Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action Movie (2017) – REVIEW
When the news broke that a live action adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist was coming, a Diva was understandably excited. The cast looked amazing. And most importantly, Colonel Roy Mustang was being played by Dean Fujioka. But of course we can’t have nice things as horrific visions of the live action, Shingeki no Kyojin movie reared their ugly little heads. Now Diva was also worried. The SnK disappointment still lingers. But hope started to rise as a Diva had recently watched the live action Tokyo Ghoul film. It was good. Really good. So how would Fumihiko Sori’s Fullmetal Alchemist adaptation fare?
The trailers for Fullmetal looked amazing, but we’ve been fooled by trailers before. Luckily we would not have to wait long to find out as Anime NYC closed out their inaugural convention with the U.S. premiere of Fullmetal Alchemist.
Before the feature started, Fumihiko Sori himself shared a few words with the audience; most notable was his addressing the issue of an all Japanese cast for a story based in Europe with European characters. His response was measured, precise and put to rest any other questions about the casting. The story, while set in Europe, embodied many Japanese themes so a Japanese cast made sense. He followed that up by asking the audience to look past the actors and focus on the story. What this Diva heard was “My movie, my cast. Run up and get done up.”
Director Sori packed a lot into this film–like one-third of the entire story. It was quite the ambitious endeavor. In his post-premiere remarks, he mentioned that he intended for Fullmetal Alchemist to the a standalone film with no sequels. However, it felt like he was hedging his bets.
There are some characters who did not make it to the big screen in this live action adaptation. Most notably, the Fuhrer, King Bradley aka Wrath, and Scar were missing. Considering that the film is supposed to cover roughly the first third of the full story, a Diva was expecting more than a passing mention of The Fuhrer. During the film, more than once, Lust mentioned Ed being a sacrifice. She even tells Mustang that he would have made a good sacrifice. Anyone familiar with the manga, or who has watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood understands the significance of those statements. Yet, we are never introduced to the person giving Lust her orders. Let’s not forget that by episode four of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, not only have we met Scar, but he has given the gift of mercy to someone who desperately needs it and someone who does not deserve it. We also did not get to see my favorite strongman Alex Louis Armstrong. Considering Armstrong has some big biceps to fill, this can explain the difficulty they may have had finding an actor for the role.
Most of the characters were true to their manga roots with one exception — #flawass Shou Tucker. They actually managed to make him worse than he already was. This Diva won’t go into how awful Shou Tucker is. Just know that tears were shed without shame. Shou Tucker became the primary antagonist in this film. At most, in the source material, Shou Tucker was singularly focused and tragically misguided. In the film, he’s damn near maniacal. (Sidebar: The actor who played Shou Tucker, Yô Ôizumi, also played Kureo Mado in the Tokyo Ghoul live action movie. Perhaps characters that do heinous things under the guise of protecting or advancing humanity are his thing). Since many fans have a justified disdain for Shou Tucker, the choice to elevate his villainy seems natural. Especially, when for a good portion of the manga and the anime, there was no “big bad” the Elric Brothers had to contend with. Sure they tangled with many folks, like Scar. However, Scar’s issues were more with the military than the Elrics. In fact, in the source material the brothers’ greatest enemy was Ed’s guilt over what their desire to see their dead mother, cost Al.
In the midst of all the action, there were so many points that tugged at a Diva’s (and the audience’s) heartstrings. The moment Nina appeared on the screen, a pit materialized in the collective stomach of the crowd. The same happened when Maes Hughes energetically burst onto the scene. However, nothing hit harder than watching Ed and Al attempt human transmutation. The child actors captured the pain and desperation of the Elric brothers. They made you hope beyond hope that this time the result would be different. Thankfully everything in the film wasn’t solely about tears and rage. Director Sori made sure the small still moments resonated, like Al and Winry playing cards on the train or Riza unstated devotion to Roy’s safety. Even something as a dinner party grabs your heart and does not let you go.
Now to the real star of this production — Roy Mustang’s overcoat. No. Seriously. This Diva’s love of a man in a long coat is well documented. And the eternal bae Roy Mustang delivers. Ok, well technically, the costume designer delivers. The details are amazing. When you look at that overcoat, it is clear that it and its owner have been through some things.
As previously mentioned, Director Sori intended for this film to be a standalone with no real plans for a sequel. As a result, story lines that appeared later in the series find themselves appearing alongside their younger brethren. For fans who have read the manga or watch the anime, the pacing may have felt a bit off. Events were attributed to characters that they didn’t have anything to do with. Plot points from the end of the series ended up in a movie about the first part of the series.
There is also the issue of the special effects. Overall, they were amazing–remember that Al is entirely CG. The alchemy effects were smooth, both for destruction and creation. Lust’s killer nails, nearly always hit their mark. Director Sori, in his post-premiere remarks, talked about how in Japan special effects budgets are much smaller than in the United States. Therefore, they really have to make magic on what some would consider a shoestring budget. And as any Game of Thrones fan knows, when there is limited special effect budget something suffers. In this case, it was the homunculus Gluttony. As his name implies, Gluttony is a deviant of indulgence, eating everything and everyone in his path — once Lust gives him permission. This Diva’s issue is with the tummy teeth. Don’t giggle. You know what I’m what I’m talking about! The tummy teeth are CG perfection when Gluttony is standing still. However, when he moves, it’s Power Rangers Monster of the Day. Granted it is only in one scene, but it stood out in a bad way.
So what’s this Diva’s verdict? Just like the mangaka, Hiromu Arakawa, I thoroughly enjoyed this and want to see a sequel (Yes, Ms. Arakawa wants a sequel and so will you). Regardless, of it’s flaws, if you are a newbie to the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise or a seasoned veteran; the film was a great watch. Make sure when the limited release makes its way to a theater near you that you buy a ticket. Support this project. We all know the power of the purse when it comes to the decision to make a sequel. Director Sori even teased the possibility of a sequel depending on fan reception to this film. Don’t let Fullmetal Alchemist go out like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Thanks to Anime NYC, Linda Roth PR & Warner Brother Japan for making this possible. And as a parting gift, this Diva leaves you with movie’s theme song, “Kimi no Soba ni Iruyo” (I will be beside you) by MISIA because everyone deserves goodness in their lives. Oh, by the way, Director Sori helmed the video.
Be sure to listen to Deadly Diva on our anime-focused podcast, OutlawBarz!