A live action adaptation that may not even please audience who never read the manga it's based on
Apparently, after reading one of the negative reviews, director Shinji Higuchi (The Floating Castle, The Sinking of Japan) responded by tweeting, "Who’s the idiot who gave this guy an early release of the film?!" (source). If I was that critic, I would've replied by saying, "Who's the idiot who hired the director and writers of this film?!" I did not receive any invitation for an earlier screening of this film but that doesn't mean I wouldn't take the trouble to give it a review it deserves -- it sucks.
I have never read the manga the film is based on but I enjoyed the compilation feature film of the anime released not to long ago titled Attack on Titan Part 1: Crimson Bow & Arrow (2014). This live action adaptation ends earlier than what happens in the anime film and yet it has so much lesser character development. Even though I'm not a hardcore fan of the manga/anime, the senseless changes they made to the characters are undoubtedly questionable, especially the popular ones like protagonist Eren, Mikasa and Captain Shikishima. What a mess the script is.
For those who don't know the general premise of the story, it's basically set in a post-apocalyptic era where it's been 100 years since the gigantic humanoid creatures called Titans appeared from no where and started eating every human they could get their hands on, forcing the survivors to build and live within tall thick walls. One fine day, coincidentally when Eren (Haruma Miura) decides to illegally climb the wall, the Titans have reappeared and broken through a wall. They terrorised the district, ate a lot of people while the survivors retreat to an inner district. Two years later, an army is formed with a plan to block the broken wall and retake the invaded territory. The military are armed with swords to slash down the Titans and a system called the 3-D Maneuvering Gear which allows them to grapple walls, trees, etc., and swing around in the air while the boosters increase their speed until the gas runs out. The film does a decent job in making the use of the Gear convincing enough in live action.
This version of Eren is not as influential and courageous as in the manga/anime, instead he's an unlikable spoiled brat with zero heroic qualities. The nonexistence of Eren's mother in this adaptation gives the protagonist no believable reason to join the army for revenge against the Titans. In this film, it seems as though he's just jealous that Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) is banging the skillful Captain Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa). Which idiot turned this into a cheap romance nonsense? Mikasa is not Eren's adopted sister here, instead she's just an ordinary useless girlfriend at the beginning, who's too stupid to stand up and run away when in danger. This is a major red flag compared to the original Mikasa that's always cool, independent, mysterious, physically stronger than men and caring for Eren. There's supposed to be this strong friendship between Eren, Mikasa and Armin (Kanata Hongō) but it's terribly depicted in the film. The actors are cute and petite and all (somehow all the female soldiers are pretty -- how believable), but that should never be enough to emotionally engage the audience to care for the characters.
With all that being said, nothing in this altered storyline with poor character arc and development is salvageable. The director and writers somehow managed to adapt such an entertaining mange/anime into this unengaging, cheesy, corny drama with TV sentai heroes-standard performances. What's most frustrating is how the characters have illogically poor sense of presence. The Titans can be just right beside them and yet they wouldn't notice it until it's too late, lazily convenient for more drama and horror. Then there's an almost-sex scene that's so out of place and unnecessary, I don't quite know what it's for other than to buzz audiences who're probably half asleep by then. The only humour I got from the film are these intentionally dumb moments, which thankfully, there are quite a few.
The only redeeming quality of this adaptation is the apparently low-budget mix of practical and CGI special effects. The visuals are immersive, the sets are convincing, and the make-up for the Titans are great as well, definitely more graphically gory than the anime, which is pleasing. The action sequences of the characters Gearing through the air while slashing down Titans do look good enough as well but it's not as engaging and thrilling as it should've been. They're just flying around killing the monsters with precision or not. There's no substance to the situation or skills. When even the action aspect fails, the film becomes nothing but an utter bore.
Malaysia censorship: As I mentioned above, I did not receive the screening invitation for this nor did I watch it at local cinemas. There are gory graphics and an almost-sex scene that might have been cut or censored in some way here.
Second opinion: My girlfriend laughed at the many dumb scenes as did I, and along with her friends, they said that the film is a poor adaptation of the manga/anime indeed.
Verdict: Eagerly waiting for the Part 2... of the anime film, not this disastrous adaptation.
Rating: 1.5 / 5
Based on: "Attack on Titan" manga series by Hajime Isayama
Country / Language: Japan / Japanese
Genre: Dark fantasy action horror
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Shinji Higuchi
Screenwriters: Yūsuke Watanabe, Tomohiro Machiyama
Cast: Haruma Miura, Kiko Mizuhara, Kanata Hongô
Malaysia Release Date: 27 August 2015
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Toho Pictures
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