Monday, 3 August 2015

Attack on Titan (進撃の巨人) (2015)

Pacific Rim was Hollywood's love song to Japan.
Japan now returns the compliment with Attack on Titan.

Behind the imposing walls of the city, the remnants of humanity huddle together against a monstrous, existential threat from without. There, they hope against all hope that their outclassed, underequipped, and gutsy defenders have what it takes to prevail.

If Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim was a Hollywood tribute to Japanese kaiju films, Attack on Titan repays the compliment with interest to the American zombie apocalypse genre.

In Attack of Titan, the monsters are giant sized, mindless humanoids with a taste for human flesh, and only human flesh. Although the zombie word is never mentioned, what's sufficiently clear is the role these monsters play in the film: they are the mindless invading horde whose threat and appearance inspire paranoia, anxiety, military stupidity, political incompetence, and cold-blooded bureaucracy.

Visually, the titular titans resemble Goya's Saturn devouring his son. Functionally, they take the role of the monsters from the zombie apocalypse flick. But Attack on Titan takes the zombie apocalypse genre tribute one step further.

The film's social and political allegory is uniquely and contemporaneously Japanese. The anxiety in the film stems from an ambivalence towards living as individuals and as a society under an enforced peace and pacifism following humanity's loss, the resurgence of a hostile, mindless, and rapacious giant sleeping enemy outside its borders, and the rearmament of society by an assertive batch of leaders.

Director Shinji Higuchi is to be commended for striping the original anime series down to its essentials for this adaptation, and reworking the story to shift its allegiance from action sci-fi to the zombie apocalypse genre. His directorial choices are more than sound: there is a real atmosphere of existential dread and horror in Attack of Titan that cannot be done with any other monsters, any other CGI approaches.

Needless to say, we look forward to Attack on Titan 2.

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