Director – Shinji Higuchi
Screenplay – Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama
Producer – Yoshihiro Sato
Distributor – Toho
The massively popular Attack on Titan franchise has finally been given the live action treatment by Toho, the company that has previously brought huge monstrous creatures such as Godzilla and Rodan. Given that the Manga of the same name features grotesque giants it would seem the live action movie should be in good hands but should it have remained an Animé and Manga?
A lot of fans have been very vocal about their opinions on the movie and the changes it has made to fit it into a 90 minute time slot and make it more relate-able to those in Japan who may not already be familiar with the source material. It does feature a lot of similar elements, the world is still under attack my massive man eating giants with glazed joker like grins permanently on display. The setting has changed from Germany to Japan but the remainder of humanity still lives behind 3 towering walls designed to keep the humans out of the Titan’s reach and of course Eren, Armin and Mikasa are still the main characters and the ones we spend the most time with.
The problems fans seem to have are associated with a handful of characters being completely written out of the story, the change in nationality of the cast (the original was set in Germany hence the names, Mikasa is supposed to be one of the last Asians left alive), the reworking of a number of the character’s personalities and the special effects used to display the Titans and the Vertical manoeuvring equipment. The last two offences are just the result of a smaller budget movie having to attempt to create effects for a world used to Hollywood CGI and as mentioned above, changes in story are likely to be the result of distilling the uneven pacing of the original tale into a workable movie. So the real question is, is it any good? The short answer, is…its not bad!
The movie itself does not completely re-tell the original story line for line and instead works a re jigged version with as much of the important plot points represented as possible. Eren is both the main character and the main plot device and we see the events of the movie through his eyes for the most part which is fine. Armin is the same big hearted cowered that he was in the original story but he is less annoying given the scenes that have been chopped out due to time constraints, Mikasa on the other hand feels like a totally different person until the closing scenes and I do have some issue with how she is represented in the second half. Rather than being a strong independent but slightly over protective (of Erin) woman she is more or less the play thing of her squad leader and devoid of any sort of emotion.
The tale sits somewhere between horror and an action movie and does its very best to make the viewer feel ill at ease. The effects whilst not up to big budget movies are still effective at creating some genuinely creepy and disturbing imagery with the Titans themselves, those soulless grinning faces will stay with you long after the final credits have rolled. Victims are literally torn in two as they are devoured with gratuitous amounts of blood splashing the camera and the audible crunching of bones and tortured screams playing as the soundtrack to the on screen violence. The addition of an infant Titan though ill conceived given the rules set up in the Manga is appropriately creepy.
The remainder of the cast do a good job at representing the survey corp members (known as the Scout corps in the movie) but the use of very Nazi-esq uniforms on the Military police seems a little in bad taste. It is strange to go to all the effort of removing the original German setting only to have the Police show up in Black Leather with red and white arm bands but I digress.
A special shout out surely has to go out to the team who dealt with the soundtrack and music for the movie. We are treated to a lot of chanting vocals whenever the Titans show up and some very Godzilla-esq themes towards the end.
In the end the movie moves at a decent pace and keeps all of the key plot points in place and does its best with the special effects it has at its disposal. A few strange or awkward changes to the plot do little to detract from the overall positive attempt made by the writers to capture the feel of the source material but also leave their own stamp on it. The cast do a great job of bringing their characters to life and (in some cases) succumbing to the terror of their encroaching death. Attack on Titan is not my favourite Manga or Animé show so I wasn’t expecting much from this feature but I found myself really enjoying it and wondering just what all the negativity was about.
The Live Action Attack on Titan movie wins more than it fails, the feature feels like it was written by a fan of the Manga and I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to pick and chose what elements could stay and what had to go. The plot is not perfect but it tells a cohesive story and represents the original story far better than any Western made movie could. The changes are likely to be very polarizing so you are either going to love or hate the movie, there will not be many people in the middle. Thankfully I found it an entertaining watch and I am excited to see what the second movie has to offer.