It is no secret that Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the best anime ever, both the original and Brotherhood. I was one of those people who were genuinely excited – but sceptical- when they announced a live action adaptation was in the works. We have had a long history of horrendous live action adaptations of good anime, but the visuals for this one were very promising. A hollow promise of what we actually got in the end.
Not only does it follow a history of awful live action adaptations, it also follows a history of awful Fullmetal Alchemist films. This movie is beautifully shot and had some amazing visuals, but they were vastly overshadowed by those that were clearly a set. The scenes in Liore are top-notch visually, but from the very beginning you can see the flaws with the film.
First off, the thing Fullmetal is known for (bar the alchemy) are its characters. Everyone and their gran can recognise characters from Fullmetal Alchemist. In the anime, they were fleshed out and given a real chance to develop, but in the film they are not. No film can really get a series worth of development for a character in that runtime, but at least get the basics right. Maybe try not to smash as many notable characters from the series in there at once, and for those you do, perhaps try get the simple things right.
Edward Elric is the main protagonist and an alchemy child prodigy, yet the film made him seem whiny and, honestly, a little stupid. He is hot-headed, but not in the way Ed usually is. He has a more childlike mentality. Not to mention the awful child acting for the boys’ younger selves and then the questionable costume choices made later.
As for developing the relationships between characters? Forget it. You have Roy Mustang out to get revenge for his friend’s murder, but where was their relationship? What did we know about them? Show, don’t tell. Storytelling 101. A little dialogue does not a relationship build. It was a real shame since there was actually an interesting twist in the storyline. Sadly, we did not care enough for it to have impact.
Another issue with this film is they tried to include too much. Fullmetal Alchemist is an iconic series with a lot of interesting arcs and storylines. That does not mean you should shove as many of these as possible into one film. Fullmetal had at least ten of the main storylines from the series; some were adapted well and others were just shoved in there for good measure. They even tried to leave gaps that future films could fill if this one did well. Each part felt either rushed or forced.
A pinnacle moment for the Elric brothers is Nina and Alexander. If you’re familiar with the series, you’d think this would call for a major part in the film, but no. It is glossed over, so when you are expected to connect with Nina and feel her pain, it fell short. The anime (both renditions) do this brilliantly and even Brotherhood still packed a punch.
I have not mentioned Alphonse Elric much in this review, have I? The film didn’t either. A main character who drives the series was barely in the film. The CGI budget was spent elsewhere on less important aspects that were so unnecessary it’s comical. There are moments in the film where you find yourself thinking: “Wait, where is he in this scene?” They just did not have him in the film.
Something positive was they managed to get the suit looking quite good for the whole 30 minutes we could see it. Another thing the film did right was Maes Hughes. From the casting to the acting, he was so well done. His story? Not so much, but the character was probably the closest to any in the original anime.
This film turned out to be another disappointment for live action adaptations. It’s not really a film a non-Fullmetal fan could fully enjoy since it would make no sense and fans of the anime will be able to see every flaw. There is such a thing as trying to be too loyal to the source material. This is what happened here.
My advice is to watch (or re-watch) the anime and give the films a miss.