Buckle up, Shingeki fans, because the live action Attack on Titan movies are coming to the USA soon. They'll have a limited release, and the first movie will be followed in a few weeks by part 2. So far the Japanese critics and fans have not been kind to the Attack On Titan films, and the general consensus is that after 2 years of hype, the movies just couldn't live up to the anime and manga. But what exactly are the changes to the plot? Is the story incomprehensible, or were the changes the best thing for the live action version?
Changes In Setting
One of the most noticeable changes is the move to Japan: the manga and anime's story is set in an alternate version of Germany, with the vast majority of the characters being white Europeans. This is one change that we all knew was coming, and it makes sense because the Attack On Titan movies are Japanese productions. The problem with this isn't the change itself, but the fact that the filmmakers didn't really adjust the plot enough to compensate.
In the anime and manga, the constant threat of Titan attacks has stunted humanity's development. They can't expand or industrialise, so they're forced into a pseudo medieval way of life, making do and cutting population growth by expelling people into the outside world, where they will be eaten by Titans. The setting is absolutely crucial to building a world that engages the audience, showing how every day life is affected by monsters that lurk just outside the walls (until the walls come down). The architecture obviously reflects this, but in the Attack On Titan movie, all that has changed.
The filmmakers decided to film the movie on Battleship Island, a very recognisable Japanese heritage site known for its abandoned city blocks.
While the walled structure is perfect for the plot, the city blocks mess with the original aesthetic, and catapult the story into a more modern day setting. The filmmakers run with this, giving the characters rocket propelled grenades and cars too. Which is fine, as long as they give a reason for these changes in the plot... but they don't.
On the other hand, Hanji gets an RPG which is pretty cool...
So what other crucial changes are the fans up in arms about?
Your Faves Are Gone
Shingeki No Kyojin has a host of compelling characters with interesting backstories and secrets that are slowly revealed. The plot is very character driven, so eliminating even minor characters would have a big impact on the story. And the Attack On Titan movie erased some pretty gosh darn major ones.
First up: Levi. Cutting him out of the movie was perhaps a foolish idea on the filmmakers part. He's a fan fave! His personality is quirky and interesting, yet badass. His relationship with Eren is a driving force of the plot, not to mention his role in the military which is crucial. So why was he cut from the film? Apparently, his name was a real problem: Levi is changed to Rivai in the anime pronunciation, and the filmmakers believed this wasn't believable as a Japanese name. Fair enough, but why couldn't they just rename him, rather than replace him with a different character? (Captain Shikishima is the new "strongest hero", but lacks Levi's characterisation and quirks.)
Other characters have undergone drastic changes to make them different from their anime and manga counterparts. Eren is probably the most notable. In the original story, the protagonist is fueled with rage, determined to kill every single Titan. Passion is always good in a leading character, but in the movie Eren lacks this anger, and is paralysed with fear at the sight of the Titans. This makes his battle less personal, and fans haven't been happy with the changes. However, apparently they came at the request of manga author Hajime Isayama himself, according to this report.
"Please change Eren's character. He's not that sympathetic as a shōnen manga hero. I want him to be an ordinary youngster who gets paralyzed with fear when he sees a titan."
So it seems the movie is determined to establish its own continuity within the Shingeki No Kyojin franchise, and that's fair enough. Whether these changes help or hinder the story is up to opinion, though most critics and fans haven't responded well. But in the case of the erasure of Annie, Bertholt, Reiner, and Ymir, the film may have made a sensible decision to trim down the cast: after all, it would be impossible to explore the Titan Shifter plot in just two movies, though without bringing these characters in early the movie prevents a shocking and emotional twist in subsequent sequels.
Overall, the changes to the plot and character have altered the feel of the story, but while fans aren't happy, the response from objective critics has been fairly positive. So will you like the movie? It depends on how attached you are to the anime and manga's plot!
The first Attack On Titan movie will be released in the US on September 30th, with Attach On Titan Part 2: End Of The World following on October 20th. Remember to let us know what you think by commenting or writing your own review!