ATTACK ON TITAN
(Shingeki No Kyojin)
In the last few years, we have seen a number of films that adapt Japanese anime in live-action. This is a phenomenon that oddly enough began in the West with the low-budget likes of The Guyver (1991), Crying Freeman (1995) and Fist of the North Star (1995). More recently, there have been a number of high-profile English-language adaptations of anime tv series with the likes of Transformers (2007) and sequels, Speed Racer (2008). Dragonball: Evolution (2009) and Kite (2014), as well as plans for a live-action adaptation of Akira (1988) that have dragged on for over a decade. The most successful of these have not too surprisingly been the Japanese who have made a number of these live-action anime remakes with Casshern (2004), Devilman (2004), YatterMan (2009), Space Battleship Yamato (2010) and Lupin III (2014).
Attack on Titan has one of the best WTF openings of a fantasy film in some time. The three friends go up to visit the wall, disbelieving the stories of the Titans beyond because they have never experienced any in their lifetime, only to be stopped by the military just as the wall is breached by vast lion-shaped figures made of fire and smoke, followed by a horde of naked misshapen giants that burst through. The WTF aspect continues as the giants move through the town, snatching people up everywhere, biting their heads off and devouring them. Part of the outlandishness of this is the weirdness of the Titans all naked figures that are human but with misshapen faces and demented looks like the gleams of the imbecilic.
This sets the scene in fascinating ways, leaving us wondering what on Earth the world we are in is. After the great opening scene, the film skips forward three years to where the two male friends are now in military service and asked to take place in a sortie that goes out beyond the wall on a life or death mission. The complex story of the tv series has essentially been stripped down to all take place during this mission (which does lead to some confusion with the large number of supporting characters introduced that clearly have much larger roles in the manga/tv series but are reduced to not much more than walk-ons here). This stripping of the story is not that big a deal it is to many who followed the manga and anime but I was not familiar with either prior to watching this film so dont feel any onus in this regard and largely it now consists of a series of extended action scenes, which comprise three-quarters of the film, as the team go into action against the Titans. The most exhilarating of these are those with the group using a series of multi-directional zipline wires that allow them to fly through the air not akin to the way Batman or Spider-Man travel, all the while ducking around looking for the vulnerable spot on the back of the Titans necks to attack them. This also leads to the triumphal ending with the transformation of one of the characters into a Titan and pulverising all of the others into the ground.
Attack on Titan was made as a two-part film and was followed by Attack on Titan II: End of the World (2015), which was released seven weeks after this was, featuring the same cast and production personnel.
Director Shinji Higuchi had premiered with the J-pop fantasy film Minimoni The Movie: The Great Sweets Adventure (2002) and co-directed Lorelei (2005), an alternate history scenario about Japan winning World War II, before having a reasonable success with the disaster movie remake Sinking of Japan (2006), followed by the historical comedy The Floating Castle (2012).