Movie Review – Is The Attack on Titan Live Action Movie As Embarrassing As Every Other Live Action Anime Adaptation?

Back in August, I wrote an article about the trailer for the Attack on Titan movie, speculating about whether it would be any good. Well, yesterday I ‘obtained a copy’ of the movie subbed in English, and had a little watch of it, so I can now tell you what it’s like.

Spoilers loom ahead like the silhouette of the Armored Titan…


What Have They Changed About The Story?

It would actually be quicker to write a summary of what they haven’t changed. The movie is completely different to the Shingeki no Kyojin (wow, I actually managed to write the Japanese name without looking it up) manga and anime, in terms of the setting, the relationships between the characters, and the fact that many rather important characters aren’t actually in it. So let’s look at some of these changes and how they affect things:

The Setting Is Far More Futuristic

The Attack on Titan anime had a kind of medieval feel to its setting, and while the odd mention of countries and things suggested they were in our world after an apocalypse brought on by the appearance of the titans, and hints that the titans were scientifically created suggested they were in the future and science and technology had been far more advanced prior to said titans, none of this was very important. They could have been in a made up fantasy world and it wouldn’t have made much difference, there was nothing really connecting their situation with the viewer’s.

In the live action movie of Attack on Titan, they’ve gone for a far more post apocalyptic feel in the conventional, Fallout-y sense. There are ruins of helicopters and an old, undetonated bomb, and also vehicles and guns. Where is the fuel for these vehicles coming from, and the ammo for the guns, if nobody has been outside the walls for 100 years, you may well ask. I have no answer for you. In the anime they had horses and swords.

Nobody Has Ever Seen A Titan At The Start of The Movie

In the anime, titans are a very real threat and have been for as long as anyone can remember. In the movie, everybody has been safe within the walls for 100 years, and nobody has actually seen a titan in that time. Eren doesn’t even believe they exist. There is no Survey Corps prior to the first titan attack in the movie – literally nobody has been outside the walls, leaving the titans to become something of a myth. If one of your favorite early scenes was the Survey Corps riding back into town and presenting that woman with her son’s arm, you’re bang out of luck – there’s nothing like that in the movie.

Don't worry - this logo does appear eventually... Image by Mike Grauer Jr

Don’t worry – this logo does appear eventually… Image by Mike Grauer Jr

To me this really messes with the mood of the story. What was kind of unique about Attack on Titan was that it starts off bleak, and gets bleaker. In the movie it has a more traditional horror sort of curve. Everyone thinks the monsters have gone away. They’ve become complacent. Oh no, there they are. Now they must fight them.

Eren Has No Parents

Another early scene from the anime that you won’t be seeing acted out (badly) in this movie is the infamous ‘Eren’s mother gets chomped’ scene. This was a powerful moment that set the tone for the anime, and even made it onto our list of the five saddest anime moments.

In the movie, Eren’s parents are already dead, and Eren, Mikasa and Armin are not small children when the titans attack – they’re already teens.

This is actually not trivial. Sure, Eren’s mother being eaten is an important emotional moment that sets up a lot of his motivation, but what is actually far more important plot wise is Eren’s dad. He’s been doing some experiments involving titans and may well be responsible for Eren’s ability to transform, and he’s also the one who sets a major ‘quest’ in the series, giving Eren and viewers alike some hope that a lot of the secrets of the titans can be found out from his research. He mysteriously disappears, leaving Eren parent-free like all good anime protagonists, but his influence on the story could potentially be very significant.

Levi’s Not In It

Do you know who is consistently voted the most popular Attack on Titan character in fan polls, both in Japan and the west? Levi. Humanity’s strongest. Do you know who isn’t in this movie? Well, actually almost everyone from the anime, but the important point here is, they cut Levi. They cut Levi and replaced him with some asshole new character who is the strongest soldier instead, and who seems to have been created only to enable a horrifically forced love triangle with Eren and Mikasa.

And Don’t Even Talk About Eren and Mikasa

In the anime and the manga versions of Attack on Titan, Mikasa’s an orphan who Eren rescued as a child from being sold into prostitution due to the high demand for her extremely rare Asian features. This wouldn’t work in the movie where everyone is Japanese (but still with European names because yes), but they could have ass pulled another reason instead of just giving her no back story at all.

She is raised by his parents and is kind of a sibling to him, and will do anything to protect him once she becomes a badass. Whether they have romantic feelings for each other is up for debate, but frankly people in that world have way more on their minds than teen crushes and the important thing is that it is established that they have good reason to care about each other a lot. They are together, along with Armin, all the way through their training and through all the myriad tragedy and violence, and the bond between the trio is a key theme in the whole thing.

In the movie she’s his girlfriend at the start, and then they get separated by the titan attack and he thinks she’s dead for two years before meeting her again in badass-titan-slayer-Mikasa form. She’s annoyed with him because a baby got eaten or something, and Eren’s jealous because she’s ostensibly now with aforementioned annoying new character. So Eren feels up some other annoying new character who then gets eaten by a titan while he has his hand up her top. I’m not making this up, this is what they did about the subtle and complex friendship between these two characters.

This angry Mikasa action figure type thing has more emotional range than movie Mikasa... Image by IQRemix

This angry Mikasa action figure type thing has more emotional range than movie Mikasa… Image by IQRemix

Still though, at least the whole Eren-thinks-Mikasa-is-dead bit meant she wasn’t on screen for a while, and that was a good thing considering she is played by Japan’s answer to Kristen Stewart.

Titan Baby

There’s a titan baby. Yes, we aren’t supposed to know how they reproduce – a point that is mentioned in the movie so one of the things they actually didn’t change – but for some reason there’s a titan baby. I mean it’s kind of cool and scary looking having a giant man-eating baby, but it makes no bloody sense.

Annie’s Not In It

You thought it was weird they cut Levi?

Yup, Annie, who is literally the most important antagonist in the anime so far, is not in the movie. Sure, this ‘Part 1’ movie only goes up to Eren’s transformation and she doesn’t do anything important before that really, but she is introduced. Are they just not going to do the female titan arc? Are they going to do it but introduce Annie later so it’s really obvious it’s her and you don’t care about her anyway? Seriously, how are they going to get around that? They bothered to put Sasha in it (a lot) because I guess they thought we couldn’t live without the comic relief of a girl eating potatoes – but no Annie. Of course, they’re going to struggle with the whole female titan thing anyway because…

There Are Loads of Female Titans

Annie’s titan was always referred to as the ‘female titan’ because, as was stated, all of the regular derpy looking titans looked like men. Titans have no sexual characteristics, but in face and body shape, all but the female titan looked male, so, seeing as how a female looking titan was unusual, that’s how they referred to her.

In the movie loads of the regular derpy looking titans look female. While they don’t have nipples (a fact that is actually discussed in the movie), plenty of the titans you see have boobs. I guess it’s because they didn’t want to miss out on such a rare opportunity to have characters who don’t wear clothes and have no nipples or genitals – they could put naked chicks in it and didn’t even have to do any pixelating. I mean they’re hideous monstrosities with insane derp faces, but still…

This means that if they do somehow manage to hash together something involving Annie’s titan, they can’t really call her the ‘female titan’ because that could mean like, 50% of the titans. What will they call her, the ‘non-derpy female titan’, the ‘weirdly hot for a giant with no skin titan’?

They Know Stuff They Aren’t Supposed To Know Yet

In the Attack on Titan live action movie, as in the anime, Eren gets swallowed by a titan saving Armin, but then turns into a titan himself, bursting out from the inside of the smaller one who ate him. He then goes on a rampage, killing all of the titans who were attacking the town. In the anime, nobody really realizes it’s Eren because nobody has ever turned into a titan before and they all think Eren’s dead. In the movie however, as soon as Eren’s titan body starts breaking down, someone says something along the lines of ‘Cut him out, or he’ll be absorbed by the titan and we won’t be able to get him back’.

Huh? How do you know this? You’ve only actually seen titans a couple of times and you’ve never seen anybody turn into one, so what makes you think that is what will happen? And how do you know where to cut him out?

But cut him out they do, from the nape of the titan’s neck – a titan’s only weak spot. Then somebody says something like ‘that must be why the nape of the neck is their only weak spot’.

Are you suggesting that every titan has a human in the nape of their neck? So every titan used to be human? So, like, something that as far as I know hasn’t even been confirmed in the manga yet, let alone the anime which is at this point quite far behind – you’re implying that in Part 1 of the movie series? Don’t hold back on the reveals or anything – is the Colossal Titan controlled by Jon Snow warging into it?

So, those were a lot of the things that were different, and in my opinion, different in a way that either ruined the dark mood and the intensity of the character’s relationships, or actually broke the story. But was there anything good about the Shingeki no Kyojin movie?

The Titans Looked Pretty Cool, and They Didn’t Tone Down the Violence

One thing that was enjoyable about the live action Attack on Titan movie was the titans themselves. Japanese cinema doesn’t have Hollywood budgets, so you do know you are seeing a lot of green screen and CGI, but the filters and effects like smoke coming out of the Colossal Titan do a good job of masking a lot of the less perfect looking stuff, and the titans do look a lot like the ones in the anime brought to life.

Also, I was a bit concerned that the violence would be toned down for cinema, but actually it hasn’t been – if anything it’s gorier than the anime, but it’s done well so it looks more awesome than gratuitous. The action bits were what prevented this movie from actually being terrible. Sure, they butchered the plot, and some of the acting was horrible, but there were times during the more violent bits of the movie when I did find myself thinking ‘hey, this is cool!’.

I’ve been trying to imagine what it’d be like to watch this movie without knowing anything about Attack on Titan at all. Would it be better, because without looking at what was missing or wrong you could just enjoy the action, or would it be worse, because without a point of reference the plot would just seem really dumb? Unfortunately, I think without knowing the story from the manga or anime of Shingeki no Kyojin, this would actually just look like a fairly cheesy horror movie – fun to watch in places, with cool monsters, but certainly not something I’d imagine was based on a story so rich and complex it gets compared to Game of Thrones.

In fact, if Game of Thrones had been adapted by the screenwriters who made this movie, it’d probably be set in the future, not have Daenerys or Ned Stark in it, and be mostly about a love triangle between Arya, Jon Snow and some guy called Kevin they just made up. But the white walkers would look really kick ass.




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