Notoriously, live action adaptations of popular anime and manga series of films are hard to do well, in terms of pleasing their dedicated fanbases as well as trying to introduce the franchise to newcomers. Despite the 2015 release, director Shinji Higuchi still can’t seem to update any of the cheesy CGI effects in his films, reducing them to a somewhat B movie aesthetic. Attack On Titan is no exception to this, and while praise must be given for the film attempting to portray a more gritty and modern version of the series’ universe, fans will be sorely disappointed by how little character development detail the film goes into.
The film opens with a prologue explaining that the titan creatures have existed for over a hundred years and wiped out most of humanity, leaving remaining settlements in the world with no choice but to shut themselves off by building giant walls to keep them out.
The three childhood friend protagonists, Erun (Haruma Miura), Armin (Kanata Hongō) and Mikasa express a desire to leave the wall and explore the outside world after discovering a drawing of an ocean from the side of an unexploded bomb near their village.
Shortly after a militia discovers their plans, the Titans come out of nowhere and lay waste to the settlement, where Erun presumes that Mikasa dies amidst the chaos and destruction.
Two years pass, where Erun and Armin decide to join the scout regiment in order to fight back against the titans, travelling back to the outer wall to seek revenge. They are attacked once again but are saved by commander Shikishima, and reunited with Mikasa. However, Erun discovers that his childhood love was scarred in battle, and has taken romantic interests in Shikishima, which devastates him.
While it’s been a staple of the series to have Erun portrayed as over-dramatic and whiney, adding a romantic element to what is suppose to be an innocent childhood bond doesn’t add any extra tension to the plot, and serves as more of an annoyance rather than driving any kind of emotional emphasis. It also replaces Mikasa’s character from being a badass scout to another western film cliché of having a love interest to drive the plot forward.
Part one barely follows the detailed source material and excludes the fact that Erun’s family was killed in the original titan attack being the sole motivation for getting revenge.
Polarising plot points aside, the titans themselves are genuinely terrifying, slowly clambering forward one by one and gorily chomping down on the military figures and citizens alike. While it could be argued that having the humans seem even more helpless than usual, it does forward the progression of the scouts eventually as they learn how to take them down. Some of the comic relief characters are genuinely funny at times, but also dampen the serious tone that the film is desperately trying to convey.
Part two attempts to convey a sinister government conspiracy behind why the Titans are there in the first place, as well as inner turmoil between the scouts themselves, rather than solely focusing on over the top monster battles. The backstory could have been an interesting spin on the series, had it not been explained to Erun in a bland, Matrix-esque fashion of a convenient safe room, away from all the bloodshed.
Admittedly, the final battle scene as our heroes attempt to destroy the wall and the main titan works well for a two part, non canon adaptation of Attack On Titan, but without proper character development and an ending that wraps itself up far too conveniently, these films will only really serve to attract new fans into watching the original source material rather than adding anything to its expanded universe. As a brainless action film with some interesting horror moments and dark undertones, you could do a lot worse in terms of live action adaptations of anime.