Regarded by many as one of the greatest manga/anime of all-time, Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist received a live-action movie adaptation. The movie has found its way to American shores via Netflix so I dove right in and watched it. After seeing some pretty good adaptations in Your Lie in April as well as Tokyo Ghoul, I was hoping for the hat trick. Did Fullmetal Alchemist deliver to the point where it could be considered a good or even great live-action adaptation?
Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric lost their mother when they were still young. After learning about alchemy, they decided to try and bring their mother back to life. Alchemy requires equal give and take so they needed to gather the “ingredients” that made up a human in order to exchange them for their mother. The experiment failed, sending Edward to the Gate of Truth where his payment ended up being his brother along with his left leg. Not caring about what happened to him, Edward paid his right arm to bind his brother Al’s soul to a suit of armor.
Edward became a state alchemist, working for the military. Fullmetal Alchemist is about their journey to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone so that Ed can bring Al’s body back.
I have to say that the movie really stayed faithful to the source material right up until the end when they, for the third time between the original anime, Brotherhood and this movie, changed General Hakuro’s character. I can understand why they did so because of time constraints, but Hakuro was seen as a pretty minor character in both anime adaptations so it didn’t really matter how they used him here in the movie. Other than that… all of the huge events from Colonel Maes Hughes to Shou Tucker were covered, but despite this, there was a lot that was missing as well.
First of all, we never saw Scar at all. We also only got mentions of the Ishvalan Civil War. I guess if you cut Scar out completely, there’s no need to even go into any of that material whatsoever. We also never got a glimpse of Fuhrer King Bradley, but he was mentioned in the film and that’s about it. Everything else was kept intact and for what they selected to adapt, it actually worked pretty well for the movie.
The characters were really hit and miss here in the film. Some were portrayed rather well while others were like nails on a chalkboard cringe-worthy. I think that the level of acting with some of the characters really dampened this film quite a bit.
Edward Elric was portrayed rather well. My biggest complaint was the attire that actor Ryosuke Yamada had to wear. While the clothing was pretty nice and detailed, I have to ask what the hell was up with that bargain basement cosplay wig? Was he just too proud to dye his natural hair blonde for the role or something? If that wasn’t a wig, then that is a pretty huge makeup disaster. Every time Ed was on screen, my gaze was always drawn towards his hair saying “God, that looks fake as hell…” Costume aside, I still enjoyed the character and Yamada did a noble job bringing the character to life. The beginning of the film was a big rocky as the acting was a bit too goofy for my tastes, but once we moved past that and got into the heart of the film where it became a bit more serious, his acting shined a bit brighter there.
Voice acting is always a lot better than live acting and I thought that Atomu Mizushi absolutely NAILED Al’s character. Not to mention that Al’s suit of armor was THE ONLY CG that didn’t stick out like a sore thumb in this film. I mean, it’s not hard to voice a talking suit of armor, but everything from the tone and the inflection captured the heart of the character and it really made me believe it was the same Al from the anime.
If this were a black and white scale then Al’s voice acting would be all the way in the white, should white represent positive. Tsubasa Honda’s portrayal of Winry Rockbell, on the other hand would be… Darker Than BLACK…
…you have absolutely no idea how long I’ve waiting to use the title of that anime to describe something!
Every time Winry was on the screen, I cringed and cringed hard. Winry was more of a tomboy-ish mechanic and while she did get angry at Ed a lot in the source material, she did not come off that way at all here in the movie. She just came off as some over-emotional run-of-the-mill teenage girl who just so happened to know how to fix automail. Where was the wrench outside of the factory scene? Why did her attire look like she shopped at Hot Topic? Where was the do-rag? Why the hell wasn’t her hair blonde? Ugh…
I felt Mustang was performed rather well. He came off a bit cold in the anime and only warmed up to Ed gradually and that’s how he was here in the film as well. Dean Fujioka brought the character to life on the screen to where I could feel that it was Roy Mustang through and through. Not to mention, even though his fire was CG, it was the only CG not named Alphonse Elric that was passable as believable… mostly. There were still some parts that just looked kind of wonky.
Maes was a loveable character… I mean just look at that smile! Who wouldn’t love him after seeing that? He was always full of spirit and Ryuta Sato did a phenomenal job portraying him. I truly believe that Sato wins for best portrayal of a non-voiced character in this film. Everything about Maes Hughes was kept intact and it was still a sad moment when he met his fate.
Okay.. who replaced Shou Tucker with a really bad Okarin Rintarou? No, seriously, was Ryusokue Yamada and Misako Renbutsu the only cast members willing to go blonde here? The character looked nothing like the anime counterpart. The character itself was portrayed decently, but maybe I was too distracted by how the character just didn’t look enough like Shou Tucker to really pay attention to the acting. I really feel that they missed the mark here on this one.
Lust, Envy and Gluttony
As far as acting goes, I feel that Lust and Gluttony were nailed perfectly while Envy just felt really generic. I remember Envy being a lot more cool and cocky in the anime while here, he really didn’t say much. His character just felt so generic compared to the other two homunculi. Gluttony’s CG though…. YIKES was that bad. It would have been better just to make him a costume to wear and… oh wait.. they did that for a bird’s eye shot from behind and that looked even more atrocious. There are just some things that don’t translate well to live-action and this character was one of them. Good acting.. just really bad execution.
There are a few characters I didn’t touch upon like Doctor Marcoh, Maria Ross, and Father Cornello since they had such minor, generic roles. Even Hawkeye spent most of her time on screen acting like a stone-faced, hardened military soldier than an actual character.
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room… the CG. I know that Japan’s CG isn’t exactly there or on the same level as American CG, but there were some REALLY bad CG moments in this film. The movie kicked off with Father Cornello battling it out with Edward and those stone pillars were just terrible. In fact, the entire fight scene where he transmuted the stone beasts was just cringe-worthy as a whole. Add in the fact that there was a huge amount of inconsistency during that scene where you see the ground getting tore up, but you cut away and the ground is completely fine. Like… nobody could go break up some cinder blocks and toss them on the set in between shots or something? I know the debris wasn’t real, but come on… make SOME sort of effort to show that there’s stuff there on the ground.
Let’s not even talk about the part where General Hakuro animated all of those soldiers with the philosopher’s stones. I actually felt embarrassed for everyone involved with the film when I saw that scene. A lot of the lightning effects were also just poorly executed. When the transmutation failed in the beginning and Al and Ed were swept up in that storm… I believe the 1996 movie Twister had better “tornado” CG than the 2018 Fullmetal Alchemist movie. When Ed took his arm off when facing off against Shou Tucker, the sparks and electricity just looked really bad as well… especially when it was shown on the outside of the coat. Like… how? That electricity should have been contained within his attire, no? Needless to say, the movie was an eyesore to watch.
It was a decent effort, but the cheesy CG and some sub-par characters took me out of it. While the movie wasn’t completely terrible like some people are making it out to be, I can’t say that the movie was all that great, either. It was just… an average effort at best.
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There are points where the movie shined, but they were too few and far between. Some of the acting was downright awful and the CG was even worse. While some of the acting and the closely followed story plots from the source material saved this from being an absolute failure, it still felt a little lackluster... especially since Scar was taken out of the movie all together. This was just an average effort at best.