Live-action adaptations of manga/anime titles seem to be the “in” thing as of late and the latest in this current trend is Attack on Titan. Based upon a hugely successful manga and anime, how does this live-action adaptation stand up?
“Fast-forward 100 years. What remains of the human population now survives in relative peace behind massive walls erected in defence against the Titans. That peace is shattered when a Colossal Titan, measuring over 50 meters tall, smashes through the wall and allows a horde of other Titans to enter. Eren Yeager had resigned himself to a life confined behind these walls. “Nothing I do would make a difference”, he thought. But when he joins the ‘Outer Wall Restoration Team’ set up to fight against the Titans, he is reunited with Mikasa, a childhood friend. The new recruits embark on a mission to plug the gaping hole in the wall and stop the waves of titans once and for all. With humanity’s survival on the line, will there be a future for Eren and Mikasa, and for mankind itself?” – Animatsu Entertainment
I’m sure it’s well known by now but there was a significant amount of negative feedback for this movie and its sequel upon their initial Japanese release but how much truth is there to them? I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge fan of the Attack on Titan story but I do enjoy the manga and the anime adaptation. Because of this, I felt I was able to go into the movie with an open mind and judge it based on its own merits. That is until I watched it. Within the first ten minutes, I found myself infuriated with the liberties the story had already taken in that short amount of time. Of course, I was expecting some changes to make it fit within a live-action movie format but the entire setting has changed.
Yes, the last of humanity still live behind walls defending themselves from the Titans but it was never alluded to within the original that this was based upon our world. Nor is it a modern world with technology, however in this adaptation and within the first ten minutes we see an unexploded missile and the carcass of a helicopter. Of course, most of these technologies have been lost to mankind but their appearance changes the world’s setting a great deal. The fact they use large military vehicles instead of horses makes the whole “David versus Goliath” scenario a lot less believable. Except for the fact they seem to be even less capable in this adaptation than in the source material. We don’t see anyone actually use the Vertical Manoeuvring Equipment until the end of the movie and we see even fewer battles against the Titans.
The movie itself very loosely follows the plot from the manga, making some major deviations. I have to be honest, I didn’t know what was actually happening throughout most of it. The introduction of new characters only served to confuse the story even more while adding nothing of value. The characters themselves were disappointing, whether it was acting ability or direction, only a select few, Sasha Braus and Hange Zoë, actually felt like their originals. Mikasa was probably the biggest let down and this appears to be due to the direction for the character rather than the actresses’ ability. As opposed to the tough nature of the original in the movie she appears very delicate, fragile even.
The movie does pick up towards the end where it adapts the story of Eren’s first Titan transformation which plays out largely like the source material. Overall it has to be said I think this movie is a very bad adaptation. If it wasn’t for its connection to the Attack on Titan franchise, with some slight tweaks it could have been a rather enjoyable movie. As it stands though, the messy and confusing story, weak characters and change in world setting really affected my investment in the story.
It’s all about the Titans when it comes to the visuals and they look creepy as hell. There are some instances where the CGI is off but for the most part, they look fairly terrifying. The Colossal Titan at the beginning clearly is where the majority of the budget went and it looked amazing. It didn’t do much more than roar during its time on screen but the visual spectacle was one of the biggest highlights throughout the movie. The Eren Titan, later on, looked quite cheap in comparison and was essentially a man in a suit ala Tokusatsu. This Godzilla/Ultraman styled suit would work well outside of this movie but here it felt a little cheap and out of place. In terms of the audio, I would have liked to hear more to build up the tension in some scenes. The Titans were a highlight though as their ecstatic laughing screams are particularly creepy.
If you’re a fan of Attack on Titan then I can only recommend staying clear of this movie unless you’re willing to accept major story changes and have a really open mind. As I said earlier this probably would have worked better and been a lot more enjoyable if it wasn’t under the Attack on Titan banner. For those unfamiliar with Attack on Titan, you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy as an entry point or just to get a feel; this movie is definitely not for existing fans.