The eagerly awaited Attack on Titan movie has finally been released in Japan, after 4 years of hype and fan anticipation. The original manga quickly became a cult favourite, with the hugely successful anime adaptation soon following suit. Attack on Titan (or Shingeki No Kyojin, if you're a hardcore fan) has joined the likes of Pokemon and Fullmetal Alchemist to be a giant in the anime industry (pun intended), and an international hit.
With Toho, the studio behind Godzilla, producing the live action Attack on Titan, fans were excited to see this fantastic story realised on the big screen. But their hopes may have been dashed if the majority of critics' reviews are to be believed. Can Attack on Titan wow American and Canadian audiences, or will the fan reaction prove to be a vicious backlash?
[Obviously, this article does contain spoilers for both the new movie, the anime, and the original manga. Read on at your own risk!]
Attack on Good Taste
We all knew the movie would make changes to the original plot: that's to be expected, as there's no way they can fit 25 episodes of anime plot into a 2 hour film, much less the manga story which will hit 70 issues in December. But with the initial trailers showcasing truly terrifying Titans, fans were hopeful that this big screen adaptation would be a brilliant addition to the franchise. Well, they may have been wrong.
Some of these reviews are honestly hilarious to read. The online Kotaku magazine entitled their article "The Attack on Titan Movie Stinks", and detailed everything from changes to the original to bad pacing and inexplicable characters.
"We shouldn’t be too fussed with moviemakers changing the source material to make the film better. We should be when they make it worse. Forget this movie not working as an Attack on Titan adaptation, it doesn’t even work as a movie. Period."
For this reviewer, the film is almost incomprehensible, sapping the emotional depth out of the original story in favour of "painfully melodramatic" moments and "corny dialogue".
Japanese website Cho Eiga Hihyo (think Rotten Tomatoes) really tore into the Attack on Titan movie, pointing out inconsistencies and nonsensical plot points. For this reviewer, it wasn't just the changes to the story that made the film a critical flop, but the characters themselves, who were either silly or wooden. According to this review, the movie's attempts to make the situation more realistic undermined the entire story...
"They misunderstood that the movie is its own reality, not ours, and it affected the entirety of the film."
The review ends with the hope that the titans will wipe out "the worst of humanity" that comprise the characters of the film, calling such an ending satisfying.
But the reception wasn't all bad. There were positive reviews that focused on the impressive CGI and subversion of horror-movie tropes. The South China Morning Post reviewer was impressed...
"One of the most perversely original fantasy movies in recent memory, this adaptation of a Japanese manga series is a schizophrenic mix of genres."
It seems to be that you'll like the movie if you don't already know the anime and manga. If you're a fan... well, that's another matter.
Attack on Fans
So what exactly are they all up in arms about? Here's a brief breakdown of the changes you'll see in the movie...
- Despite being one of the most popular characters, Levi has been replaced by Captain Shikishima, a two-dimensional "strongest hero" type who lacks Levi's distinguishing quirks.
- The entire cast is Japanese instead of broadly European, as in the anime. Which means that Mikasa has lost some of the mystery of her character (in the original she's the only known Asian character, hinting at a cataclysmic event, and her backstory comments on the fetishisation of Asian women in Western culture.)
- Mikasa seems to have lost her edge in general actually, and surprised fans by kissing Shikishima, which most reviewers considered a clumsy romance shoehorned into the story to give it a broader appeal.
- But fear not! All your faves are there... except Annie, Ymir, Reiner, and Bertholt which is a pretty glaring omission if the movie plans to follow the Titan Shifter plot.
- There's a random sex scene! In the middle of a Titan attack!! How practical.
Overall, the truest part of the movie seems to be Hanji, who has retained her whacky personality. And some genius let her get her hands on a rocket propelled grenade...
Ok this I cannot wait to see.
It's sad that such a highly anticipated movie has disappointed so many fans. But who knows, maybe the US audience will be kinder to the film. You can catch the Attack on Titan movie in selected theaters on September 30th. And if it seems just too terrible to spend money on, don't worry: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2 will FINALLY be released next year!