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Attack On Titan Live Action Movie – A Bleak Spin on the Series

Attack on Titan swept across the world like the titular Titans in their assault on humanity. Soon, Mikasa, Eren and Armin became household names to anime fans everywhere. Conventions filled with Survey Corps members, all clad in tan and white, their green cloaks draped over their shoulders. It’s a phenomenon  that has spurred one season of anime (season two set to be released in the second half of 2016), countless manga spin offs, a live action film series, video games and merchandise.

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Group cosplay is especially epic with this series. Image courtesy of breakbang.com.

The first of these two films sum up about the first ten or so episodes of the anime. It tells the story of the first assault on the farming district and caps off after a fellow titan offers a bleak ray of hope for the world.

Fans of seeing anime faithfully recreated with all the details intact may not enjoy this version of Attack on Titan. The creators of the live-action film decided to give their own spin to the story and the characters, making vast changes to even the main cast. Even though these changes are painful to followers of the series or manga, they do have a uniqueness that adds to the overall impact the series has established.

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The faces of the Titans will probably haunt my dreams for a few weeks. They hold a wrongness about them.

First of all, all of the major themes of the anime are intact. Humanity meets its demise face to face as the Colossal Titan kicks a hole in the impenetrable wall. The smaller titans swoop in, scooping up people, and crunching on their bones. Gore sprays in waves in this film, making the iconic brutality of Attack on Titan that much more intense. The titans feel less like monsters and more like Japanese horrors with uncanny faces and movements.

Eren shows his determination, feeble as it may be, to destroy the titans.

Eren shows his determination, feeble as it may be, to destroy the titans.

Lastly, unbridled rage remains in the character of Eren. He clashes with his fellow soldiers, wanting nothing more than to eradicate every titan for taking what he holds dear. His anger manifests in several ways throughout the film, keeping that theme firmly intact. All while being contrast with his fear of the titans, seeing their strength firsthand.

As for the differences, I’ll do my best to elaborate on some of the major ones without ruining the fun of the movie, but you may get a spoiler or two if you haven’t seen the anime.

Super uncomfortable scene, but shows the differences in this version of Mikasa.

Super uncomfortable scene, but shows the differences in this version of Mikasa.

One of the biggest differences is the character of Mikasa. She remains the beautiful, childhood friend of Eren and Armin. However, during the first attack, she becomes the victim that Eren’s mother portrayed in the anime, the anchor point of Eren’s despair. During the first few moments, I worried for Mikasa, my favorite character, who was seemingly destroyed. Yet, she survives in the titan-filled outer area for two years, becoming the slayer she’s destined to be. She falls into this predatory state after being broken by the titan’s brutality and disregard for human life. So much so, that she ignores Eren and seems to be much more connected to Shikishima, who gives that Levi vibe, but is a different character.

Where's our blonde strategist?

Where’s our blonde strategist? Let’s play “Where’s Armin?”

Another major change to characters is that of Sasha, the spunky, energetic member of Eren’s squad. She’s portrayed in a way that exaggerates her infamous “Potato Girl” scene to the point of it being obnoxious. Sasha of the film is more of a nuisance than comedic relief, as she disgustingly gobbles up any food she can get her mitts on. She does seem to have a better connection to Armin though, which is quite cute. However, it’s hard to tell the difference between Armin and Eren due to Armin’s recent choice in hair dye.

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Hiana, a character new for the film, leads Eren deeper into the abandoned cities. What they find is a bit bigger than they hoped. . .

The style of this live action adaptation—adaptation being a crucial keyword here—while different from the source material, is still rather enjoyable. I found myself cringing much more through this bloody adventure, but there are many epic moments with the flair I’ve come to love from the series. One scene in particular shows Eren and Hiana searching for a baby’s cry, turning the movie into a dark, scary experience as they hold interestingly designed lanterns aloft. Combining moments of horror like this one with the visual style put into the titans themselves makes for a scarier story.

The film’s final act fits one of the high points of the anime quite well. Eren’s rage for the titans brings him to make a sacrifice, only to have his anger live on in a devastating way. This scene is still as adrenaline filled as the first time I saw it in animated form. Each piece of action hits hard, fast, unexpected to make for a great climax.

The visuals sometimes feel like late Godzilla or Gamera films.

The visuals sometimes feel like late Godzilla or Gamera films.

Of course, this movie is broken into two parts, with a sneak peak at the end of this one. It’ll be interesting to see how the second part plays with the second season of the anime. I’ll definitely have to check it out soon.

Step into the Attack on Titan Live-Action movie with an open mind. This is a different version of the Attack on Titan story, themes, and style, not a mirror image of the anime with actors.

The film is available in English subtitles through importation on sites like Amazon, while an English dub is surely to show up in the future.