Friday, March 2, 2018

Fullmetal Alchemist (2017)

Number Rolled: N/A
Movie Name/Year: Fullmetal Alchemist (2017)
Tagline: None
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length: 134 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production Companies: Oxybot, Square Enix Company, Warner Bros.
Producer: Andrea Biscaro, Alessandro Tarducci, Mari Yamakawa
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Writer: Hiromu Arakawa
Actors: Ryosuke Yamada, Tsubasa Honda, Dean Fujioka, Ryuta Sato, Misako Renbutsu, Yo Oizumi, Kenjiro Ishimaru, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Shinji Uchiyama, Kanata Hongo, Natsuna, Fumiyo Kohinata, Natsuki Harada, Jun Kunimura, Atom Mizuishi
Stunt Doubles: None Listed

Blurb from Netflix: While alchemist Edward Elric searches for a way to restore his brother Al’s body, the military government and mysterious monsters are watching closely.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m absolutely shocked by how good this film was.

Whenever a book is adapted, or a reboot/remake targets something you consider a favorite, you always hope it’s going to stay true to the original work, while still bringing something new to the mix. It is so rare for anything to really live up to what you hope for – it’s easier to just lower expectations.

As much as I was looking forward to this live action adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, I was quick to control my expectations. I figured the characters would all be just slightly off, the majority of my favorite scenes would have to be cut or significantly altered, and the actors/director would take the whole thing way too seriously.

Granted, it’s a dark tale when you get into it – but there’s supposed to be some levity, too. The anime definitely takes into account the age of the brothers and the cringe that’s supposed to exist at that time in a person’s life.

When you really get into an anime you also learn to expect certain mannerisms from the characters. Things that a normal human being really wouldn’t do. There’s a certain amount of over-acting expected from anime… it helps to cause the wild and crazy expressions to make sense.

I wasn’t sure how a live action film would translate that kind of thing. For instance, Edward’s tendencies to flip out when anyone called him short. It’s physically impossible for someone to react the way his anime character did in those situations.

The anime is also very reliant on the visual representation of the alchemy practiced by the majority of the important characters. Not only that, but Alphonse is just a giant talking suit of armor. That means a great deal of CGI had to be used, and that can go very bad, very quickly.

So, how did director Fumihiko Sori (Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, Ichi, Orbital) handle everything?

Well, he treated it like an anime. He left in some of the over-acting – just enough to still get the mannerisms fans expect from their favorite characters – and he did his best to treat the CGI as if he were making a live action anime instead of an adaptation. All of it was uniform, but not worried about hardcore realism. That’s a good thing here, because hardcore realism would not have worked.

He did a phenomenal job.

There were a few actors that I didn’t really feel fit their characters, but there were three that really jumped out at me as being perfectly cast.

Tsubasa Honda (Wanitokagegisu, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, Night’s Tightrope) as Winry really grew on me, until I couldn’t picture anyone else playing her. Kanata Hongo (The Kaiju Club, Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You!, Repeat) mastered the feel and androgyny of Envy. And finally, I knew the moment I saw Ryuta Sato (My Brother’s Husband, Kanna san!, Otoko no misao) that there was no one else anywhere in the world that could have made a better Maes Hughes.

Ryosuke Yamada (Grasshopper, Hell Teacher Nubee, Cain and Abel) was a toss-up for me. I really didn’t think I’d like him as Edward Elric. I thought he’d look way to fake to make me care, but he pulled it off. It’s one of those situations where I saw it more once I was watching the actual film than I did in the trail or movie posters/stills.

This was definitely meant to be an adaptation of the anime, not the manga. I urge fans of the series to keep that in mind when opting to watch this movie.

I tend to be slightly forgiving with adaptations, especially in cases like this where so much material needs to be packed into just a couple of hours. That said, I really think even the toughest fan would see the good here.

Cat’s Point of View:

I was so very excited when I learned they were making this movie. The fact that it was set to be a Netflix Original gave me hope that it had a chance to live up to its source material – as much as possible for an adaptation of this sort, that is. Even so, I’ve had this underlying worry that this story so dear to my heart would become yet another bastardized cinematic flash-bang show of all fireworks and no substance – or, even worse, something cartoonier than the anime or manga pages.

My worries have been put to rest. This film was amazing.

There’s so much to say that I honestly don’t know quite where to start. I suppose it’s a good idea to note up-front that I’m not really a manga-reader. (Not for lack of interest; just lack of time, etc.) For that reason, I’m unable to offer a comparison to the original format of this story. I can, however, provide plenty of insight comparing to the lengthy anime series that encapsulates this story.

To that end, I can say that this adaptation was fairly faithful to the anime. The visuals for the characters were spot on – for the most part. I’ll come back to that. The landscapes and settings felt like they were pulled straight from my memories of the show. The opening scenes actually had me catching my breath and had me a bit misty-eyed even before the real reasons to have eye-leaking problems revealed themselves in the narrative.

The effects were better than I expected, really. There was only one homunculus ‘transformation’ that felt a little off for me; but really when looking at that character and exactly what’s going on with it, I realized that it was still a decent rendition. Hopefully, in future installments they’ll work on it.

My initial excitement while watching the trailers for this movie was tempered by my reaction to some of the aesthetic choices for the characters. I wasn’t sure I was going to like Ryosuke Yamada (Sensei wa erai!, Assassination Classroom, Miracles of the Namiya General Store) as Edward. I even scoffed and huffed that they changed Winry’s hair color.

Let me tell you, though, that Tsubasa Honda (Enoshima Prizm, The Tale of Nishino, Terminal) portrayed an epic Winry. I didn’t care that she wasn’t blonde. I feel that I understand the choices made – it certainly gave the movie more ethnic authenticity than the anime. I imagine we would have heard a lot about white-washing if they hadn’t – regardless of the nature of the source. I’m glad that particular, if valid, controversy was avoided.

Along those same lines, I just wasn’t sure what to make of Yamada, at first. The production team – including costuming, hair, and makeup – really outdid themselves here. They captured the visual essence of the beloved character. Yamada breathed life and vibrance into his role. He pulled off the stubborn, stoic, perpetually worried, Napoleonic-complexed, and sometimes goofy character of Edward Elric better than I could have hoped.

I’m completely geeking out over Ryûta Satô (Rookies, Until the Break of Dawn, Fire Spark) as Captain Maes Hughes, though. Holy hell, they even got that little stray curl of hair right without it looking fakey. Hughes was one of my very favorite characters in the series, so you can imagine I was head over heels about his excellent portrayal.

Moving on!

Another of my primary concerns with adaptation of this story was the length. There’s just so much extensive nuanced storyline throughout the anime (and likely more so with the manga), that I wondered how they could possible fit it all into a single film. I can’t tell you how relieved I was that they didn’t try to cram it all in. Director Fumihiko Sori (Pinpon, Vexille, Tomorrow's Joe) is said to have made the call to develop about a third of the story into this movie. That gives me great hope that there might be a trilogy in the works. I can’t confirm that for sure, but it would make sense. This film definitely left me wanting more – and quickly.

I am going to cross my fingers and toes that they follow through with adapting the rest of the story. I will be waiting with bated breath to see. In the meantime, I would recommend this movie in a heartbeat. It’ll likely be a good fit for someone who isn’t so sure about anime but likes action films along this line. 

Speech Available: English – Audio Description Only, French, German, Japanese, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 70%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.6/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5

P.S. There’s a short scene after the credits that’s worth watching.

P.S.2. This will be our last Foreign Film Friday for a while. Due to declining popularity, we’ve opted to scrap the feature. We will be adding some of the foreign films to our regular queue, so they’ll get mixed in over time. We will still be posting on Fridays, but it will be our normal themes.

Movie Trailer:

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