Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action Review

In years past, I was only able to snag the occasional episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, and those were sporadic as best. Later when my now wife lent me her Netflix info, I was able to binge both the original series and FMA:Brotherhood. At the point, I was absolutely hooked!

Time passes, and a few unimpressive feature films later and we begin to see trailers and articles pop up regarding a live action movie.

Wait, what?

Yep, with each trailer that was released, I tried to temper my hype level. I’ve been a burned a few too many times by videogame movies, and the thought of a live action anime had me worried. These concerns were not alleviated by the release of the Deathnote movie, which turned an amazing Psychological-Police-Thriller in to some American-Angsty-Teen-Drama.

But upon it’s release the reviews started coming in with mixed results. No need to keep reading a continuous back-and-forth. Might as well just get to it myself!

Feel free to read on as spoilers will be minimal, if any!

Live action vs Anime

To the film’s credit, the special effects displaying the transmuting were absolutely on point! The ground looked and felt dusty as it shattered and heaved during combat. As Edward conjured transmuted his weaponry, the swirling and growth from he surroundings were convincing and made him look like the confident badass that he was in the anime.

The few parts where I felt it became disconnect was in the overly strict adherence to the costumes and the “antics” that’s a staple of anime. For instance: Alphonse’s armor. In the anime, it made sense for it to have a flat design being that it was an animated series and adding excessive detail and styling would just be excessive. Diminishing returns and all that. In the live action, they kept that same aesthetic and it seemed….”cartoonish”. It actually looked more like a cosplay (and a damn fine cosplay at that!), when I was expecting something more along the lines of a, well, suit of armor. This may be one of the only times where I complain about adherence to the source material, but I just wish they took the same level of creative freedom as Marvel has with their costumes: reminiscent of the original, with a possible brief homage or reference to the original.

In the anime, the brief breaks of seriousness were welcome distractions from the grim-dark narrative that we were fed. With animation, you are able to create it an immediate and distinct separation between scenes and emotions. You can include a sharp change up in the art style, different visual effects to denote emotions and internal thoughts, and funny hand props can appear without explanation. When these same antics are utilized in live action, they just felt…hokey? Lame? I’m not sure what the appropriate descriptor would be, but it wasn’t working.

Episodic Adventure in to a Feature Film

One of the things that I was most worried about was translating something as extensive as a 50+ episode long series in to a single movie. These reasons I have already discussed in depth when discussing why Videogame Movies always fail. Suffice to say that there’s simply too much story and depth of lore to introduce and cover in a ~2hr time span. I expected to see some cutting up and rearrangement of the storyline, so the fact that some parts of the story were combined and reordered didn’t surprise me. However, it didn’t cut in to my enjoyment either since it was more condensing the “world building” than tearing out chunks of the story.

Still, there were a few rewrites of the story that I wasn’t too keen on. In particular, there was a MAJOR leap forward in plot line to an event that doesn’t take place until Part 4 of the anime. As I was watching this, I was thinking, “I know my memory is a bit spotty on some of the bits, but I know THAT didn’t get revealed until MUCH later!”

Up until this point, we were staying along with source material fairly well. So why the massive departure?

Plans for More

My guess for this massive and out of place leap in the story is this: They’re planning on making more, possibly a trilogy. In this installment we met quite a few main characters, but not all. Notably, we have not yet met all 7 Deadly Sins. There are also a whole host of support characters that were not mentioned or shown, but act as a major source of development for the Elric brothers.

So while this was alarming at first, I will tell you this, oh reader mine: there’s a  post credits stinger that suggests so much more is yet to come!

Overall Impressions

While not as cohesive as the anime, it was still enjoyable for what it was. My main problems with adaptations is that tend to serve more as fan service and rather than being calibrated to bring in new fans. Somehow, both the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter move franchises managed to bring in new fans to the series. My guess, and it is nothing more than that, is that they started slow and stayed as true to the source material as possible. There were plenty, PLENTY of deviations from the main story line, and I am guessing that it was done to create a story with an appropriately high climax within a feature film length time frame. They had to move some things around, but there was a plot line that was formed with such a climax.

In the end, I enjoyed it for what is was: An enjoyable live action adaptation of an amazing anime.

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