Fandom is a funny old thing. When some part of culture is taken into people’s hearts, they become obsessive about the minutiae, and for its creators it can become a rock: how it is originally presented is how it should always be, never changing. Woe betide anyone who tries to mess with that formula, even if it is the original creator. This is what happened to George Lucia when he tried to do something different with the Star Wars prequels: the fans hated and rejected them.* Fandom demanded more of the same, not something else. It’s why The Force Awakens was so widely embraced even when Lucas wasn’t involved in it anymore.
Attack on Titan is a more recent example of the rigidity of fandom. The original Manga comic was successful enough to speed into production a wildly adored 22 part anime. Fully of crazy ass imagery (literally, you see a lot of monsters’ asses in this), interesting characters and a strong, original story you could see why people loved it so much. Then along came the live action movie and they had taken a long, sprawling sci-fi horror epic and mashed it down into two brief, expensive and shallow features.
And the fans turned their wrath upon these titans. They fucking hated these films. And I don’t mean just a little bit. Reviews across the board were rabid with foaming spittle of hatred. The liberties taken with the story, how characters had been merged into one, other characters had changed completely and big chunks of the plot had disappeared all together. Apparently Attack on Titan Part 1 was the the worst steaming pile of monster shit ever created.
Or, in fact, not.
So I watched, or sat through depending on how you look at it, the seemingly never ending anime and what grabbed me at the time was how much of it there was. There was too much talk, too many flashbacks, too many characters. What there wasn’t was enough action. The first episode opened strongly with the titans’ spectacular initial massacre but after that there were long, long, long episodes of training, chat, infighting and more training. Also there were way too many characters that served no purpose. I could see what people liked about it, but I was not a fan. So it seems the movie version was made for me, because it cut out all the waffle and just left the good stuff. And I loved this.
As anime often is, Attack on Titan is set some time in a post apocalyptic future. The last of humanity lives inside within several massive walls, protected from giants who previously all but decimated humankind a hundred years before. Now a bunch of teens travel to the wall for a laugh, they barely even believe the titans exist. By a massive coincidence the beasts choose this exact moment to break though the outer wall and attack the good folk on the outer part of the city, basically where all the farmers and poor people live. Two years later the teens have joined the army in an effort to fight back against the titans and restore the outer wall.
The best part of Attack on Titan is the design of the titans themselves. They are essentially a bunch of very large naked people, but they have such weird, simple faces with wide apart eyes and big toothy smiles that are almost like giant, happy toddlers who just want to put things in their mouths, like all toddlers do. Unfortunately they want to put a lot of humans in their mouths. There is one scene where a bunch of titans tear open the roof of a church and munch down on the awaiting congregation like a box of chocolates. Its sounds silly, and in many ways it is, but these monsters with their grinning faces and gurgling noises are so creepy that when they appear, often silently despite their size, they are genuinely chilling. Also they are really well realised from the comic/cartoon to the screen. Being Japanese they have gone for the classic Godzilla route by having human actors stomping over miniature cities rather than cgi. The naked human form is not easy to digitally recreate with all the money in the world and as Japanese film makers have pretty much perfected this technique nowadays, the monster effects are pretty effective. It is especially exciting when the tiny human characters are fighting them by flying around their giant forms on cool gas powered grabbling hooks.
Okay, the characters are certainly a bit on the light side, and being a little over an hour and a half long you think they could have had time for a bit more development. However the action is so exciting that when there is a slow bit in the middle whilst characters ARE developed it feels like the momentum of the film is grinding to a halt. Also despite all my complaints about too much training in the anime, maybe a little but here would have at least introducedus to the characters properly or shown us how the weapons the humans have to fight back with work. Instead, for example, we get an explination of the grabbling hoof from a flashback to training IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIGHT SCENE. This just seems like sloppy story telling or studio interference.
However, these are probably just problems for real fans of the originals. If you’ve watch the TV show with adoration, or delved into the original manga then you might too be foaming at the bit with the movie version. And that’s fair enough, lord knows I’ve got annoyed at updates of my own favourites over the years. (I’m looking at you A Nightmare On Elm Street remake – or at least I would be if I could remember ANYTHING about you). However, if you want an action packed horror movie with some of the freakiest monsters this side of a Clive Barker novel, or just have a general fear of small children, then check out Attack on Titan Part 1.
And probably part 2 I guess… although I’ve not watched that yet. Maybe it will just infuriate me for not being the same as part 1, which, as you can tell, I am a fan oF.
*they also hated them because they were badly plotted with poor dialogue, stilted acting and an over reliance on digital effects but lets not go down that rabbit hole eh?