I recently had the opportunity to view the Attack on Titan Live Action film and I jumped at it. Before I go too far, I should probably admit to a few things. I happen to be a massive fan of Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan). I came across the anime as it was still airing in Japan and found myself completely enthralled. I have purchased every issue of the manga as it has been released here in English. I love the world that was created, the characters, the feel, everything about the series. So, it was obviously a no-brainer for me to check out the live action film.
I wish I hadn’t.
I honestly don’t know where to begin dissecting this one, so I will start simply start on the macro level and work down. Let’s just start with the broad brush basics. The basic setting and composition of the world was a nailed The last remnants of humanity living inside the protecting walls of their last few cities, check. Humanity beset by people eating monsters known as titans, check. The existence of a group of humans willing to go off and fight the titans and defend humanity, check. The correct names of characters instrumental to the development and advancement of the story, check. That is about it for the things that actually hit the mark for me during this live-action adaptation.
Many of the core elements of both the backstory and the current state of affairs was butchered. I fully understand that when you adapt material to the big screen, things have to change in order to make them fit the new format. I accept it. On occasion, I even embrace it. The issue for me was that certain elements that are fundamental to the current state of existence for humanity were removed or altered in such a way that there things do not link up or make any kind of sense. On top of that, the catalyzing events that are supposed to bond the main characters together and spur them to pursue the course that they do are simply not there. As such, there is no reason for them to risk life and limb to throw themselves into the fray. It gives the entire thing disconnected feel. Still, I tried to set that aside and enjoy the story that I was being presented with regardless.
Enjoying things just got progressively more difficult for me as things went forward. When you see a character translated onto the big screen that has the same name and is playing the same part in the story, you expect that the character will be the same. Unfortunately, this was not remotely the case. Certainly, the characters that every Attack on Titan fan knows, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin all appear. The fact that they were Japanese rather than of Germanic descent is one of those things you roll with. Honestly, who cares what the person playing the character looks like so long as they nail the character, right? That didn’t happen. The behavior and the underlying motivations of each and every one of the characters that I knew as a fan was wrong. They weren’t whole characters. They felt like flat caricatures. I would really love to bash the various actors for their portrayals, but I can’t. You can’t blame the actor for playing a flat version of a character that you love without taking a look at the rest of the writing and determining if the fault lies with the actor or with the material that they had to work with. I firmly believe that the actors in this case were simply making the best of what they were given.
Now I know I am getting nitpicky on this one, but the costuming, the wire work, and even some of the sets just made me sad. I have honestly seen cosplayers do a better job with costumes for the survey corps than what I saw on screen. The titans didn’t really look much like titans, but it was still believable enough with the exception of the Colossal Titan. The CGI was so bad on that that I wish they had just found one of the multitude of cosplayers out there and used one of their costumes. The wire work while using 3D maneuver gear or even worse, while being eaten by one of the titans, was so bad that even though the wires themselves weren’t visible, you completely felt like they were.
From the point of view of an Attack on Titan fan, I felt horribly slighted by the liberties taken with the source material. I can get past that kind of thing in accepting a translation to film though. As a film fan, I felt horribly slighted by the job that was done in slapping this piece together. That I can’t just let go. I didn’t have fun with it. I spent the bulk of the film trying to figure out the impetus for the central characters and the dynamics that were supposed to be between them, but were never clearly laid out either in dialogue or action. In short, it failed to entertain me and disappointed me across the board. I know there is a part 2 of this, but I will be hard pressed to spend the time to see how it turns out or what it does in conjunction with part 1.