There was much apprehension and excitement that came about when it was announced that the beloved anime series, Attack On Titan would be getting a live action version. After all, movie versions have been well known for watering its source material down and changing important plots or characters. But there have been successes in the past, such as the recent Samurai X film series.
But how does Attack On Titan stack up?
First of all, I have to admit that I have never seen the anime, I've only seen snippets of it and I'm mildly aware of the story line. So when I did see the live-action version I saw it with fresh eyes, and not tied up with certain expectations, so this review will be based on the film's merits alone; I will not be comparing it in any way to its source material.
The movie opens up with an explanation of its premise with a standard crude animation, explaining how Titans-giants who consumed human beings for no apparent reason, suddenly emerged and nearly drove mankind to its extinction. As a result the survivors have retreated behind a sanctuary protected by three massive concentric walls. It is a pseudo-dystopian society. With the poorest living near the outer wall , while the wealthiest live in the center.
We are introduced to the three main characters, who live in the poor agricultural sector. Eren, Mikasa and Armin, who seem to be walking cliches of anime stereotypes that we all know... the hero, his best friend and the love interest. We see a short glimpse of their life, and Eren's wish to be free so he can see the world - a standard desire.
The actors of course do their best with the mold. There is a strong sense of humanity that shows up with them, but does feel mechanical at certain points. But they absolutely shine at the movie's action sequences. When the Titans attack for the first time it is a showcase of horror and grief, far more frightening than most western horror flicks.
The special effects were good enough without being overwhelming and the sight of the Titans rampaging is chilling to the bone. Everyone from the main characters to the extras brought their A-game showing absolute terror, and my, was there a lot of gore.
One thing that stands out is the simplicity of how the story unfolded. It is not easy to cram the plot of several episodes of a series into one film. If you are worried that you won't understand the movie - don't. Everything is neatly shown and it is not that complicated. Although it is evident that a lot of sub-plots may have been removed to do this, which may pose a big problem for hardcore fans, editing-wise that turns out to be a good choice.
The post-apocalyptic landscape was also well executed. Noting the fact that this film does not have the budget of big Hollywood blockbusters, they were able to show a surreal desolate place that packs surprises. The atmosphere was pretty eerie and dark enough to hide the giants that allows them to suddenly pop up and make you jump in your seats.
But it is not all action; the rare quiet human moments was given their due time, adding a layer to the film that is seldom shown in western movies of this genre. It is not perfect, as I mentioned tthe characters sometimes feeling mechanical, and I wished they pushed it a little bit more.
Overall, the movie is a great thrilling ride. It is no cinematic gem, but it is truly enjoyable.
Attack On Titan is now showing in Asia, and will get a wide release in the US this Fall.