(Hagane no Renkinjutsushi)
There was also this live-action film adaptation, which joins a bunch of anime that have been translated into live-action in the last few years. Surprisingly, the most prolific of these anime adaptations have not come from Japanese filmmakers but Hollywood with the likes of The Guyver (1991), Crying Freeman (1995), Fist of the North Star (1995), Blood: The Last Vampire (2009), Transformers (2007) and sequels, Speed Racer (2008), Dragonball: Evolution (2009), Kite (2014) and Ghost in the Shell (2017), while a live-action version of Akira (1988) is now well into its second decade in development hell. The best of these live-action remakes are not too surprisingly those that have come from Japan who have produced Casshern (2004), Devilman (2004), YatterMan (2009), Space Battleship Yamato (2010), Kikis Delivery Service (2014), Lupin III (2014) and Attack on Titan (2015).
It may be that something gets lost in the translation in adapting such a sprawling saga down to a single film. Or it may simply be, I suspect, that the material doesnt translate that well to live-action. The elements are there a substantial budget and international location shooting, some good CGI effects, good costumes and a faithfulness to the source material. However, Fullmetal Alchemist sits there and fails to get inspired.
One of the issues is the characterisation. The conflict between the two brothers is the emotional core and this emerges okay. However, cast as Edward, Ryosuke Yamada appears like a regular J-pop star who has been shoved in a costume and cowlick artfully slung across his face and resenting every minute of being there. The blonde hair dye job looks awkward and unsuited. Yamadas lack of any charisma becomes a sinkhole that drags the film in around him whereas he should have been an heroically posed young hero. Equally, Tsubasa Honda plays Winry as another version of the annoying scatty-headed teenage girl characterisation that appears in much Japanese cinema.
Director Fumihiko Sori had previously made the SF anime Vexille (2007), the live-action Ichi (2008) about a blind swordswoman, the SF anime Orbital (2009) and the live-action fantasy film Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker (2012). Despite an adeptness with both anime and live-action, Sori seems to miss it when it comes to the action scenes, which are usually a highlight when it comes to a show this like. There is one sequence with the two brothers fighting Father Cornello in the streets of a town (in actuality, location shooting in Italy) but this becomes distracting because all of the pillars of stone blasting out of walls, the tsunamis of paving stones, the monsters emerged out of nowhere behave in no way that ever seems to involve physics and disappear into an empty array of CGI eye candy scenes. Moreover, after this one action scene the film slows down right until its end. While the plot seems constructed as a quest, nothing much happens and it seems to take a very long time to do so.