Allow me to start by laying down the framework for this review: I am a fan of the anime and manga series of Shingeki no Kyojin or Attack on Titans, I’d gladly wipe the floor for Levi and Erwin, and I secretly hope that Humanity’s Strongest Pair (or Levi and Mikasa) would end up together. The second fact alone is more than enough to make look at this movie with contempt, but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, it might just surprised me like Death Note movies.
But to answer your lingering question, no, this movie didn’t deserved even the slightest bit of a doubt that it would not be a disaster.
100 years ago, humanity was attacked by Titans and almost got wiped out. Those who survived built three huge walls as fortress and locked the Titans out. Once again, humanity survived. That is, until the outer Wall was breached and the Titans came crashing, rendering humanity back into prey.
Two years later, two survivors of the first attack, Eren (Haruma Miura) and Armin (Kanata Hongo) joined the Scouting Legion to take over the outer wall. And, in Eren’s case, kill all the titans as revenge for taking everything from him, including his almost-lover Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara).
Putting aside the fact that this was a movie adaptation, Attack on Titans was terrible. The story was nothing but thin threads being weaved together haphazardly into something resembling a misshapen object, one that would crumble with the slightest touch. The characters are uninteresting at best – sans Hange, of course – while the casts looked like they just realized that they could actually do something more interesting. Now, put all of those with the fact that this is an adaptation of a marvelous and complicated anime and manga? Attack on Titans is a blasphemy. And this coming from someone who witnessed how Hollywood butchered Avatar: The Last Airbender, Eragorn, and Percy Jackson.
I could live with story and characters alteration if there was a good reason with it, or if it was executed with grace and purpose. But Attack on Titans have none of them, and I suspect Yuusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro revised things merely for the sake of convenience. What other reason would prompted them to wrote off the ever-famous and pivotal Erwin and Levi, downgrade Mikasa’s character, and fill the narrative gap with unimportant-slash-unappealing original characters? Because truly, the anime was interesting not just because of it’s story, but also because the characters were all intriguing and captivating in their own way. And I know it’s not fair to compare a more than 10 hours long anime series with 1,5 hour of movie, but they could’ve done more than just throwing unrecognizable characters (for I seriously don’t remember hearing their name or being introduced to them in anyway) here and there for the sake of filling the screen. They probably feel like they’re adding to the drama by introducin g the lovebirds, or by throwing the possible loveline of Eren-and-that-girl-who-turns-out-to-be-a-mother and Armin-Sasha, but those are seriously unnecessary. In the risk of sounding like a bitter purist, Attack on Titans was never supposed to be about love – it’s about fighting for your freedom. And I would actually be okay with those icky lovey dovey stuffs if they could make me believe that this is a story about how one found love in a hopeless place, not about humanity’s attempt to fight back in the brink of their extinction. Which they didn’t.
Instead, they wrote off Levi and Erwin for no apparent reason and in place put Shikishima. A character so problematically misogynistic that his introduction scene is Mikasa putting his coat on for him. This is something that I found disturbing because a) Mikasa Ackerman will never do something like that (on the contrary, she hated the Corporal with fervor despite begrudgingly admiring his skills) and b) it’s an interaction that put him as her superior. Plus his first line is a comment about “hot titan chick” and the way he carry himself during battle, all those lines about soaring and freedom while watching the Titans… It should be understandable that I’m terribly upset with how they butchered my Heichou into this fucker. His implied relationship with Mikasa was also a whole new level of problem because mein god, it sent shivers down my spine because it screamed abusive and unhealthy – and this coming from someone who actually roots for Mikasa to be with Levi instead of Eren.
Then of course, they downgrade Mikasa into someone who is exasperatingly dependent, and not in that heartwrenchingly endearing way the anime depict how she depends on Eren because he saved her in the past. Seriously, how they treated Mikasa and Shikishama made me suspect that both the writers and the audience are in no way ready for a troupe of freedom fighter to be led by a strong female warrior and imperfect male character, both of whom stray from perfect leader stereotype. And while it’s a disturbing train of thought, the appearance of Shikishima as misogynistic, supposedly good looking, and unbeatable combatant who lead Scouting Legion kind of confirmed it. Also the fact that Eren became more of a badass and less of the helpless kid filled with rage that he actually is, even if he and Armin wasn’t appealing enough for me to pay enough attention to them. They have nothing distinguishable aside from the obvious fact that, you know, they are the main cast and seems to be the only ones with proper backstory. There was no Marco or Annie too, but that’s just another addition to the long list of “where the fuck this movie goes wrong”. At least Hange was still quirky and entertaining, and Satomi Ishihara’s depiction was the closest thing to canon that you could get in this movie. Sure her parts weren’t much and they seems like they have no real attributes to the plot (another shame), but she was a literal breathe of fresh air. It was also nice to see her lead and steeled herself instead of being overshadowed by the lethal combination of charisma from Erwin and Levi. But that’s the only consolation out of this movie.
Because even story-wise, it’s just too much for me to follow without throwing my hands up in exasperation. Yes, it was quite thrilling when the Titans appeared but the battles (or the sad scenes they called battle scene) was so facepalm inducing. And part of what makes Attack on Titans interesting was how awesome they looks when they fly through the air slashing and slaying the Titans. I would also admit that they put out quite a realistic depiction of what a post-apocalyptic attack situation look like, but it still feels like they’re trying to cramp as much tearjerker situations as possible into such small time frame. And yes their plan to take over the Wall Maria was plausible, but the executions was still too exasperating. You don’t send a group of newly-minted soldiers to do such important mission, and if what you’re looking for is glorious genocide, it’s far more logical to send the old people to die since the youth could actually do more in building and labor. I quite dig the steampunk touches, though. Last but not least, I realize that this is only Part 1 of the story, but all the weakness of two-parter movies were glaring in this one. Mockingjay part 1, for example, managed to keep the pace and placed itself as an entertaining opening for the final show. But Attack on Titans was weak and it didn’t even laid enough foundation for the second part – except leaving out some huge “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT” questions. Or, to quote my friend whose introduction to Attack on Titans is this movie, “That was a serious deus-ex-machina“.
So yes, this might have been a long fangirl rant, but I seriously need to put it out there because like it or not, Attack on Titans was a clusterfuck of fuck-ups. It wasn’t eligible to be a movie that you could view apart from the anime, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to fully grasp the concept and left you with too many questions, and it was a horrendous adaptation of one of the best anime series I’ve seen in years. The story was all over the place, and the characters left so little impression I couldn’t remember anyone save Mikasa, Shikishima, and Hange. At the very least, watching this movie left me aching to rewatch the whole 25 episodes and reread all 73 chapters of Shingeki no Kyojin – something that I strongly advised everyone to do. Seriously, just skip the movie and go watch the anime instead because when even the beauty of Kanata Hongo, Kiko Mizuhara, and Haruma Miura can’t save this movie, nothing can. Just skip this movie and wait patiently until someone would fund an adaptation with Chris Evans as Erwin and Dane DeHaan as Levi.
Director: Shinjo Higuchi. Writers: Yuusuke Watanabe & Tomohiro Machiyama. Released on: 19 August 2015. Casts: Haruma Miura, Kanata Hongo, Kiko Mizuhara, Satomi Ishihawa, Hiroki Hasegawa.