When it was announced that the ever popular anime series Attack on Titan (or also known as Shingeki no Kyojin) fans were hopeful that a live-action adaptation could bring the epic tale of horror and survival to life and generate a slew of new fans. For those of you who may be unaware, Attack on Titan started out as a manga (turned anime and film) that centers on a world of dire circumstances with monster sized beings known as Titans wandering the world. These creatures have somewhat human-like appearances, and feed on those surviving people they come across, which has forced the remaining pool of humanity to reside within constructed walls to help keep the faction of people alive at whatever cost. The anime has received wide acclaim from readers, viewers, critics, and anyone who comes into contact with the popular franchise, and a live-action adaptation in Japan felt like the perfect opportunity to seize an anime fandom and test the waters for anime adaptations.
The film is split into two parts and focuses on Eren Jaeger, a popular character from the series. Where Attack on Titan (the film) differs from the franchise, is the background of the beloved characters. The pivotal character Eren seems more passive than his manga and anime counterpart. In the original AOT, Eren witnesses the brutal death of his mother and vows to seek payback on the titan creatures, fueling his tale of revenge. In the film’s adaptation, Eren more longs to discover the outside world and its natural beauties without that same heavy circumstance. Sure, it’s an understandable goal (and slightly unattainable) but it sets the course for the AOT movies to completely separate themselves from the established plot of its predecessor. You may think that it could be a minor detail, but we quickly learn that Mikasa (his adopted sibling) is actually his girlfriend in the films, and when the titans strike initially – she is believed to be dead. When Eren and his close friend Armin (who is also different) later enlist in the Scouting Regiment, we come across other familiar names with similar original characteristics, yet different paths – like the fan favorite potato lover Sasha.
With the many differences between the series and films, there are also points that they attempt to follow that are major inclusions to the original plot of AOT (no major spoilers, sorry folks you’ve got to watch it for yourself while it’s in theatres!) including an end scene in part 1 that sets things back on track in some capacity and a twist on a storyline in part 2. Mikasa is another different character compared to what we know, while she played a crucial role as a badass and powerhouse in the original, she is more damsel in distress in the Japanese adaptation. I don’t want to constantly compare the two for being different, but I simply feel the need to address the things that pay respect to the popular series and prepare fans for the actuality that this isn’t another repeat tale of what you know. For some, this is an exciting new approach to throw fans off and create a story without public awareness of the ending – which can be a smart tactic. For the more grounded Attack on Titan fans, this transition can be a little bumpier than expected (especially for Levi lovers who are now faced with the similar, yet different character named Shikishima). With all of that being said, I feel that it is something that you will have to really to find out for yourself because an anime film adaptation is a bold and brave choice that deserves props for taking risks.
The special effects in the Attack on Titan films also seem to waiver back and forth between success and room for improvement. In the opening Titan attacks, the colossal titan looks very much like a more realistic version of the exposed muscle monster, and the shattering of the walls is done quite well (aside from some noticeable over acting from the Japanese cast in moments.) The rubble that surrounds the scene in the midst of the chaos also creates a more devastating look to Attack on Titan and tries to recreate the elaborate world within the walls. Certain angles provide a beautiful look at their home and glimpses of the outside world, but others like random titans with to overt human similarities are jarring (a filmmaker’s use of realism vs. CGI, just not at its peak). One example is a woman seen numerous times feeding on people, appearing as a blown-up version of an extra who we are supposed to view as a villain. Select (most) titans also are very frightening with their widened grins that make them more threatening, and their sometimes subtle noises as they barge through buildings reinforces titans as legitimate threats. All in all, the titans are mostly a success to the films when it’s important, and a titan x titan battle in part two gives viewers a chance to really find out the extent of the design and production. In part one, the beginning (through most of the rest) has titans attacking repeatedly, whereas part two slows down on the effects and tries to focus more on character subplot with an ending that is very different from the original. Yes, character development is necessary for any film, but some of these characters aren’t well evolved enough to really draw your attention, it’s the titans who are the main attraction to these films.
Attack on Titan is clearly such a popular series that it generated a massive amount of buzz around anything involving the series, and the films have been no different. They may not exactly cater to the fans of the original story, but just the fact that we have a theatrical release of an anime film in the U.S. is impressive enough to at the very least give the film a shot. Attack on Titan is definitely taking a step in the right direction in terms of trying to create a doorway for broader anime adaptations, and I sincerely hope it can spark a studio craze to tell more tales based on popular and effective series so closed to our hearts – (Anyone else waiting on that live action Cowboy Bebop STILL?!) Attack on Titan Part 2 is currently in select theatres and more information can be found on the official FUNimation website – check it out! What were your thoughts on Attack on Titan? Let us know in the comments!
Overall Score: 6./10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-The after credits scene was a great twist and shocking reveal that now requires another film to expand on the plot.
-There are definitely some creepy and detailed titans included in this live-action version. You’ve been warned.
-The plot misdirect wasn’t expected and could cause a slight upset because of the love for such a popular series with dedicated fans.
-The character differences were sometimes odd to adjust to, but there is definitely no shortage on characters. Eren is definitely what carries the weight of the film in both parts.
-If they were to continue to develop future installments, it’s essential that they add more dimensions to characters and not write them off as simplistic and passive plot devices.
-Let’s all hope that this film creates a wider opportunity for other anime to film adaptations in the near future.