‘Attack on Titan’ is a Titanic Disappointment

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The Live Cast

The Live Cast

Attack on Titan has hit not just Japan but America as a pop culture phenomena. What started as a manga grew into one of the most popular anime franchises. Any con you go to there are endless fans who cosplay as the soldiers, and that trend doesn’t seem like it will die down soon. The dubbed version hit Adult Swim and was a hit here in the U.S.

The story involves the last handful of humans who live inside 3 different 50 meter high walled cities (the implication is that if you live in the outer cities you are poor, and the inner districts are to the upper class citizens) to protect them from ‘Titans,’ giant humanoids who tower at 15 meters who mindlessly search for human flesh (think of zombies, but much bigger with regenerative abilities). Due to harsh conditions, technological advancement has been stunted, and they live in an era of powder fed muskets and steel ball cannons, which can be mostly ineffective against the Titans, since their only weak spot is in the back, at the nape of the neck, which has to be cut out in order for them to be killed. The human response is to use twin grappling hooks, known as the Omni Directional Gear, which come with twin blades, and at the stilts are controls to said grappling hooks. The scenario lends itself to some fast paced and exciting action, and bloody gory consequences.

Somewhere along the line, a live action movie was greenlit. While it was every fans dream to see their favorite anime go live action, there was skepticism. Like video games, manga and anime don’t usually translate well into the big live action screen. What would be a six plus hour journey was supposed to be condensed into 90 minutes. If decades of comic book hero continuity can be condensed into a two hour movie, surely this would be no problem. Well…. where do I start.

First off you’ll notice that technology has NOT been stunted in this universe. There are motor cars everywhere. In fact, there are armored motor cars. Where as in the series they were forced to ride on horseback or carriage, this armored car scenario takes away a big sense of ‘danger at all times’ and never being safe. Semi automatic rifles are everywhere, and someone even has a Rocket Launcher. Right away you begin to wonder how it is they have been losing against the titans in the first place, or why they would even dare use Omni Directional Gear and swords when that technology is available. This has to be one of the biggest flaws that took me away from the movie, especially when I spotted a helicopter.

Hans with a Rocket Launcher.

Hans with a Rocket Launcher.

The second thing I must say is that lots of characters are just absent. There is no Grisha, Marco, Ymir, Krista, Bertolt, Reiner, Connie, Annie, or Levi. While it’s understandable to omit some characters for screen time, the truth is that without certain characters, certain events make no sense when they are triggered. The armored titan is absent entirely. The Colossal Titan shows up and disappears without you-know-who ever even having a presence. Without Grisha being there to inject Eren with the Titan Shifter formula, it makes no sense that he has that gift. Without his dead mom, his motivation for joining is different. There are replacements for Pixis, Hannes, and Levi who don’t really cut it. There are also entirely new characters, like a Sannagi who carries a giant battle axe (although I enjoyed him, running around frantically cutting the heel tendons of any titans), and a single mother who tries hitting on Eren in a very awkard time.

This is Sannagi, played by Saturo Matsuo.

This is Sannagi, played by Saturo Matsuo.

Third, the characters that are left are a total mess. Eren is a guy who can’t hold a job and joins the military because apparently there wasn’t anything else to do after the attack. He’s not as driven or as fearless as the one you know, driven to kill every titan in existence due to his mothers death, instead almost always paralyzed with fear and always running away. Jean Kirstein is present as an arrogant ass because… well, no reason really. In the story it’s established he wants to join the Military Police and that he grew up in the inner city, mildly spoiled, to contrast Eren who grew in the poor district first hit by the Titans who is determined to join the scouts and are at odds because of their views. Here, they get into fights all the time because “they hate each others faces.” If it sounds dumb, it is.

Sasha is kept in the script, known to fans as the potato girl, due to having eaten a potato when she was supposed to be at attention in front of a commander. Here, she is apparently obsessed with potatoes, eating them in almost every scene. It’s up-played to comical results. Her bow and arrow also make a mysterious appearance as I never saw her take them with her into the field. Hange is renamed Hans, and is about the only character that translated faithfully. Armin is an inventor of sorts, so he’s still the smart kid, but it’s very odd. Mikasa however is a total mess. They missed the character by miles. She’s a bad ass with Omni Gear, sure but she literally disappears from the movie and appears as a badass because I suppose she had been shacking up with someone who is clearly meant to be the replacement for Captain Levi.

Jean Kirstein played by Takahiro Miura

Jean Kirstein played by Takahiro Miura

Next up, the Titans themselves. I supposed they did the best they could. They’re just actors who wear make up. That being said, I admit that myself and Tiffani (the co host for Comics After Dark) spent all the screen time laughing at almost every other titan. They look so silly and the faces they express are supposed to inspire terror, sure, but all I could do is burst out laughing. I would apologize to theater goers but they were clearly more upset with the baby crying and the mother who just wouldn’t take the baby outside. The Colossal Titan appears, not just heavily CGI’d but always covered in steam. He screams and kicks a lot too. Eren’s “Berserker Titan” looks not too bad, but not good by any stretch.

Try not to laugh too much :)

The imagery is a big use of green screen. It’s almost all green screen. Seeing titans regenerate was done well, and visually very pleasing. When the action finally happens at the end of the movie, it’s probably the high point. The camera can shake a lot, and it does get annoying a bit, but it is nothing but heavy green screen, and it’s clear it is. This movie needed a much bigger budget to have been done faithfully just visually. The uniforms look very faithful to the anime, although they went for something entirely different with the officers. The gore is also a stand out. There is tons of blood everywhere so kudos.

The music is also bad. A lot seems recycled from the old Godzilla movies. Other times I could have sworn it was music meant for the SNES. Confusingly enough, the end song…. well, it’s upbeat and clear unlike the other songs. It’s so mixed.

As for the story, it’s a drastic change. Sure, fans of the anime know what triggered what sequence of events and why they happened, but the movie itself leaves no explanation. Things just happen, just because. I expected the movie to have different explanations but to have no explanations for things is confusing. Erens transformation just happens, and one of the officers even knows what to do at the right time to save him from being fused, because apparently he had seen this happen before… maybe? It’s not explained, and it’s confusing. Why was technology banned, just because it led to war? Aren’t they always at war? Why wasn’t there a scouting regiment to begin with? Why doesn’t everyone just use rocket launchers? Why do they let so many soldiers die but all unite to save Jean, who was a complete ass the entire time and useless? Why does ‘Not Captain Levi’ instruct Eren to get close to the titans and be brave in killing them, but when Eren gets hurt he just laughs and never joins the fight?

In the end, the best this movie can hope for is a “so bad it’s good” title, but even then it’s a hard argument. I can’t recommend this movie to the general public, and even to die hard fans of Attack on Titan it’s hard to recommend. Sure, the die hards will probably see it anyways, but they will not be pleasantly pleased.

End of the World

End of the World

Attack on Titan will see a limited release here in the United States, and a limited release for Attack on Titan Part 2 will happen on October 20th 2015.

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