“In order to reclaim our farmlands we must restore the broken outer wall. It is to carry out this prestigious mission that you have all completed your training”
When I first began watching horror/thriller movies, which to be honest was at an age that I would now consider to be a little too young, there were few things that frightened me more than the premise of being stalked, attacked and eaten by a multitude of reanimated rotting corpses. Lord have mercy, one rotting corpse would have been enough as zombies utterly terrified me.
Consequently, it wouldn’t be until my mid teens that I would find the nerve to enter into the world of flesh eating zombies.
I can’t say for sure exactly what it was that changed, but at 15 years of age my fear began to evolve into an ever alluring call. It was one evening when I finally worked up the courage to watch George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, that I was to experience the feelings, nerves and sense of excitement that one would more commonly associate with a first date. The analogy of young love was to continue with things progressing rapidly, and the rolling of the credits leaving me in a state where I was ready to propose and set a date for the wedding.
My love of things zombie grew as I went on to watch Dawn of the Dead and both versions of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I will never forget the day, while visiting a friend’s house that I was introduced to the game Resident Evil 2. I struggled not to believe that I had died and gone to heaven, leaving my potentially reanimated rotting corpse behind to wander the earth devouring those who had not experienced my enlightenment.
In the last couple of years there has been an ever increasing number of Zombie films and it has been a real pleasure seeing shows like The Walking Dead, and it’s newly released sister show, Fear the Walking Dead, make their way onto the small screen.
Yet having recently celebrated my 20-year anniversary with the zombie menace, I find myself in a place where though I don’t feel my commitment will ever waiver, I realise zombies have become very much part of the mainstream. This is by no means a bad thing, as my hunger for zombies seems to be pretty much insatiable. But it does often leave you feeling over-saturated and swamped by countless zombie films, many of which, show very little originality or variety when it comes to themes or storylines, and in some cases there are a number of films I can really only describe as being a bit dumb.
I guess in some ways these ponderings leave me in a place comparable to that of the seven year itch: torn between a great love in my life and the desire to do a little window shopping.
Enter Attack on Titan.
One hundred years have past since Titans—giant, somewhat mindless, humanoid beings with an insatiable appetite for human flesh—have destroyed the world as we know it. The surviving members of the human race have constructed and retreated behind three huge walls, one within another, each encircling a unique district and the various villages and towns contained therein.
“Even paradise could become a prison if you take notice of the walls”
Eren, Mikasa and Armin are three teenagers living within the outer district that consists of the farmlands that sustain the settlement. Their story begins at a time where Eren has become disillusioned with life behind the walls and despite them providing safety, he longs to see what lies beyond and even goes as far as questioning whether or not the threat of Titans remains.
Shortly thereafter Eren, Mikasa and Armin decide to sneak past the settlements outer defenses to investigate the wall. Their visit unfortunately coincides with the appearance of a Colossal Titan—larger and much taller than the average Titan.
The Titan breaches the wall, and in doing so, allows the smaller Titans to gain access to the outer district. What follows can only be described as a complete bloodbath and it is nothing short of spectacular.
In the post-film chatter, I was hardly surprised to hear another cinema goer describe the sequence depicting the initial Titan onslaught as “absolutely terrifying!”
Two years later, our characters have joined the Survey Corps; a division of the settlement’s army whose main purpose is to explore and reclaim hostile areas that have fallen to the Titans.
Starting out life as a Manga comic book, Attack on Titan was further developed into an anime series before recently being made into this two part live action film. As is common in many book to film adaptations, a significant amount of detail in the story is often altered or omitted in order for the story to translate well to the screen. This is certainly the case with the live action version of Attack on Titan, but add to this the complexity often seen in many Manga storylines when it comes to the social commentary and philosophical ideas that they often portray, and it becomes easy to see why some fans were disappointed.
Some basic but notable changes to the live action version of Attack on Titan were the omission of one of the series main characters Levi Ackerman as well as the change of setting from Germany to Japan.
Since watching Attack on Titan: Part One, I have taken the time to watch a number of episodes from the anime series where they are gently paced, thoughtful and character driven; at least part one of the live action film is forced to rush through some of the more reflective moments and veer toward being more action focused.
As someone who was uninitiated to the series and looking for a good night out when I went to watch part one of the film, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The effects were by no means flawless, but on the whole the film was fun and exuded a sense of cool. I was highly taken by the Omni Directional Mobility Gear used by the Survey Corps for manoeuvring around in battle, and which, to me is testament to the continued inventiveness of Manga storytelling.
Attack on Titan Part I was definitely a fun and enjoyable watch and I have come to feel quite fond of it in the short time since viewing it. I will definitely be going back to see Part II when it comes out in the coming months. However, for me the film ultimately fell short when it came to portraying the quiet, reflective and philosophical tones that, between the scenes of action and violence, were so beautifully and effectively depicted in the anime.
While the performances on the whole were adequate in aiding the telling of the story, I also failed to see the richly layered characters that played a crucial part in making the anime series a fantastic watch. Visually I also found the digital special effects shots were a little rough around the edges.