|Trained to freeze the enemy with their icy stares|
Attack on Titan - 2015
Written by Yusuke Watanabe & Tomohiro Machiyama
From the Comic by Hajime Isayama
Directed by Shinji Higuchi
With Haruma Miura, Kiko Mizuhara & Kanata Hongo
This iteration of Attack on Titan is the live action adaptation of the Japanese animated series which was adapted from a Japanese comic series. What that means is that there's a huge, built-in audience of geeks who are just waiting to bitch about it on the internet. What THAT means is that the feedback is going to be tainted with the stink of nerd sweat, potentially driving away the rest of us who don't actually care whether Attack on Titan matches the expectations of Best Buy employees and other hardcore fans. I came to Attack on Titan looking for an evening's worth of entertainment, and that was what I got. If and when I decide I'm interested in a story told over weeks, then perhaps I will check out the animated series, but that will be another story.
And monsters there are. The three young friends, Eren, Armin and Mikasa are debating the merits of going over the wall to see what's really out there, when the answer comes knocking. Titans are out there, and they've finally decided to let themselves in. The titans are part giant, part zombie and part oni -- traditional Japanese demons. The realistic portrayal of humanoid demons is curiously disconcerting, owing to their deformities and vacant grins. The misshapen bodies and absent genitalia augmented their visual discomfort.
It bears mentioning that the special effects are a little lower tech than one would get in a similar American studio film (like, say, Jack the Giant Slayer), and that, for the most part, is to Attack on Titan's benefit. The titans are filmed humans, inserted into shots and altered through makeup and/or CGI post-effects, rather than being full CGI creations. This lends them a certain credibility, which deepens the creepiness in a way that full-CGI does not. Jack the Giant Slayer is uncanny valley. Attack on Titan is just uncanny. AoT doesn't shy away from the straight gore either, and we get numerous shots of titans devouring humans with gusto.
There may or may not be some story tension between Eren and Armin over the love of Mikasa. Then again there may not be. No one ever does anything about it, but they frequently communicate through the language of pouty looks and hair flips. Soon after the first major titan invasion, Mikasa is presumed dead, although at no point will the viewer actually believe that. The story jumps to two years later and throws more characters at us (who blur together, save for the charming "Potato Girl.") but as soon as a mysterious bad-ass warrior appears, it's evident that it will be Mikasa.
The story isn't deep, in this version, and that's fine. The character development is largely trope-based, and that's fine too, particularly knowing that I have options should I wish to see these elements explored more deeply. Recent re-watches of Spielberg films have reminded me how much more less can be. It keeps the action moving and that's the part that works. The titans are much creepier and more disturbing than one has come to expect from the creatures in giant anything movies. I don't know if they'd play as creepy in Japan as they do here, given the cultural familiarity with their design source. The foreignness may indeed account for a portion of the unsettling "otherness" of the monsters.
Now, I don't rate, rank or score films, and I'm more glad of that than ever when looking back at Attack on Titan. If you are a devoted fan of the anime, you're going to have to go into the live action film with a firm grasp on realistic expectations, and that means that no, you're not going to get ten hours of character development. If you can accept that and understand that the film is, by necessity, a big old actiongasm, then you may have fun. If you're NOT hung up on preexisting expectations, you're much further ahead. Yeah, it's going to be weird in those Japanese ways, but if knowing that it's Japanese hasn't already scared you off, odds are as good as not that you're fine with that.
|They'll be back.|