Earlier this year, most people were suitably excited at the prospect of Attack on Titan being made into a live action movie. When the movie came out in August in Japan, however, we were all disheartened to hear the reviews.
“Forget this movie not working as an Attack on Titan adaptation, it doesn’t even work as a movie. Period.” -Brian Ashcraft, Kotaku
“As a casual fan of the anime I found it disappointing as both an adaptation and a movie in general.”-Rich, Tofugu
“It would have been more fun to have watched the entire cast be eaten by the titans than to have sat through this adaption of Attack on Titan.”-Miranda Sanchez, IGN
I went into the movie with all this in mind. Here’s how it turned out.
Overall, the movie did a good job of creating a believable post apocalyptic world. The city seemed grimy and old. The streets were crowded and unkempt. Livestock roamed around next to trucks and industrial equipment. Standard apocalyptic town fare. This precedent was already set by the source material. I would’ve been surprised if they’d drastically changed the aesthetics of the movie. It gave me the sense that I really was behind Wall Maria 100 years after the titans attacked. This is the one constant positive throughout the movie.
The titans are another cool part of the film. Some of them are humongous. Some of them are tiny. Some of them are babies. There is a good variety of them that replicates what we saw in the manga and anime. In the anime, the titans looks fairly realistic. They obviously had human facial features, hair, etc but none of them ever really crossed the invisible boundary into too realistic. This changes in the movie.
About half of the titans on screen have nondescript features, which makes them more terrifying while they’re chomping down on people.Think about it. A giant humanoid creature hurtles itself towards you, all the while it’s blank, eerie smile makes your stomach turn in terror. The other half of the titans, however, look like people you’d see everyday. Their goofy smiles don’t help to instill terror. They just made me laugh as they devoured citizens, which broke the believability of the world. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do much to reinstate that terror.
A good chunk of the original characters were removed from the movie. This makes sense, as it’s only an hour and a half. The movie would get pretty crowded.
None of the characters in the movie had any depth. Characters native to the manga and anime had completely different motivations that were never fully explained, making them come off as vapid and uninteresting. The main characters Eren, Mikasa, and Armin all have the facade of a friendship but their actions together feel contrived. They don’t feel like childhood friends. They feel like a bunch of teenagers stuck in the same apocalypse. They might have the same names, but they’re definitely not the same characters the world has come to love and root for.
The super popular Captain Levi was taken out completely, and replaced with the existential Captain Shikishima. No one really knows why Levi was taken out. But trust me, Shikishima was not a good replacement. I can go on for days about why Shikishima ruined the movies, but I don’t want to spoil too much should anyone decide to watch them.
The fight scenes, though. Those were good.
Even though the titans looked real and the environment felt real, the movies never felt authentically AOT. Until the fight scenes. All of the action that made the anime so popular culminates in the fight scenes in the movies. This is where the essence of the source material is strongest. The filmmakers went all out on the scenes to make them as satisfying as possible. It was bloody. It was gore-y. There were curb stomps and knees to the face. The fight scenes almost make you forget how painful watching the rest of the movie is. Even though the characters who originally were the colossal and armored titan are changed, their fight scenes redeem themselves. If nothing else, go see the movie for that and ignore everything before and after.
There were a bunch of plot changes that made no sense and detracted from the story the movie was trying to tell. And, there were a handful of scenes that left the audience muttering ‘wtf?’ to ourselves. Overall the movies were bad. In my opinion they were enjoyably bad. I recommend watching it with friends, but don’t expect these movies to add any depth to the Attack on Titan franchise.