Thursday, August 20, 2015

Attack on Titan

  Here we are again, another adaptation, and another host of things for the internet to complain about. Fans have already flocked to message boards, social media and anywhere they can raise their voice to point out shit they don't like about this. The entire cast is Asian, (the characters weren't Asian in the anime, or the manga as far as I know) the setting is wrong, etc etc etc. On the other hand, there seemed to be a lot of praise for the look and effects of the movie. Lemme tell you right now, that's the bread and butter of this movie. It's first and foremost a monster movie, and a damn effective one at that.

  I've seen the Attack on Titan anime in it's entirety thus far, and I loved it. I was pretty stoked for this movie, and for the most part it didn't disappoint. When the titans show up, it's downright scary. Totally horrifying. I was crawling out of my skin. Few movies affect me so strongly anymore, but holy crap this was unnerving. The giant lumbering zombie-like monsters, the titans, burst into the city and start eating people. Sounds simple enough, but the sequence goes on for a good long while and it gets increasingly bloody and graphic, hammering home the point that these things are absolutely terrifying.

  In my opinion, the movie is worth seeing for all that alone. It's a perfect example of how to pull off a crazy special effects laden scene without making everything look artificial and computer generated. In fact, if you can step back, whether you are a fan or a newcomer, and just appreciate the visuals on display in this movie, I'm sure you'll like it. The story doesn't explain as much as it should, and the plot is insanely rushed, but there's some great moments in the movie. The makers knew how to generate suspense, genuine scares, and even raw excitement. When the humans finally fight back against the titans, it's properly thrilling and a blast to watch.

  But between the tragedy scenes and the fighting back, there's not a single training montage. Any and all information we needed to know about how a bunch of farm kids learned how to use highly experimental weapons gear that can launch you hundreds of feet into the air like a steampunk Spider-Man is nonchalantly glossed over with a 'two years later' shot. This is the biggest cheat of the movie in my opinion. If they had pulled it off with any amount of finesse it would've been fine, but it feels like there's a chunk of the movie missing. In a big way you could compare this movie to Starship Troopers. Another coming-of-age movie with teenagers being sent off to fight unspeakable horrors.

  Starship Troopers touts a just over 2 hour runtime. Two hours. Attack on Titan is just right around 90 minutes. We needed another 30 minutes to watch the protagonists learn how to fight the titans, because there's a lot of necessary character development inside that non-existent 30 minutes that we just never get. They go from being scared monster-fodder, to well trained badasses in just two years- only as soon as they're put into dangerous situations, they don't seem like they've been trained at all. This might be effective if we had seen their confidence built up, but we didn't. That badass confidence is just a blip on the way to more horror and tragedy. We don't see it return until somewhere around the last act.

  Despite the truncated plot, and subsequent pacing issues, there's no denying Attack on Titan is a blast. It's simultaneously an action/adventure and a horror movie. We don't get enough of those in this day and age. The acting is solid for the most part, and the visuals alone are worth paying to see, so I recommend it. I know there's a few fan favorite characters who are either substituted for new guys or omitted altogether, but that's just par for course with a movie like this. In some areas it makes sense, in others it doesn't, but it didn't bug me too much. Fans of Levi beware, he's not in the movie. At all. Sorry.

  If anything, this is a visual companion piece to the other forms of media in which the story of Attack on Titan has been told. If you want the bigger picture, watch the anime. If you simply can't wait for season 2 of that, nor the confirmed sequel to this movie, go ahead and read the manga (which I have not yet done) I hear it's just as good. The movie leaves out a lot, but the anime and manga can fill in the gaps. The movie is respectful of the source material to a certain extent, but it also changes a lot of things to fit the medium of a live action film. When all is said and done, the movie is a fast paced (sometimes to it's detriment) thrill ride that is sloshing full of bright red blood and gore, bursting at the seams.

  It's unabashedly violent, and sometimes gleefully so, but I am the last person who's going to set that statement up as a complaint. I loved it. Despite all it's unsightly shortcomings, I do firmly believe that the movie is nothing short of a major accomplishment. It avoids the pitfalls that others of it's kind would fall right into, face first. It stands tall with it's eye catching cinematography, polished effects, blindingly cool action scenes, and hauntingly horrifying chaos and carnage. Say what you will about the film's missteps, it deserves a watch in my opinion. But then again, I'm a sucker for giant monster movies.

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