?
First and foremost, if you are not currently a fan of the manga or the anime series of the same name, I’m going to tell you upfront you probably won’t enjoy this movie. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable, it’s simply that this was a movie made for fans who wanted to see the characters they had grown attached to, as well as the Titans themselves, in a live action setting. If you’re still curious, the story of Attack on Titan revolves around the story of a young man named Eren Jaeger, his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their friend Armin Arlet as they try to uncover the mysterious origins of the Titans, a race of giant humanoid man-eating monsters who have driven the last of humanity to seek refuge behind a series of three walls. When their hometown is destroyed when the Titans break through the outer wall, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin vow to take their revenge by joining the front lines to fight the Titans. Can they unravel the mysteries behind the origins of the Titans before what’s left of humanity is eradicated?
Even though this movie was made with its fan-base in mind, longtime fans of the series will undoubtedly notice that some changes had to be made for the first film to fit a three-act film structure (not to mention the fact that this is a film that has been split into two parts much like Harry Potter and Mockingjay). The difficulty with this is that neither the anime nor the manga are finished, so it’s difficult to say which aspects of the current plot constitute the beginning, the middle, and the end. The plot of the series itself has also taken numerous turns, as mysteries have been unraveled only to leave fans with more questions than they had before. As such, this film has to take liberties with the source material. As a fan, you have to keep this in mind, because there are many characters that aren’t included in this film, or have had their names changed because they factor in to a larger story than the films can allow. Other changes include remnants of the world before the Titans took a hold of the Earth, such as old vehicles and abandoned buildings with modern structures. In terms of set and prop design, this allows for more steampunk devices in addition to the ODM gear, as well as the existence of cars and tanks, both of which are absent in the comic and the show. As such, it can be easy to get caught up in the changes that were made rather than focusing on the merits of the film itself. As a fan of both the manga and the show, it’s hard for me to look at this film in a vacuum, but at the same time I can appreciate a lot of the deviations given the constraints that the filmmakers had. There are some deviations I don’t appreciate, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Let’s talk about the good and even great things about this movie. The costumes are fantastic, it’s amazing to see the Survey Corp uniforms and capes in a live action film. One of the things fans love about Attack on Titan is its stunning animation, and much of this is translated very well in terms of set design. The sets take on a far more rural Japanese aesthetic than they do a European one, but the sets themselves are well put together and look fantastic on the big screen. The music, though lacking the iconic theme songs from Linked Horizon, is still spectacular and perfectly sets up the epic tone that Attack on Titan is known for. The acting is well done, which is essential when depicting characters that are loved by so many. Haruma Miura plays Eren, and chooses a slightly more subdued portrayal of a character who has lost almost everything he holds dear. Eren still has the burning anger that he is known for in the comic and the anime, but his anger has been tempered in order to focus on developing more of a romantic relationship with Mikasa. Armin, as played by Kanata Hongo, is still bright and self conscious, but ultimately still a source of optimism and hope for the future. I will say that his role seems to be played down in the film, but I believe he’ll play a greater role in Part 2. Mikasa, as played by Kiko Mizuhara, was also an example of pitch perfect casting, as Mizuhara does an excellent job of portraying the strength and vulnerability of this character.
However, it’s Mikasa’s backstory that I take issue with when it comes to adaptation changes. There is a role reversal of sorts that the movie has chosen to explore. In the original series, Eren is slightly resentful of Mikasa’s strength and skill, since she is the top in her class and, even though they are adopted brother and sister, Eren often dismisses her because he stubbornly insists that he can take care of himself, even when it’s clear he should accept her help. In this film, events from the narrative have left Mikasa resentful of Eren instead. One of Mikasa’s core character traits is a desire to protect Eren, as he is the only family she has left. Seeing Mikasa furious with Eren is a little jarring, but it’s an interesting choice. What I’m not a fan of is that Mikasa had to learn to become strong under the tutelage of our Levi stand-in Shikishima, played by Hiroki Hasegawa. One of the reasons people love Mikasa is that her strength comes from her inner drive for survival. It’s true that Eren initially helped her find this strength, but ever since she’s never needed anyone to show her how to be strong. Having her being romantically involved with a man who taught her how to kill Titans undermines a lot of what makes her such a unique female character. Again, I feel like many of these issues will be addressed in Part 2, but for now it’s still slightly off-putting. That brings me to my final issue, the romantic subplots in the film seem a little forced and kind of awkward. There is romance in the source material, but it always came secondary to the main story, and many of the relationships were ambiguous in terms of whether or not they could even be considered romantic. Here, almost everyone seems to have a romantic subplot, and there’s even a bit of a love-triangle, which is odd to see in a series so dedicated to action, horror, and mystery.
Another off-putting thing about the film is a lack of consistency when it comes to the visual effects and the makeup. Admittedly, the Titans are a very difficult type of monster to portray in a live-action setting. This is one of the reason the series lends itself so well to the medium of animation. The Titans are grotesque, and are meant to be ugly, disturbing, and even occasionally comically uncomfortable to see onscreen. The effects in the film sometimes look phenomenal, like when the Colossal Titan breaks through the wall, while other times they look like someone’s homemade monster movie. As I said before, adapting the Titans into a live-action setting is admittedly very difficult, but that doesn’t changes the fact that sometimes the Titans look amazing and frightening, and other times they simply look like someone making funny faces or wearing silly makeup in front of a green screen. The violence in the film also has a different feel to it than the show, because it’s a little different seeing a real person getting eaten by a Titan than it is an animated person get eaten. Both are disturbing, but again, seeing a real person suffer at the hands of a Titan is much more unsettling.
All in all, I really enjoyed this film, especially at the World Premiere where the crowd would cheer when Mikasa swings into the scene. Am I happy with all of the changes that they’ve had to make to fit the story into a two part film? Of course not, but at the end of the day, I still had a lot of fun. Much of what people love about the comic and the show is still intact. This movie probably won’t win over any new fans, but if you’re a fan of Attack on Titan, and can let go of the fact that there will be changes, you’ll be glad you saw it.
What do you think of the live-action film? Were you happy with the changes or do you think the series is better lent to the world of animation? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!
Be sure to also check out our quick review for The Popcorn Talk Network!
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