Being a fan of the anime series “Attack on Titan”, which is based of the manga of the same name I was extremely excited to hear that it was being adapted into a full theatrical released movie in Japan. The studio decided to break it up into 2 movies, there is a lot of story to cover after all and with the success of the anime decided it would be getting a US release as well. This review covers the first part in a two part motion picture.
The story of Attack on Titan evolves around the military trying to combat these Titans who’s only goal is to eat humans. After apocalyptic events the military have devised a city phased off in sections. Each section has a protective wall to help keep these massive titans out.
Director Shinji Higuchi (Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water) has the daunting task of bringing this beloved anime to the big screen and ov erl all does a decent job even though characters and parts of the story and lore have been changed bringing mixed feelings from fans of both the manga and anime alike.
Higuchi definitely does have a good eye when composing shots and knows how to keep the pace what is essentially a horror/action movie flowing a long. When the titans aren’t around eating people and causing massive destruction, Higuchi manages to keep the movie going.
Screenplay writers Watanabe and Machiyama took many liberties and changed a lot of the lore from the story to bring Attack on Titan to the big screen. They took out the character Levi and replaced him with a very creepy and d-bag charcater known as Captain Shikishima. Mikasa’s role also was changed for the film making her more of a damsel in distress at the beginning. Other characters were melted into one character. In the anime most characters were from German decent where in this all were Asian decent. It’s not that big of a deal to some but to fans of the manga and anime it breaks down the lore quite a bit.
Watanabe and Machivama crafted a decent enough story so far but really need to work on dialogue. There was quite a few melodramatic and very cheesy lines throughout the movie which at times kind of took you out of the story. Overall though it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be,
Haruma Miura (Harlock: Space Pirate) did a great job as the main protagonist Eren, though his characterization in the movie didn’t seem quite as strong as the anime. During the first part of the movie Eren seems more of a lost soul than a fighter willing to kill all the titans. We don’t see this side of Eren until almost the end of the movie. I thought Miura really held the movie together with his performance.
Kiko Mizuhara (The Trick Movie: Last Stage) played Eren’s love interest Mikasa. Her performance was also well done though the love interest was overplayed in a lot of the scenes. Mizuhara brought heart to Mikasa, who in the anime at times was a rather dull character, and by the end of the movie the fighter in her was brought out.
The performances for the other characters such as Armin and Hans were well done though the actress playing Hans overacted here and there. Armin could have been used more in the movie and trhough out the film I felt there was a disconnect with the character.
I have never been fond of musical scores in Japanese films. There is always something out of place with them and with Attack on Titan it is no different. A lot of the music was overbearing and very melodramatic, there’s that word again, at times. The choral pieces worked nicely and gave the movie a bit of the feeling the anime conveyed in scenes. Fans of the anime looking to hear the awesome opening theme from the anime will be disappointed, that doesn’t show up at all in the movie.
Effects were also a mixed bag. Some of the titan effects were very well done and the battle sequences hold up pretty well, but when the military are zipping around on their ODMG devices that’s where the effects start to falter, a lot. For being a smaller budget film, the effects team did a great job on the titans and the gore was very well handled as well. Oh yes there is gore in the movie. I was worried that they would shy away from the amount of gore and violence the anime had and try to work around it but they didn’t. I do have to applaud them from keep that part true to the story. In the movie you get to see first hand how terrifying these titans really are and they do make for some very frightening sequences.
Overall this movie exceeded my expectations but that isn’t saying too much since my expectations were low at the time. Part of the reason is that most live action movies coming from Japan, especially anime and manga story lines don’t really have the budget to really make them work. Attack on Titan however works very well when the titans are on screen. The movie becomes very terrifying and really gives you a sense of the Hell these people are going through on a daily basis. If you are fan of the manga and anime you may be disappointed as to how things were handled in the story but part of it may surprise you. Don’t forget that there is a follow up movie coming out shortly to tie it all up in a nice bow.
I give Attack on Titan a 3.0 out of 5. I don’t highly recommend this movie but it’s not entirely bad either. It does have it’s moments and I feel there are enough of them to make this movie an enjoyable experience.