Attack on Titan: The Live Action Film is Stunning, Action-Packed & Horrifying all at Once [Review]

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Based on the mega popular Manga series from Hajime Isayama (and Anime), Attack on Titan is directed by Shinji Higuchi and stars Haruma Miura and Kiko Mizuhara. The two-part big screen adaptation debuts in Japan August 1 and September 19, 2015 for part 2 entitled Attack on Titan: End of The World.

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After his hometown is destroyed and his mother is killed, young Eren Jaegar vows to cleanse the earth of the giant humanoid Titans that have brought humanity to the brink of extinction.

I’m not a big Anime fan. I haven’t read any Manga books either. What I did do, however, was plow through the first Attack on Titan season when it hit Netflix and haven’t looked back ever since. This franchise was my first foray into that world and I think it may have spoiled most other Anime series for me because it was done so well. The concept is fascinating, frightening and a fun take on the post-apocalyptic dark fantasy genre. Adapting it to live-action was a no-brainer. It’s also damn near impossible… but director Shinji Higuchi tried his hardest to capture as much of that energy from the Anime/Manga as he could. The action: as soldiers fly through the sky on these projectile ziplines while cutting down these grotesque titans was such a difficult task in adapting but I think they pulled it off as best they could.

I know a lot of fans are pissed off at how the adaptation has changed some things, namely the exclusion of a fan favorite – Levi. You see, in the anime, some characters are German. Since this is a Japanese film, they decided to keep the location based in that culture; therefore we lost or replaced some important characters. In the case of the badass captain Levi – we now have Shikishima. You know what? He works. He’s arrogant, he’s deadly and he does everything Levi did in the source material. Could they have just named him Levi? Probably! But they didn’t – move on. I love the character of Levi and I can accept this fairly significant change just fine.

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This review is for part 1 of the 2 part big screen adaptation and the first half covers the initial breach of the wall, then wraps up with our three main characters Eren, Mikasa and Armin’s first major battle after joining the Scout Regiment (a new infantry unit that attacks the Titans using zipline tech). The most memorable parts of the first season for me – were the initial breach and that first battle where we learn what happens when Eren gets angry. Titans don’t like Eren when he gets angry.

If I had to critique one element of the film, it would be that it feels like it moves a little too franticly. However, that’s also what makes it so much fun. Attack on Titan part 1 is violent. I mean really violent. If you were disturbed at the giants devouring people in the Anime – you will not be ready for what happens in the movie. It was even more horrific than I’d imagined it could be. Titans tear people in half, bite them to pieces, stomp on them and they look so strange, so bizarre, so damn creepy when they do it. I think that’s what makes the content so unsettling – is how they smile while they gleefully chomp down on your family – or they giggle as limbs fall from their mouth and smaller titans gobble up the aftermath. It was extremely disturbing and they truly captured the terror and panic of the Anime series and amplified it tremendously.

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I didn’t get as much of a brotherhood type feel with Eren and his friends as I did from the show and that’s probably due to the rushed plotline. There is a lot to get to and not a lot of time to do it in a film adaptation as epic in scope as this one is. One day terror strikes, the next day Eren is enlisted in a specialized Titan killing army unit. There’s not a lot of room to breathe or let characters grow. But thankfully everything else was nailed to perfection and made up for the lack of backstory. I’m hoping the second half rectifies this, but it’s hard to say because there’s a lot more action on tap for part 2: End of The World.

Spoilers Ahead:

When Eren finally turns into a Titan and unleashes hell upon the rest of the big goofy faced freaks, it was amazing. They captured his berserker style of boxing to perfection. It was literally a 100% faithful live-action (well… CGI) translation of the source material. It was also one helluva way to conclude the first film. Attack on Titan is an extremely difficult franchise to adapt for the big screen but I truly believe this is the best result fans could have asked for in movie form. Now – would it have worked better as a TV series? Of course. But we already have that in Anime form (not counting the new TV tie-ins from the film).

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I get the criticism; I truly do, but I like to think of Attack on Titan as an abbreviated highlight reel of the best action moments from the series. Then sit back, relax and prepare to be horrified and amazed at the carnage that explodes from the screen. Attack on Titan might be my favorite Japanese film since Battle Royale – as flawed as it is at times, there’s truly nothing else like it right now.

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