“They’ve seen the end of the world. It’s a bloody, hideous, deafening hell.”
The Japanese love their giants. From the king of all monsters, Gojira, aka Godzilla, through Mothra, Rodan and Gamera, the land of the rising sun has shown a special fondness for showing their cities destroyed and their people annihilated by gigantic creatures. The latest such cinematic undertaking, Attack on Titan, may be the biggest yet, as it has been released in two parts in order to fully explore its story of man vs. giants. Based on a popular manga series, this two-part spectacle is wild, gory and loads of fun.
As explained in an earlier Gore 4 preview, the story of Attack on Titan concerns the remnants of humanity who have built a series of three concentric walls which keep out grotesque, human-looking behemoths who take sheer delight in consuming as many people as possible. After a peace of over 100 years, a colossal Titan has broken through one of the massive walls, letting in a slew of Titans who proceed to destroy one of the villages, home to Eren and his friends Mikasa and Armin. Cut to two years later, and an army of inexperienced soldiers is on hand and tasked to retrieve the last explosives known to man in an attempt to repair the outer wall and thus restore much needed farmland as food supplies are dwindling. Against a seemingly invincible adversary, it is Eren who may be humanity’s last hope.
As one character exclaims, “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” upon seeing Titans clash, the same could be said for the audience in watching this highly entertaining picture. The Titans themselves are quite strange-looking in appearance, with every one different, some with eyes too far apart or mouths inhumanly wide. Their attacks are vicious and bloody, ripping apart and gobbling up humans with absolutely no mercy. Their size gives them a lumbering nature, and they behave as though they are in a sort of zombie/cannibalistic state. Somewhat comical looking at times, they are nonetheless fearsome and horrifying creatures. What’s also disconcerting is that no one knows where they come from or why they attack. And the fact that they have no discernable sex organs, so their means of reproduction is an unknown too, only adds to their mystique.
There are a number of political undertones throughout the film(s). Technology has destroyed the environment and depleted resources, leading to endless conflict. There is the division of classes among the surviving members of society, with the ruling few vs. the dominating masses. As Capt. Shikishima, who’s unhappy with this class system, says, “The enemy isn’t the Titans. It’s the government using fear to rule.” This is very reminiscent of a post-9/11 America, where ‘orange alerts’ and ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were used to keep the masses in line, even swaying elections in the process. The other enemy referred to in the film is that of safety. Those living within the confines of the walls have gotten complacent, and aspire to little more than surviving. Eren, on the other hand, wants more out of life. He wonders what lies beyond the walls; he wants to see these vast expanses of water he’s only heard stories about. It’s fitting that the one with the greatest aspirations should be the one destined to save everyone else.
A movie as big as this, while providing the necessary spectacle with all the f/x, ultimately succeeds because it presents protagonists the audience cares about, and Attack on Titan has a nice range of colorful characters. At the forefront is Eren (Haruma Miura) as mankind’s potential savior, who does an earnest job of “carrying the world’s misery all on his own shoulders.” Accompanying him are loyal friend, Armin (Kanata Hongo) and potential love interest, Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara), whose quiet, stoic demeanor belies her fierce nature. There’s also the enigmatic Captain Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa), who has mastered the art of taking on the Titans. Especiallly fun to watch is Sasha (Nanami Sakuraba), dubbed ‘potato girl’ by another soldier due to her constant desire for food. When she’s not eating, though, she is an expert archer.
However, of all these terrific characters, one in particular steals the show every time she appears on screen. Satomi Ishihara is a pure delight as weapons chief, Hans. At once a capable leader and warrior whilst also being a bit of a klutz, she’s quite distinctive in her goggles and shawl attire. Often with eyes wide open and mouth agape, she can’t hide her excitement when happening upon elusive weapons or witnessing Titans in action. She, in fact, dreams of dissecting one in hopes of learning what makes them tick, which proves difficult as they tend to vaporize when killed. Her reaction when seeing one Titan attacking others for the first time is alone worth the price of admission. That Ishihara has a major role in the upcoming Toho reboot of Godzilla due next year makes one look forward to that release even moreso. Apparently, she has an English-speaking role, which should be interesting. If she shows half the charisma she shows in Titan, it will be another memorable character to add to her resume.
Also reassuring with regards to next year’s Godzilla is that in addition to Ishihara and also Hasegawa, Titans‘ director, Shinji Higuchi, and director of special effects, Katsuro Onoue, are taking on the same duties for that reboot as well. They show they are well adept at handling big, f/x-driven action setpieces. A big aspect of that is the use of an interesting means of transportation used to combat the Titans, the ‘omni-directional mobility gear’, which enables its users to literally fly through the air at high speeds, using anchors to maneuver amongst the Titans in attempts at attacking their apparent one weak spot. It is breathtaking and fun to watch.
Part 1 of Attack on Titan was released last month, and part 2 is in the midst of a limited release now in select theaters from FUNimation Films. The accent is indeed on fun, spectacle, blood and gore, with a message among all the carnage. It is unlike anything you’ve seen before, so see it and enjoy.
— review by Brian de Castro