Reviews: Attack On Titan - Part One

Our review of the live action Attack On Titan is here.

"Care for a roll in the hay?"
In 2013, the anime series Attack on Titan took both Japan and American by storm. The story, about a world where humanity is besieged by giant man-eating people called Titans, was exciting and suspenseful and everyone couldn’t get enough of it. What set the anime apart from other series released at the time were the strong horror elements to the plot and the excellent animation for the fight scenes. With something this successful it was only a matter of time before the powers-that-be decided to make a live action version. Unfortunately, most of the live action anime adaptations have been less than stellar, and Attack on Titan has some of the same issues as those other films.

Attack on Titan has twenty-five episodes and that’s a lot of story to fit into a three hour runtime. That being said, this film takes some liberties with the plot and characterization from both the manga and the anime. Now, truth be told, I think the story in the anime version drags quite a bit and has a lot of unnecessary filler, especially in the middle arc. The film condenses the plot and simplifies some of the characters’ motives and personality traits. For someone who has never seen the anime, they probably won’t mind because the plot that is depicted in the film isn’t bad. It does suffer from the overacting that plagues much of Japanese cinema (which is part of their culture) but other than that it’s not egregiously terrible. The plot does jump around a little bit, and the beginning of the film is definitely clunky, but it finds its rhythm after about thirty minutes.

Director Shinji Higuchi is one of Japan’s top special effects artists, which explains why most of the look of the film is excellent.  Attack on Titan is essentially a horror/kaiju hybrid with giant monster fights, tons of gore and a gritty environment. If you look at it from a kaiju film perspective, it makes more sense as a whole because it has many of the tropes from that genre of film. The Titans are real people with CGI enhancements and they are incredibly frightening to see in action. The look of ecstasy that they have on their face as they rip apart and devour humans is unsettling to say the least, and their design and appearance is as Japanese as it gets. When the humans fight back, they use a rappelling system that lets the zip around in the air to out maneuver the Titans. Unfortunately, the CGI used for this looks awkward because the physics are off—the characters just don’t have enough weight to them for it to appear realistic. The backgrounds look awesome though and the film captures the hellish backdrop of the anime perfectly.

"My blade is sharp. Lick it."
The worst part of this film is definitely the musical score. ShirĊ Sagisu, most famous for his excellent work on the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, supplied the music for Attack on Titan but his style does not fit with the darker nature of the story. He has a very symphonic and bombastic style which sounds similar to old-school Godzilla musical cues. It seriously does not jive with this film at all and ends being extremely distracting at times. They should have stuck with Hiroyuki Sawano’s work from the anime as it has a much darker and rock-tinged sound. His music fits the mood perfectly, and it’s baffling as to why they didn’t have him score the live action film.

Overall, I had high expectations for this adaptation and the resulting movie fell short.  Japan, for the most part, does not do high budget action films well.  I will say, this is one of the best looking CGI-heavy films I have seen come out of Japan in recent years, and if you treat it as a modern kaiju film, it becomes even more forgiving. All of those films had guys in rubber suits so this is a marked improvement.  To me, Attack on Titan is meant to be a little campy since the premise is so insane and in that regard this adaptation is a fun ride.  Just don’t expect it to be on par with the anime and you may enjoy it a little more.

-Michelle Kisner

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