The last thing I ever expected from an Attack on Titan live action film was an entire packed cinema audience causing an uproar of laughter at what they were witnessing unfold on the silver screen, let alone did I expect to find myself succumbing and laughing along with the rest of the audience.
Attack on Titan is one of the most darkest, epic and deadset coolest anime stories in recent memory. The fact that Shinji Higuchi’s cinematic take on the story proved to be a B-Grade at best schlocky horror comedy crossed with an awkwardly acted softcore porno flick put together with production values that would make an 1980’s episode of Ultraman look like 2013’s Pacific Rim is utterly baffling. How could this have gone so very wrong? It’s tragic.
Tonally Attack on Titan is so far from its source material that it is difficult to even make an honest comparison between the two. If you are a fan expecting to see the tale you love so very much on the big screen, you are going to be sorely disappointed. If you haven’t seen the film be warned that spoilers lie ahead, but if you are curious to see what went so very wrong with this film, do read on because some of these spoilers are almost too ridiculous to believe.
The film replaces most of the series’ cast with original characters or characters similar to those in the series but changed in one way or another for reasons that remain a mystery. Not only that but entire plot lines that are pivotal to the understanding of the story and characters of Attack on Titan were cut in place of original plot that was in most cases half-baked at best. Where is Eren’s mother? Where is Annie, Reiner and Bernholt? Why can that one guy judo toss a titan? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Most questionable is the changes made to the character of Levi who has been renamed Shikishima in the film and given a complete personality makeover. While Levi was a stoic bad ass who becomes somewhat of a mentor to Eren, Shikishima is a rival in romance for Eren as he rather creepily has utter control over Mikasa, forcing her to eat an apple while he caresses her body in front of Eren. It is an awkward scene to say the least and absolutely out of place in Attack on Titan, yet that doesn’t seem to be an issue for this film which dives headfirst into several sexually charged sequences without any rhyme or reason.
One of the things I found interesting in the film was the inclusion of an original character by the name of Hiana. There is no equivalent to Hiana in the original series. She is a single mother who must enter into the Recon Corps to fight to protect her young daughter Riko. It is an interesting idea in all honesty and for the first half of the film it proves to be the most interesting plot point in play. The emotional depth of the scenario has so much potential to provide a truly powerful story of the things worth fighting for in this world gone to hell, but this film just can’t help itself from throwing any shred of potentially good story out the window in service of titillation. Rather than tell a story of a single mother’s emotional journey from struggling to care for her child to having to fight the titans that threaten that child’s very existence which would have been emotionally devastating all the while fascinating, the film decides that Hiana needs to fall in love with Eren for some reason and attempt to seduce him into having sex with her.
This sexual encounter with Hiana is not only out of nowhere but it is inconsistent with everything that had been presented on screen up until that point. Why does Hiana throw her thoughts of her daughter aside in order to jump the bones of the protagonist who had little to no connection with her throughout the story thus far albeit while they were in hiding from titans after an attack? It just makes no sense whatsoever and was simply insulting. The film isn’t satisfied with simply having this potentially interesting character attempt to have sex with Eren however, instead the film has her awkwardly present a single breast to him, has him squeeze her breast as she handles him while asking the following questions, “Is a single mother good enough for you?” and “Will you be the daddy to my baby?” This isn’t Attack on Titan. This is Attack on Decency. The Attack on Good Taste. This is Attack on Intelligence.
To make matters worse Hiana is almost immediately killed off following this awful scene after a titan somehow manages to sneak up on them. Surely they weren’t so busy canoodling that they couldn’t hear a 50 foot tall giant monster lumbering towards them right? Actually no because this film has Godzilla issues and no I don’t mean Japan’s Godzilla, I mean Hollywood’s 1999 Godzilla issues. Somehow the titans manage to surprise attack almost always proving to be the most stealthiest giant zombie monsters ever. But the real core issue here is that this film takes the only coherent and emotionally powerful plot point it had and completely tore it to shreds… literally in this case. Not only was it distasteful but it was also downright offensive.
Outside of the film’s out of place and shameful ‘fan service’ scenes there is hardly a coherent plot and events play out like someone who had never watched or read Attack on Titan was trying to retell the story based on what they had heard from a friend or read on Twitter about the series without ever actually having dived into the material themselves. Now it isn’t such a bad thing for the film to be different to the series but what is a bad thing is the fact that objectively this is just not a good movie. The story is paced not only illogically but also jarringly. For example there is a big sequence introducing the series’ famous maneuver gear, however the next scene takes a detour from the source material to farmlands for a mission that is never quite clearly explained, where the maneuver gear is unable to be used. It is poor pacing of plot points and scenes like this that make this film a pain to watch.
Another moment that was utterly baffling is after Eren’s titan transformation sequence somehow everyone apparently knows it is Eren and exactly how to deal with this situation and what exactly has occurred here. Why would they know this? This has so far never before happened in the world, so why do all these characters have such a deep understanding of the mechanics behind Eren’s titan transformation almost immediately understanding it to its fullest? Furthermore why do they heavily imply that every titan’s weakness is the nape of the neck because a person is in there? Wouldn’t they have found other people inside when they sliced other titans up? It just doesn’t make any darn sense which is just about the only thing consistent about this film.
I could rattle on about every little piece of frustrating plot but I think it goes without saying that this film could have done with a complete rewrite and a change of director entirely. It truly is a shame because the source material of Attack on Titan is something genuinely special in the world of anime and the fact that such a misguided adaptation was ever put to the silver screen not only does a disservice to the creator of Attack on Titan but it is also a disservice to the fans around the world who have supported it to become the colossal success it has.
If it wasn’t bad enough that the story and direction of the film were lackluster at best it is even more disappointing to see the quality of the visual effects which are as hackneyed and cheap as it gets in cinema these days. While the Colossal Titan and Titan Eren both look pretty good, pretty much every other titan looks sloppy and obviously upscaled. It looks tacky and feels like it too which is sad because the series upon which it is based looks stunning in just about every single way. Not only that but in what seems to be a rather glaring error in the film, the final battle appears to take place in a setting resembling modern Japan with apartment blocks clearly evident rather than the middle ages looking town that appeared at the beginning of the film. Now I know the film was shot at Battleship Island in Japan but this doesn’t make any sense why there are giant apartment buildings when it clearly doesn’t exist in this world given everything that had been seen up until that point. I just don’t understand why so much could go wrong with an Attack on Titan film.
Ultimately Attack on Titan Part 1 ( Yes, they are really doing a sequel) is a colossal disappointment for fans of the iconic anime and manga series and even more so for those who are looking to get into the franchise with this film. Japanese cinema has come a long way over the years but this is a major step backwards for the Japanese industry. It is a shame because there is so much potential for a live-action adaptation of this series and this film did have moments that seemed destined for greatness (the original character Hiana for example) but with a terrible script and misguided directorial vision, Attack on Titan Part 1 squashes all of that potential under the weight of its own mistakes.
It really is a shame because this one really could have been good, it really could have. But on the bright side at least we finally know what Eren’s Dad had hidden in the basement: every copy of this film in existence. Maybe there are some things better left in the basement, right Eren’s Dad? Right.