ATTACK ON TITAN: PART 1 (2015)
(Directed by Shinji Higuchi)
(Written by Yûsuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama)
(Starring Haruma Miura, Kiko Mizuhara and Pierre Taki)
Plot: In the far future, humanity has taken refuge behind fortified walls in order to remain protected from Titans- mysterious giants who eat people. But when a colossal Titan kicks a whole in one of the walls, causing these monsters to flood into the city, it becomes apparent that mankind needs to start going on the offensive. Also known as “Shingeki no kyojin“.
Even though I don’t consider myself a major fan of anime or manga, I am madly in love with “Attack on Titan“- especially the manga. The only thing about the manga I truly dislike is its tendency to end every chapter with a cliffhanger, resulting in me getting a serious case of the blue balls, BECAUSE DADDY NEEDS HIS FIX! CURSE YOU ONE MONTH RELEASES! I HOPE YOU BURN IN THE FIERY PITS OF HELL! I love its mix of action, adventure, horror, and political intrigue, along with finding the large cast of characters to be compelling. Yet despite my adoration, I’ve always been wary of a live action movie and not only because most adaptations suck. The story is too massive to be told within the runningtime of a full length feature film, at least without cutting out pivotal subplots or characters who might seem superfluous at first, but become prominent later on. Furthermore, the titans themselves would be the most challenging aspect to bring to life, as humanoid creatures are incredibly difficult to render using CGI. This is why the Incredible Hulk will probably never be 100% convincing and he benefited from heavy budgets and state-of-the-art special effects. “Attack on Titan” is inevitably going to be a Japanese production, so it will have inferior technology and less money to work with. Nevertheless, I have an open mind and I was probably one of the few people who didn’t take issue with the race bending. Yeah, everyone is supposed to be white except Mikasa, but it’s unfair to expect a Japanese Studio to employ a mostly Caucasian cast for their Japanese movie. I was able to watch this film on the big screen, since Harkins was showing it for one day and my final feelings are very mixed. On one hand, I got to witness the flick with a fun crowd. They laughed at nearly everything…which isn’t a good sign, as unlike “Dragonball Z: Resurrection ‘F’“, this isn’t supposed to be funny…but they clapped at the end, so they must’ve had a positive experience. Because of them, I guess I did too…
But “Attack on Titan: Part 1” is still not very good. It takes too many unnecessary liberties with the source material while being so vague that you have to be familiar with the source material in order to understand it. Eren (Haruma Miura) spends his time brooding about being trapped behind the walls, in contrast to the more optimistic, pro-active and somewhat insane Eren from the manga. His parents were adapted out and his character arc surrounds his belief that he let Mikasa die during the first Titan attack. Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) starts off much more feminine than her original counter-part, but grows hardened to the point where you don’t really like her. She blames Eren for her near-death experience, causing her to become cold and hostile, although I wasn’t sure why as he was obviously trying to get to her. No fan is going to want this, especially when it becomes apparent that she might be in a relationship with fake Levi (Hiromi Hasegawa). In the manga, Armin is terrified and useless early on, but ultimately redeems himself by becoming an incredible strategist. Here, Armin (Kanata Hongô) is always present and is established as being intelligent, but he never gets to put his mind to good use. At best, he’s just used for exposition, but he rarely gets to do anything outside of being in peril. Ignoring the source material, none of these characters are compelling! Eren doesn’t drive the story as much as he’s just along for the ride, going with the flow and occasionally ranting about it instead of changing anything. Mikasa’s motivations are flimsy and she’s just not very endearing. Armin is just there. Sasha (Nanami Sakuraba) and Hange (Satomi Ishihara) are much closer to their original counterparts and the filmmakers obviously loved the ‘potato girl’ meme. Fake Levi (Hiromi Hasegawa) is presented as way too cool to the point of being parody, as people laughed at the sight of him posing on roof-tops. He seems like a prick though, so I’m not sure what to feel about him. Jean (Takahiro Miura) is just a bitter punk who hates Eren for vague reasons, but while you don’t want to see him die, he never really develops or becomes likable. You have to accept that many familiar faces have undergone name changes, like Hannes, Levi and MAYBE Reiner (if he is the strong guy). You also have to accept that many familiar faces have been adapted out, such as Krista, Ymir, Bertolt, Marco, Connie, Erwin (maybe) and Annie- although I did notice a lot of female titans. I was surprised to see Rina Takeda (Lil)(“Dead Sushi“) in a small role and it was cool that she got a fight scene. There are a lot of other changes surrounding the environment, rules and overall story. The Colossal Titan only appears once and the rest of the movie combines the Battle of Trost with the failed attempt to reclaim the outer wall (which is briefly mentioned in the manga). Fans will spend the majority of their viewing experience asking…why? Why did they need to change that? It’s more like the filmmakers were inspired by the manga or anime, instead of adapting it!
But if you haven’t read the manga or watched the anime, you’ll likely despise how they reveal information about the Titans as most of the info is dumped when the story needs it. A Titan has to die now, so what do the filmmakers do? Flashback to where they explain how the Titans die. It should be noted that humanity hasn’t seen a Titan in 100 years and has lost ‘faith’ in their existence, as the scouting legion equivalent is only created ‘after’ the Colossal Titan attacked, but they’ve apparently figured out that Titans can die by being struck in a specific spot on the back of their necks. In the source material, this revelation is easier to swallow because humans (The Survey Corps) have been fighting Titans for generations before the plot kicks off. Newcomers will be disappointed that the Colossal Titan vanishes and never shows up again. They will have no idea why Eren is a Titan and quite frankly, neither do I as his Father never appears. In the manga/anime, you actually don’t know that Eren is the rogue Titan until after he resumes his human form. There is also foreshadowing that SOMETHING happened to him and that his Father might be in on it, but there’s none of that here. At one point, a masked figure sabotages the plan to take back the wall, but viewers will be confused as to who that is. They might’ve deduced that he/she is the Colossal Titan, except Eren hadn’t transformed himself yet, so no one would make that connection UNLESS they’ve read the manga.
On its own, I thought “Attack on Titan Part 1” was too melodramatic. The dialogue is incredibly corny, which admittedly is another aspect I knew wouldn’t translate very well from the manga. The acting is fine and everyone does the best with what they’re given, but they tend to give into over-the-top theatrics, such as dramatically turning around and moving a few steps towards the camera when they want to say something important. This is also a VERY talky movie, with the opening scene seemingly being a 10 minute long conversation in a single location. I found the exposition to be forced, lazily explaining the story or characterization. I will say this, the cinematography is really good and even the dialogue heavy moments seem a lot livelier because of how nicely the shots are framed. While many scenes drag on for too long, I thought “Attack on Titan: Part 1” was too short to be boring. If anything, I feel “Attack on Titan: Part 1” needed to be longer for the sake of fleshing out the story and characters, but this was still an easy watch…even though nothing stands out as especially amazing. Exceptional cinematography is a nice attribute to have, but once the crappy CGI grips the screen, you start more paying attention to that. The Titans themselves look pretty bad, although once again, I don’t know how much better a bigger budgeted Hollywood production would’ve been for reasons I discussed earlier. I suppose the SFX could’ve been a lot worse…The Titans look silly, but they also have those uncanny appearances in the manga, which can also make you snicker. The Colossal Titan at least has a slick video game styled appearance and the Rogue Titan was the closest to appearing convincing. The set design is far more successful and there is even a haunting moment where Eren traumatically stumbles through the remains of his hometown. “Attack on Titan: Part 1” could’ve used more moments like that…
I can’t say the action was great, although there were exceptions. The problem is that the battles involving the humans require even more awful CGI. When Eren FINALLY starts going on the offensive, I was beginning to get into it thanks to his intensity and an admittedly cool score, but that momentum is quickly devoured by an ‘epic fail’. The Rogue Titan onslaught was actually pretty fun, using some interesting choreography and it’s gratifying to see the Titans experience karma. The Rina Takeda fight was also well done, as she uses some advanced techniques in the confines of a speeding truck (!!). While I have to thank the filmmakers for going heavy with the gore effects, I disagreed with the overall tone of the movie. In the manga/anime, Eren was much more inspirational and you got excited with the characters at the prospect of them driving out the Titans. This quickly turns into horror when everything goes wrong and you experience their terror. Here, outside of the opening scene, everything is gloomy and it only rises out of its depression when it’s being cheesy. Too dark to be considered campy…Too corny to be frightening…What am I supposed to feel?
So whenever I’ve been positive while discussing “Attack on Titan: Part 1“, I’ve usually only referred to various scenes or attributes which are subsequently overshadowed by what it does wrong. Yet…I really did not dislike it. If anything, I felt kind of bad for “Attack on Titan: Part 1“…I don’t know what went on behind-the-scenes, but I suspect that the filmmakers had to make a lot of compromises. As there are only a few locations, they had to forcefully cram much more dialogue into every scene, instead of dividing it up into multiple scenes and allowing the exposition to feel more natural. As they didn’t have time to flesh out the characters and story, they had to make critical changes, because where would they have been able to fit in the mother? Father? Mikasa’s back-story? Krista? The Female Titan? Or anything else that was left out without making these subplots feel rushed or uninvolving? Maybe they were forced to do the love triangle because those kinds of things are topical and I did occasionally wondered if “The Hunger Games” was an inspiration based on some of the aesthetics (and the love triangle). I wondered if a lot of material was left on the editing room floor, or kept aside for the sequel. Regardless, “Attack on Titan: Part 1” was a below average action-fantasy-horror flick that will annoy fans of the source material and baffle everyone else. I do think that the cast and crew tried their hardest, but adapting this manga and anime into a movie was going to be a difficult undertaking. A lot of people were going to feel alienated, regardless of whether you chose to change the story or remain faithful to it. Nevertheless, I might’ve not enjoyed the movie itself, but I did enjoy watching it in theaters. Sometimes the right crowd can make the wrong movie feel…right? I have to be harsher with the rating, because I’ve spent too much of this review complaining, but I seriously considered giving it a 2/4 stars thanks to the audience and lack of personal boredom.
Violence: Rated R. While the kills are cheesy, they’re also bloody and gruesome.
Nudity: None, but there is some sexuality. Sex would’ve happened if Titans didn’t kill the mood.
Overall: “Attack on Titan: Part 1” won’t likely satisfy anyone, as it’s a weak adaptation, a weak standalone film and doesn’t excel in the action or horror departments. But it’s not unwatchable either and can even be enjoyable with the right crowd. I’ll see the sequel…